From the trench – personalising a netting-needle from the Bronze Age tell at Százhalombatta-Földvár, Hungary

by Magdolna Vicze (Matrica Museum, Százhalombatta,, Marie Louise Stig Sørensen (Cambridge, and Joanna Sofaer (Southampton,

Sometimes excavation offers a rare sense of connection with a person in the past, an imaginative engagement with some of their thoughts and concerns. On Százhalombatta-Földvár we are usually focussed on questions about site formation and societal concerns (Poroszlai-Vicze 2000, 2005; Sørensen et al in print) - is the character of house building changing between phases, how were the thick layers of general fill generated, when were pits filled in? Such questions advance awareness of how well, or poorly, the data fit existing expectations of Bronze Age tells in central Europe, and they will help in adjusting current metanarratives about the Bronze Age. But in these reflections people are largely absent or entirely abstract; they take on roles but do not act, they have no individuality.

We get closer to a sense of the people who made up this community through their material culture. But in the broken eroded objects that have been moved around and undergone several stages of transformation the connection to an individual is most often faint and drowns in the thousands upon thousands of similar objects that provide comparable traces. But within this, some objects stand out due to how they allow or welcome engagement. This year it was a small netting-needle, just some 7.5cm long and gently curving along its length. One end is slightly thicker and some 2 cm down from this end is an eyelet protrusion; the rest of the needle is slender ending in a blunt point. The ‘back’ of the needle is decorated with nine faint lines dividing it into bands with lines of small dots within each and with further dots spilling over both towards the base of the eyelet and the end of the head. The arrangement is loose with the small dots lined up slightly unevenly. The needle is cut from an antler tine, using the natural curvature of the raw material to produce a needle that seems suited to particular tasks, such as working nets.

These objects are found widely in central Europe and are known from the Neolithic as well as the Bronze Age. They are usually referred to as nettling-needles, but sometimes also as knotenlőser. In the Hungarian Bronze Age such objects have been found on several settlements and in a few graves (Bóna 1975; and more recently Jaeger et al 2018), but although a distinct type they do not appear to be nearly as common as other bone tools, such as awls and scrapers. In some of the Neolithic lake sites in the Alpine area they have been found together with other tools used for fishing and it is often assumed that they were used in the making and maintenance of fishing nets. The limited exploitation of fish at Százhalombatta-Földvár may, however, remind us that nets may be used for a variety of purposes.

Figure: Drawing of the Százhalombatta-Földvár netting-needle (Gabriella L. Pammer © "Matrica" Múzeum és Régészeti Park, Százhalombatta)

It is, however, the decoration on this netting-needle that caught our attention. Of the many hundred worked bones found on the site so far, the decorated bone objects have almost exclusively been parts of horse gear, made of antler and finely decorated with bands of lines, concentric circles and spirals, clearly referential to a stylistic koine found widely throughout central and northern Europe. The decorated netting-needle considered here is different: its decoration is individualised. Meanwhile, looking more widely into Hungarian Bronze Age material makes it clear that it is neither the case that Bronze Age nettling-needles always are decorated, nor do those which are hold to a common schema, apart from the decoration being focussed on the needle head. For example, while we so far have found two decorated nettling-needles at Százhalombatta-Földvár the ideas behind their decoration are different. On one the decoration around the head suggests an imitation of a string being tied around it, similar to a bobbin, whereas for the lines of dots on the example considered here there is no hint of any kind of imitation or reference that we can decode.

The needle is worn, the lines largely smoothed away, and some of the dots are almost gone with others a bit sharper. It makes us wonder whether the dots and lines were made at the same time, or whether dots could be added. The needle appears not just individualised but curiously personal as it provokes these questions. Encountering this needle therefore becomes a reminder of how close engagement with past persons can sometime be reached, as famously argued by Janet Spector in her seminal reflection on an awl (1993). In her case, the awl was from a Wahpeton site in Minnesota dating to the 19th century. Using accounts about daily life activities and women’s roles provided by modern descendants of the 19th century inhabitants, she was able to create a notional parallel between an awl found on the site, with its various marks, and the accounts of how women used their awls to mark important points in their individual lives.

