When: Thursday 6 September, 18:40 - 20:00
This talk will demonstrate the process of fundamental cultural change during the European Early Neolithic that took place in the northern marginal zones of the Balkans in the first half of the 6th millennium cal BC. This zone, the southern part of the Carpathian basin, is part of the south eastern “world of clay”, where clay was used as the fundamental building block of their architecture and finds material expression in artefacts and rituals: truly “Clayscapes”.
The marginal ecological position of these lands beyond the warm riverine lowlands was significant: the hilly forested landscapes brought on a crisis, a challenge, but they simultaneously triggered changes that led to new and creative mental patterns and, in consequence, innovative ritual activities. Following the human-material relations, a newly identified early Neolithic monumental horned figurine type appeared. It acts as the cornerstone of my presentation as an embodiment of the last instance among the south east European early farming communities of the Clayscapes. Research into a contextual reconstruction of the ritual involved in making and using these figurines includes consideration of zooarchaeological and environmental issues, and connections with early dairy consumption.
At the same time, changes around the distant edge of the Clayscapes gave birth to a no less stunning world constructed more from timber and stone, with transformations in subsistence, material culture and rituals. It is inextricably bound with the formation of the first farming communities of central Europe – the Bandkeramik or “LBK” – to which they brought previously unknown concepts of subsistence, landscape perception, architecture and cognition.
The aim of my talk is to present one possible narrative concerning the frontier zone of the south east European – the “clay” half of the European Neolithic – and its role in forging the identity of central European farming societies.
Eszter Bánffy graduated in prehistoric and medieval archaeology and also in Indo-European comparative linguistics at the ELTE University Budapest and worked for the Institute of Archaeology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for three decades. She has been doing research in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic of Central and South East Europe, with a stress on settlement history, landscape archaeology and ritual find contexts. Over the last years, she has been focusing to the Central European Neolithic transition, and became involved also in theoretic issues and matters of heritage protection. She has given lectures and courses in universities like Ljubljana, Vienna, Heidelberg, Prague, Frankfurt, Buffalo, New York University, Leiden, Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Paris (Sorbonne), Moscow and at the Harvard, where she spent a semester as visiting scholar in 2008.
After a habilitation in 2005 in prehistoric archaeology, and a second habilitation in geoarchaeology in 2012, she is a professor supervising PhD students at ELTE Budapest and SZTE Szeged. Since 2013, she has been the director of the Romano-Germanic commission of the German Archaeological Institute, in Frankfurt am Main, and has been heading many projects between Scotland and Ireland over the Carpathian basin to the Black Sea.
Eszter has a long-standing commitment to EAA. She served on the Executive Board also as secretary (2005-2011), worked in its Nomination committee (2011-2013), currently she is chairing the board of trustees of the Oskar Montelius Foundation, and is one of the series editors of the EAA Monograph series THEMES of contemporary archaeology.
Eszter Bánffy is an author of nine books, and more than a hundred fifty chapters and articles, published in many European countries, in Russia and the United States.