Gepidic Sites and Settlements

The fact that many sites dating from this period have been found is indicative of economic and political stability. Most of them were discovered in the Maros region. As a rule, the villages, most of which date from the turn of the 6th century, were not established on the site of earlier settlements; the rare Roman, 4th-century Gothic, or prehistoric antecedent seems almost coincidental. They were the new villages of a newly-arrived (or newly-settled) population of farmers and stock-breeders.

The best known Gepidic village is Malomfalva (Moreşti), parts of which were unearthed near Podej, on the north bank of the Maros. The thirty-four 'pit-dwellings', of various sizes, were rectangular in shape, with rounded corners. On the narrower ends, their tent roofs were held up by beams resting on one, two, or, most commonly, three posts. The roofs of the two largest 'houses' were supported by double posts; judging from the loom weights which fell on the floor in heaps during the final conflagration, the structures must have housed looms. Other pits yielded quern-stones and blacksmith's tools. The workers left behind bone combs, spindle whorls, iron knives, and cheap bronze fibulae, as well as items that must have belonged to very poor people — iron and bronze pins for fastening clothes, and bronze hairpins; all these correspond to articles found in other Gepidic graves of the same period. A profusion of earthen vessels and potsherds also help to date the site with some precision: it was inhabited between 500 and 567. Other finds on the site — jugs, with spouts, and variously smoothed, stamped, or decorated with knife pricks ('Keilstick'), pots, crocks, and mugs — are characteristic of contemporary villages and burial grounds throughout the Gepidic settlement area of the 6th century. Graves {1-207.} yielded smaller versions of the pots, decorated with undulating lines, that previously had only been found in settlements (similar ones were also found in Gepidic villages by the Tisza). The inhabitants of the settlement were breeders of stock: mainly cattle, some horses, and, as a sideline, sheep and pigs as well.

The earlier parts of the settlement gradually had to be abandoned, for the dugout dwellings, with roofs made of weeds, hay, or reed, became uninhabitable. The later section was destroyed by fire, and it was never rebuilt; at the same time, the graveyard ceased to be used. A settlement of comparable size, at Baráthely, is reported to date from the 4th–6th(?) centuries, and to include houses with stone fireplaces and ovens.

The settlements at Malomfalva (including the graveyard), Kisselyk-Várhegy, and Kisgalambfalva-Galáth-tető were all surrounded by earthworks. Archaeological excavations have not given a clear answer to the question, whether these ramparts belonged to the prehistoric period (the Bronze or the Iron Age), whether the Gepids themselves extended them or built similar earthworks, or whether they are in fact defensive ramparts dating from the 10th–12th centuries. Other Gepidic villages in Transylvania (and in the Great Plain as well) lacked such defences. At Malomfalva, even the exact location of the Gepidic village remains a mystery, for the excavated site, 'protected' by the rampart, consists entirely of workshops, pits, pig-pens, and stables.

The similar 'houses' that have been gradually unearthed at various sites in Szentgyörgy (now part of Maroscsapó) are probably the remains of a small village. Little is known so far about the sunken floor huts discovered at Maroscsapó-Girle and the pit dwelling at Marosludas, and even less about the Gepidic villages and houses discovered at Szászfenes-Láb, Báboc-Sólyomkő, Kolozs-Győrtelek, Ajtony, Radnót-Szentgyörgy, the castle and the Calvinist church at Radnót, Marosnagylak, Méra-Várdűlő, Mezőakna, Mezőerked, Mezőszopor (three huts), Vidrátszeg, Vajdaszentivány, {1-208.} Kutyfalva, Gyulafehérvár-Citadella (where fragments of pots with spouts were found), and Vermes. A fine-tooth comb has been found in a house at Oláhgorbó-Leánydomb, and another fine-tooth comb as well as a potsherd with beautiful, smoothed decoration, at Belgrád street in Oláhdálya.

Gepidic settlement extended into the valley of the Nagy-Küküllő, where traces of Gepidic villages, mainly sunken floor huts have been discovered at Betfalva, Baráthely, Medgyes-Hosszúvölgy, Segesvár-Szőlők, and on Liberty Square in Székelyudvarhely. Traces of houses of a different type, built above ground and dated by, among other things, fragments of jugs with spouts, were found at Kisselyk-Várhegy; in the case of similar, large rectangular houses at Omlás-tető and Galáth-tető, near Kisgalambfalva, traces remained of the flooring and stone cladding of similar, large rectangular houses, and sunken floor huts were also discovered nearby. The objects found on these sites are clearly Gepidic: ornamental vessels with spouts, and stamped or punched decoration, undecorated pottery made on a wheel, laurel-leaf shaped arrowheads, and spindle whorls. A fragment of a spouted vessel was also recovered from the post-framed, sunken-floor dwellings at Betlenszentmiklós. In the Olt valley, traces of a Gepidic settlement have been found at Sepsiszentgyörgy-Bedeháza. In the Feketeügy valley, there have been significant finds of Gepidic settlements, dating from the 6th century, at Réty-Telek, Felsőcsernáton-Róbert-tag, and, above all, at Kézdipolyán-Kőhát. The sunken-floor dwellings at Polyán are dated by a comb, fibulae, and a bronze pin, all similar to those found at Malomfalva. The dwellings — and, as will be seen, the graveyards — attest that the middle and the upper reaches of the river valleys were settled progressively in the course of the 6th century; as one advances eastward, the settlements and burial grounds are of relatively more recent origin.

Moving westward along the Maros valley, the finds include a Gepidic potters' settlement in the forest of Arad-Csálya; splendid {1-209.} vessels with smoothed decoration and spouts, accompanied by fragments of ornamental bronze fibulae and a Byzantine bronze clasp with a cruciform filigree decoration, at (Magyar)Pécska-Nagysánc (a prehistoric site!), and a two-sided comb as well as potsherds at Perjámos-Sánchalom. The huts and objects on these Transylvanian sites are similar to those found in Gepidic villages on the Hungarian Great Plain (Battonya, Eperjes, Tiszafüred, etc.).