{1-234.} The Early Coexistence of Avars and Slavs

The restoration of Avar rule had two consequences. First, Slavic groups that were ready to accept — if only nominally — the suzerainty and protection of the Avars flooded into the region. This inaugurated a new phase of settlement, one in which the area of arable land was expanded at the expense of forests. At first, Avars and Slavs avoided each other in their choice of location (cf. the section on the Slavs). The presence of the Slavs in 7th century Avar cemeteries is indicated only by costumes of women who had intermarried. The second consequence was the emergence in Transylvania (and in other parts of the Avar empire) of full-fledged villages, which lent a certain 'stability' — covering several historical periods in some cases — to the adjoining cemeteries.

In the turbulent period around 630, the remaining Gepids stayed out of trouble; so did the Western Germanic people who had been settled among them and enjoyed amicable relations with the Avars. The cemeteries at Marosnagylak and Baráthely were in continuous use until the end of the 7th century; the finds include, on both sites, Byzantine silver earrings and bronze buckles from the 7th century, and, at Baráthely 3, a fancy, Igar-type buckle with serrated decoration (style II) as well as silver and bronze fibulae.

The best known memorial of this new epoch is the small cemetery at Marosgombás. Its graves (with horses) are dated by stirrups as well as by a more substantial type of food container that had lately come into common use throughout the Avar empire. Byzantine silver and bronze earrings and necklaces with star-shaped pendants date from the same period. Cast-bronze fibulae became fashionable among Slav women (although the extent to which this fashion is of Gepidic, Crimean Gothic, or even provincial Byzantine origin is a matter of debate), as did the wearing — in conjunction, and not on ears, but on plaits — of diverse types of Byzantine-Avar earrings. Typical finds in Slavic graves include wooden buckets with iron {1-235.} hoops and hair clasps with tips twisted into a spiral (the latter indicating a Slav woman or a woman wearing Slavic costume); similar objects have also been found at Marosnagylak and Marosveresmart. However, the various stirrups with round and straight footrests found at Marosgombás are typically Avar, as are the bridles with double ring, spearheads and pikeheads, war axe, and belt ornaments (including a pressed, four-leaf model).

At Tövis, graves have yielded a perforated spearhead, similar to the ones found in Marosgombás; a stirrup with round footrest; Nagylak-type earrings with pendants of joint 'star and crescent shape'; and pottery. All these items, and particularly the pottery, suggest that the cemetery was established prior to 670. A long pike head and a bronze earring adorned with rays date the cemetery at Nagyekemező to some time after 630. The Avar origin of other cemeteries and individual graves can be established on the basis of certain finds: at Torockó, a war axe from the 7th century; at Beresztelke and Kisselyk, 7th century pots fashioned on the wheel; at Kőhalom and Nagycsűr, ornamented solid silver bracelets dating from the same period; and at Nádpatak, a bronze bracelet as well as small, multicoloured beads. The growing incidence of Avar-Slav cohabitation and the gradual expansion of the inhabited area are both signalled at a number of sites: by the beads and crescent-shaped silver earring found next to skeletons in the graves at Várfalva, by beads and a highly ornamented, white-metal fibula at Vecel, by a Marosgombás-type fibula and multicoloured beads at Sinfalva, by a Vecel-type ornamented fibula at Székelyföldvár, and by intact and fragmentary earrings adorned with 'rays' and 'stars' at Mojgrád, Barátfalva, and Marosnagylak. Of similar type are the bronze fibulae found amidst the ruins of ancient Sarmizegethusa (Várhely) and at early Slav settlements in Fiatfalva (Udvarhely) and Kézdipolyán (Háromszék); these sites lies in regions that were ill-suited for Avar settlement. A small, 'Kiev-type' bronze fibula, found next to a skeleton at Székelyhíd-Horó, and some 7th-century {1-236.} fibulae from Felsőlupkó and Orsova, i.e., from the Bánát, merely confirm the Avars' presence on the Great Plain and the Lower Danube. Another form of Avar-Slav coexistence can be observed in a Slav cremation cemetery at Nagyekemező, where a grave aligned on an east-west axis holds a Byzantine belt buckle and the remains of a man who may well have been the Avar-Slav chief of a community of Slavs.

Avar sites in the middle of the Transylvanian Basin — at Szászsebes, Malomfalva-Borsóföld, Marosszentgyörgy, and Bözöd — bear the characteristics of 7th century Avar settlements: sunken dwellings with stone fireplaces, and vessels, fashioned freehand or on a wheel, with impressed or incised decoration, sometimes with pointed rims. However, the few grave finds do not allow an adequate assessment of social structure or of the local economy.

