{1-137.} Seven centuries elapsed between the fall of Roman Dacia and the foundation by Magyar gyula (warlords) of their first political centre, the 'White' fortress, built upon the ruins of an ancient Roman town whose name is no longer known. A few written sources remain from the beginning of this long period; beyond these, one must rely almost exclusively on sparse archaeological evidence.

It is no easy task to reconstruct history on the basis of such limited evidence. One must survey nearly two centuries' worth of archaeological research and analysis; to the extent possible, examine at first hand the archaeological collections in the museums of Transylvania, Budapest, and Bucharest, and even the original sites of the finds. The sorting out of all this data might seem a routine task, for archaeologists have long ago succeeded in linking the finds to the more important peoples and periods. Thus finds dating from the Hungarian Settlement were first identified in 1834, from the Merovingian Germans in 1848, from the Avars in 1872, from the Gepids of the migration period in 1880, from the Transylvanian Slavs in 1881, and, from the Hungarian-Slavic common people of the 10th and 11th centuries, in 1913 (in Transylvania). Since then, thanks to the growing number of finds and improvements in the methods of excavation and analysis, the classification and identification of finds has been steadily refined.

The archaeological finds and data need to be reconciled with written sources (which in turn must be carefully appraised), with linguistic evidence (notably the names of places and people), and with findings in such fields as anthropology, biology, and archaeozoology. This complex process leads us to certain conclusions regarding human settlements, and more generally about political, economic, and social history. However, archaeological finds (settlements, burial grounds, hoards of coin and jewellery) remain the fundamental and essential source. In the account that follows, the historical narrative may seem weighed down by the evidence from {1-138.} some one thousand archaeological sites; non-experts may choose to skip these passages, but it is not possible to write a history of the early Middle Ages without a thorough assessment of archaeological sites and finds.