We do not have any supplementary material or accounts to lead us further into questions about what this netting-needle meant, but it seems clear that it was different from other bone tools and treated as a special object. It was in use for a considerable length of time and it is possible that it was cherished and closely linked to an individual, leaving us to wonder about that person and her or his relationship with this object.

  • Bóna, I. 1975. Die mittlere Bronzezeit Ungarns und ihre Südöstlichen Beziehungen, ArchHung 49, Budapest
  • Jaeger, M., Kulcsár, G., Taylor, N., Staniuk, R. (eds) 2018. Kakucs-Turján. A Middle Bronze Age multi-layered fortified settlement in Central Hungary. SAO/SPEŚ 18. Bonn
  • Poroszlai, I. and Vicze, M. (eds) 2000, Százhalombatta Archaeological Expedition. Annual Report 1, Százhalombatta
  • Poroszlai, I. and Vicze, M. (eds) 2005, Százhalombatta Archaeological Expedition. Report 2, Százhalombatta
  • Spector, J. D. 1993. What This Awl Means: Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village. Minnesota Historical Society Press
  • Sørensen, M.L. S., Vicze, M., Sofaer, J. in print: Paradigm shift? Bronze Age Tell Archaeology after 1989. Reflections from the Százhalombatta-Földvár Excavation Project. In Ditrich, L., Ditrich, O., Harding, A., Kiss, V. and K. Šabatová (eds) Bringing down the Iron Curtain Paradigmatic change in research on the Bronze Age in Central and Eastern Europe. Oxford: BAR International Series Oxford.

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Hatch: House at Çatalhöyük

by Arkadiusz Marciniak (; Adam Mickiewicz University), Jacek Marciniak, Mateusz Dembowiak, Patrycja Filipowicz, Katarzyna Harabasz, Jędrzej Hordecki

Goals of Hatch

Hatch (House at Çatalhöyük; is a new open-access repository aimed at presenting a wide range of data on the Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük. It is a tool serving explicitly didactic goals. Hatch is designed to meet the needs and expectations of both professionals (including archaeologists who are not experts in Anatolian and the Near Eastern Neolithic) and the wider public interested in the human past.

Çatalhöyük (7100-5950 BC) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Central Turkey subjected to intensive excavation over the past 25 years ( One of its most defining features is its architecture, with continuous rebuilding of houses, which seemed to have played a central role in the economic, social and ritual life of the Neolithic inhabitants. In the Early Neolithic houses were built close to one another, shared similar size and plan, and contained elaborated wall paintings and burials beneath floors. The Late Neolithic houses were of significantly different character, as revealed by recent excavations of the uppermost strata in the TP and TPC Areas (e.g. Marciniak 2015). They were no longer built in clusters, were bigger and composed of a range of small rooms surrounding a larger central “living room”, and lacking symbolic elaboration and sub-floor burials.

Structure of Hatch

Hatch is a website in the form of MIODEC (Multi-dimensional Interactive Open Digital Educational Collection). It is an advanced and innovative software designed to create and maintain digital collections in a new way. It presents a wide range of data in a multiscalar and interactive form, linking information about various characteristics (types of objects, relations among them, etc.) with different types of representation (text, photographs, graphics, etc.). Hatch implements a model driven architecture where a domain model is constructed as a WordNet based ontology. The adopted approach enables one database to integrate data of different kinds and qualities: general (linguistically based, accessible for the public), expert (delivered by archaeologists) and application (data structures organizing the archaeological site). Such a multi-faceted method, being a core of semantic search engines designed for non-expert searches, was applied for presenting archaeological findings from the world-renowned Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük (Fig. 1).