Some eastern peoples (including Onogur-Bulgars, wangar elements), were driven out of their homelands and flooded into the Avar empire in the era of Constantine IV (668–685); this migration took place in the 670s, shortly before the Bulgars, impelled by the creation and expansion of the Khazar empire, settled in their new, Danubian homeland. Contemporary sources make no mention of the event, which, although not without consequences, failed to arouse the interest of Frankish and Byzantine policymakers. Yet the migration had a profound impact on the early Avar empire. For decades, that empire had been forced to adopt a defensive posture on its northern and western approaches, but the 'new Avars' who flooded in behaved more like aggressive conquerors. Their settlements spread as far Vienna, and with the destruction of Lauriacum (ca. 680), the Enns River became part of the Avar empire's political frontier. In the north, settlements spread north of the line of earthworks at the Danube and the northern edge of the Great Plain, into Slovakia's southwestern, southern, and southeastern regions, where, as in Austria, many large cemeteries came into being. The empire's heartland also felt the effects of change. Although a number {1-237.} of early Avar cemeteries dating back to the 6th century remained in use, many others were abandoned, and an even larger number of new ones appeared. New centres of princely rule (Ozora-Tótipuszta, Igar) materialized, as did new military posts (e.g. Dunaújváros 1908, Iváncsa, Szeged-Átokháza). Sites throughout the Avar empire have yielded archaeological traces exclusive to the new arrivals. Their weapons were single-edged, curved sabres, and broad, symmetrical bows. The men wore distinctive weapon-belts, with ornaments that were 'plated' or rectangular, the latter in an Asian, ribbony pattern, with inlaid glass; and hair-clips, evidently for pigtails. The women sported new types of earrings and beads, as well as double disc-shaped brooches worn in front and on the shoulders. The newcomers' harnesses included bridles with guards on the ends of the bit, stirrups with flat footrests which indicate that they wore hard-sole boots, rose-shaped rein-decoration all over the Avar empire. There is no trace of such objects dating from before 675. Change is also evident in funeral rites, grave alignment, and cemetery layouts that had no precedent in the Avar empire. These finds were dated, for the initial phase, by gold coins from the time of Constantine IV, and for the subsequent phase by 'blanks', fake coins that were cut from sheets of gold and used as obuli between 675–720.

There are traces of the transformation in the Temes region as well: a few graves and coins that were discovered in the 19th century. Solidi of Constantine IV were found along with a Byzantine belt buckle at Orczyfalva, and with dishes at Kőcse. Other grave finds include two gold coins that had been pierced, and therefore worn on clothing or a neck-chain, one from the time of Constans II (641–668), the other dating from Constantine IV (Torontálsziget-Torontáldűlő); and 'light' solidi, weighing 20 siliqua, minted between 661–663 (Mercyfalva, Óbéb). In Transylvania, similar coins were found in the vicinity of Székelyudvarhely: a gold semissis from the age of Constans II or Constantine IV, and a gold {1-238.} solidus of Constantine IV, minted between 674 and 681, that had been trimmed to 'obulus size'. Both coins must have been unearthed in graves dating back to 670–80. Also noteworthy are the graves, of both men with horses and women, that had been dug in a Neolithic settlement-mound at Óbesenyő. The former are linked to this period by the silver earrings, adorned with small spheres, that had become fashionable among men, and the latter by a pendant in the shape of a bronze cross (similar in outline to the contemporary one, bearing a Greek inscription, that was found at Závod, Tolna county) — such crosses were the identifying mark of the many Christians among the new immigrants. The Central Asian origins of a migration that probably occurred in several waves are evoked by a gold denarius, found at Ófutak, dating from the time of the Omajid caliph Abd-al-Malik (685–705).

A set of six graves, belonging to a single family, has been fully uncovered at Csákó-Szelistye, in central Transylvania. It reveals much about both the older and the more recent aspects of the Avar empire. The family head, a military chieftain, was buried with his tarpan (a species of wild horse), a curved sabre of the new type, a distinctive pikehead, and a war axe (grave no. 3). He wore flat-soled boots; buried alongside his horse were a pair of stirrups fashioned to fit such boots — the earliest find of such an object in Transylvania. The horse's harness had the new type of mouthpiece and strapping, the latter being decorated with faleras of varying size. The man's female relatives, who had Mongolian features, wore earrings (with star-shaped and large, spherical pendants) that were the fashion of an earlier period; it may be concluded from this that only the family head belonged to the new nobility. In another family(?) burial ground dating from the same period, at Oláhgorbó, the opposite can be observed. Males were buried in modest fashion next to the richer graves of two women; one of the latter wore a pair of artfully granulated gold earrings with pendants, and the other had silver earrings that also reflected the new style. A pair of {1-239.} women's earrings of an uncommon type, found in a grave at Kisjenő, by the Fekete-Körös River, also date from this period.

The curved sabre unearthed at Székelykeresztúr testifies to the presence of the new immigrants, as do the sabre, spear, and stirrups with flat footrests found in a grave (complete with horse) at Felenyed. The discovery at Tövis of a grave (with horse) containing objects of the newer type — rectangular belt ornaments, an earring with star-shaped pendant, and a bridle with guard-rods — indicates that the newcomers were using the existing cemetery and therefore cohabited with the earlier settlers. At Aranyosgyéres, however, the grave-goods discovered so far (a stirrup with flat footrest, a bridle with guard-rods, and earrings with star-shaped pendants of the later type) reveal that the immigrants created a separate burial ground. At Marosnagylak, an isolated grave with horse (which yielded a flat-soled stirrup and a war axe) indicates that the long-established cemetery fell into disuse around this time, possibly because the newcomers squeezed out the former, Germanic-Avar settlers.

The distribution of power in the Avar empire was altered by the new influx of settlers, who established additional centres of power. In Transylvania, one such new centre was located at Gyulafehérvár, where a splendid gold ring has been unearthed. Crafted in the style of a smaller one from Ozora, the ring held a recycled, antique semi-precious gem that bore the incised outline of a peacock. The discovery of a similar ring at Újlak, in Sirmia, raises the possibility of a newly-established centre in that locality as well.

There are signs that the expansion of the new Avar power occurred not only westward and northward, but in other directions as well. Sunken floor dwellings and a cemetery have been discovered at Felsőlupkó, not far from the ancient Roman road that led along the Lower Danube to Orsova. Evidence that the settlement dates from the late 7th or early 8th century is provided by a bronze {1-240.} earring with radial decoration (Nagyekemező-type) found in one of the hovels, as well as by a crescent-shaped silver hair ornament (similar to those unearthed at Marosnagylak, Tövis, Várfalva, Baráthely no. 2, and in a Slavic burial urn at Mihályfalva). Thus the new homeland extended south of the Carpathians.