Archaeometric Investigation of garnet jewellery

Archaeological material from Hungary (late 6th- and 7th-century)

Deutsche Version | Team | Cooperations

Decorative use of garnet stones on fine metalwork has defined the goldsmith’s art in the Carpathian Basin for three centuries, although with varying intensity. After its main flourish between the early 5th and the middle the 6th century, its dominance was mainly limited to the material of some specific social groups. On the other hand, from the early 8th century, garnet inlay had completely disappeared from the design of fine metalwork. In the project we are focussing on one of the most interesting transitional periods, dated between the late 6th and the late 7th century, which in Hungary is called the Early and Middle Avar Periods.

Garnet inlaid belt mounts from the Kunbábony assemblage (Photo: Tóth – Horváth 1992, Abb.2)

One of the main characteristics of the investigated garnet jewellery is its heterogeneity. The artefacts represent different cultural groups: high-ranking Romanised people and aristocratic Germanic women from the Early Avar Period, members of the so-called Pseudobuckle Group at the end of the Early Avar Period, closely related to the assemblage of Pereščepino, and the elite of the second wave of Avar settlement. In the last century several studies appeared with regard to the emergence and development of inlay art in the Avar-period Carpathian Basin. In the past decades numerous essential studies were initiated involving detailed technological analyses of this material with the aim to obtain a real and accurate idea about Avar period metalwork. However, the technological and geochemical characterisation of the garnets was almost beyond the scope of the research.

It is a challenging mission to outline changes in time and space when examining the quality, technology (especially garnet-processing) and materials of incrusted craft works in this dynamically changing period.

Garnet inlaid disc brooch from the cemetery of Keszthely-Fenékpuszta Horreum (Photo: E. Horváth)

A basic question concerns the used garnet types: whether garnet raw material came from the same sources as it did until the mid-6th century? What were the internal and external factors that provoked the spread of innovative solutions or that reinforced the survival of traditions? Through technological, gemmological and geochemical examinations of the investigated garnet jewellery we can approach this question from a wider perspective and see how these changes and innovations influence the organisational background of the production. Our archaeometric analyses may also improve the knowledge about the cultural relation­ships, quality and prestige of the craftsmen and the owners and promote a deeper understanding of the political and economic changes of the area.

Archäometrische Untersuchungen von Granatschmuck

Archäologische Funde aus Ungarn (spätes 6. und 7. Jahrhundert)

Ziel dieses Teilprojektes ist die archäometrische Auswertung der Granatfunde des 5.-8. Jahrhunderts aus dem Karpatenbecken. Anders als im 5. und 6. Jahrhundert finden sich im 7. Jahrhundert dort nur noch verhältnismäßig wenige granatverzierte Objekte; dafür zählen diese zu den reichsten Ausstattungen und finden sich in Gräbern der lokalen Eliten, die in ständigem Kontakt mit dem Westen und dem italischen Raum standen. Hier gilt es zu klären, ob die hohe Qualität der Arbeiten aus dem 7. Jahrhundert durch eine Wiederbelebung regionaler Werkstätten oder durch Import bedingt ist. Nicht nur die Menge, sondern auch die ungewöhnliche Größe des verwendeten Granats wirft auch hier bislang ungelöste Fragen nach Rohsteinquellen, Handelskontakten und Werkstattkreisen auf.


Eszter Mitcsenkov-Horváth


Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest/HU, Institute of Archaeological Sciences, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences

Ungarisches Nationalmuseum, Budapest/HU (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum): Univ.-Doz. Dr. László Revész

Katona József Museum, Kecskemét/HU

Balatoni Museum, Keszthely/HU




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