Hatch was designed and created by archaeologists – members of the Çatalhöyük Research Project team – and IT specialists from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, in collaboration with other Çatalhöyük Project members. It contains data collected manually from a wide range of publically available sources. These include publications (monographs, excavation reports, journal articles, etc.) and open access archaeological databases (Çatalhöyük Excavation Database, Çatalhöyük GIS database, Çatalhöyük Photograph Portfolio, etc.). As the analysis and publication of different sets of data from the site is pending, some aspects of the currently presented data is subject to future revision.

Fig. 1. Hatch: House at Çatalhöyük- home page

Buildings are the main type of objects presented within Hatch (Fig. 2). They are used to aggregate a wide range of other categories of objects found at this settlement. These include burials, imagery, figurines, clay objects, chipped stones, ground stones, worked bones, pottery, stamp seals and animal bones. The auxiliary entities used to aggregate different types of objects are special deposits and finds. Each category of objects is described according to a set of predefined attributes. These are divided into two categories: (i) general and (ii) specific. The former comprises chronology, year of discovery, size and textual descriptions. The latter includes the number of rooms, house constructional elements, and decorative motifs, among others. Photographs, drawings, 3D reconstruction (if available) and plans of the subsequent phases of occupation, as distinguished by the excavators, accompany textual data.

Hatch also allows a comprehensive presentation of burials found at the settlement. They are categorized in the form of five burial types, as defined by the deposition of an individual in the burial pit. These include primary, primary disturbed, secondary, tertiary and indeterminate interments. The age of the deceased is described by eight categories. Elaborated burials, characterized by a special treatment of body and/or with rich grave goods, were assigned to the special treatment category. Moreover, a presentation of each individual is supplemented by a comprehensive description of its osteological characteristics and archaeological context. Textual data are accompanied by photographs and drawings (if available) of the skeletons and their burial context.

Presentation of data in Hatch

Hatch presents the data in the form of three intertwined modes: (i) typological, (ii) spatial, and (iii) chronological. The typological mode presents information in the form of a list of objects displayed according to the specified filters. Data in the spatial mode is displayed in the form of GIS objects placed in the scaled cartographic map (based upon Open Street Map). The chronological mode involves presentation of both relative and absolute chronologies. When presenting relative chronology, the objects are tagged by one or more mutually exclusive formats of relative chronology of the settlement. As in a majority of cases, existing chronologies are not yet reliably translated into absolute chronology, buildings from corresponding occupational areas and stages of the settlement development are only presented in the form of relative chronology. Both relative and absolute chronologies are only available for strata featured by TP Phases.

Fig. 2. Late Neolithic Building 122 with walls painted with geometric designs discovered by the Polish team at Çatalhöyük (photo: Jason Quinlan © Çatalhöyük Research Project)

Data can be displayed in a wide range of different formats thanks to the advanced search engine. It operates in two modes: (i) word search and (ii) tag search. The word search facilitates access to the stored data by attributes of a textual type. The tag search makes it possible to search the data by tags attached to the objects as attribute values immersed in the WordNet-based ontology. In both cases, the user can enhance the search by selecting thematically linked tags. The search engine makes it possible to prompt tags semantically linked to the enter word by referring to relations from the ontology. The data stored within Hatch can be displayed in an interactive form. From the typological format of presenting objects, users can go directly to a more detailed presentation of its different aspects. These shall comprise textual data, detailed plans of the buildings and photographs.

Hatch has been produced with the support of the European Commission (through the Culture 2007- 2013 programme) in the framework of the NEARCH Project New scenarios for a community-involved archaeology (Nr 3085/Kultura/2014/2). This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


  • Marciniak, A., 2015. A new perspective on the Central Anatolian Late Neolithic. The TPC Area excavations at Çatalhöyük. In S. R. Steadman & G. McMahon (eds.), The Archaeology of Anatolia. Recent Discoveries (2011-2014), Volume I. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 6-25.

All visual materials contained on the Hatch website are the property of Çatalhöyük Research Project.

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