2. Archaeology

The material culture of the migrating Slavs has long been the subject of intense archaeological research. On the other hand, many archaeologists were (mis)guided by the linguists' research agenda placing the "homeland" of the Slavs in the swampy area along the Pripet River at the border between present-day Ukraine and Belarus. The work of Lubor Niederle, Ivan Borkovský, and Irina Rusanova attributed to the Sclavenes a material culture of a rather primitive character, the hallmarks of which were the handmade pottery (known as "the Prague type"), the sunken-floored hut with stone oven, and the cremation burials. More recent studies have shown, however, that all assemblages in the region immediately north of the Lower Danube where Byzantine sources, from Procopius to Theophylact Simocatta, place the abodes of the Sclavenes, actually pre-date the earliest assemblages excavated in the Pripet region or in any other area in Eastern Europe. As a consequence, there is currently a tendency to withdraw from a migrationist model, especially because of the role Roman material culture now appears to have played in Sclavene society. The analysis of a considerable number of settlement features found in present-day Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine has shown that the second half of the sixth century and the early seventh century was a period of crucial change in the culture history of communities living north of the Danube River. While the agricultural economy was established as a dominant subsistence pattern, a number of stylistic traits (sunken-floored buildings, pottery ornamented with finger impressions or notches on the lip, clay pans, so-called "Slavic" bow fibulae, etc.) delineate a sudden interest in markers of group identity, which may have been related to ethnicity. The rise of local elites was coincidental with the dissemination of these new styles, many of which were displayed on artifacts associated with female activities or dress.

Florin Curta

Source: International Encyclopaedia for the Middle Ages-Online. A Supplement to LexMA-Online. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2005

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Florin Curta, 'Sclavenes, people’, in International Encyclopaedia for the Middle Ages-Online. A Supplement to LexMA-Online. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2005, in Brepolis Medieval Encyclopaedias <http://www.brepolis.net/bme> [ 7 December 2006]