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Cultural and Landscape Change in Southeast Hungary.

This volume represents the first report of the Gyomaendrod Project. This project, undertaken by the Archaeology Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is aimed at reconstructing the environmental history and human settlement evolution in eastern Hungary. Central to the project is the designation of a 'Microregion', which provides a geographical focus for interdisciplinary investigations. In the present case this microregion is Gyomaendrod, a 48 sq. km district in the northwestern portion of County Bekes in eastern Hungary. Field survey of this district produced a catalogue of no less than 226 archaeological sites, ranging in date from the earliest Neolithic to the end of the Turkish occupation in the late 17th century. The idea behind the Gyomaendrod project is to focus research efforts on this single, well-defined microregion and to use it as a laboratory for the investigation of settlement and ecological change during the long period of the region's occupation. The geographical and ecological focus of the research facilitates the integration of diverse research interests and methodologies, and provides a framework within which modern tools of geophysical surveying, aerial photography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be directed at problems of archaeological research and excavation. The work has primarily been conducted by researchers at the Archaeology Institute, along with a series of allied specialists from other institutions in Hungary. It also represents an international collaboration linking the Archaeology Institute with the Italian Archaeological Mission, under Dr Bruno Genito, and with Dr Mauro Cucarzi of the Fondazione Lerici. Hungary has a well-established tradition of large, regionally based research programmes in archaeology. For several decades, the Archaeology Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has sponsored the Archaeological Topography of Hungary survey, a project which conducted and published complete county-by-county field surveys, with the goal of providing detailed surface coverage for the entire country. The recently completed field survey for County Bekes provides the background and starting point for the Gyomaendrod project. The organization and focus of this research programme, particularly its emphasis on geophysical survey, derives from an earlier regional study conducted jointly by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the British Academy in the 1970s under the direction of Dr Andrew Sherratt. This earlier project in nearby Devavanya (roughly 14 km northeast of Gyoma) pioneered for eastern Hungary the layered approach of fine-grained surface collection, geophysical survey and excavation that remains the goal for the present undertaking. At that time, however, difficulties in obtaining maps, air photos and mapping equipment made a true regional study difficult. As this volume illustrates, these are no longer obstacles for modern archaeological research in Hungary. This volume is described as the first of several reports on the research conducted in the microregion since 1984. The papers are mixed, and range from technical discussions of geophysical surveying techniques with little archaeological content through to relatively traditional archaeological site summaries. Of the 11 papers comprising this volume, five discuss geophysical survey (including contributions by Mauro Cucarzi; B. Szekely, O. Magyari, P. Steinbach & T. Toth; E. Jerem, Z. Kiss, M. Pattantyus & A. Varga; D. Jankovich, J. Kvassay and M. Pattantyus; Bruno Genito; and Mauro Cremaschi), three summarize archaeological site excavations (the description of a Koros settlement at Endrod-Oregszo1ok 119 by Janos Makkay, a Linear Pottery culture refuse pit and burials, also by Makkay, and the description of an Avar settlement and cemetery near Gyomaendrod by Istvan Erdelyi), two deal with the vertebrate and fish remains from Endrod 119 (by Sandor Bokonyi and Istvan Takacs respectively), and a final paper by Iren Juhasz describes a new Avar period runic inscription from Szarvas.

Overall, this volume represents a determined attempt to produce a real multidisciplinary regional study. It is bold in conception and in its effort to take advantage of the unique research opportunities provided by the rich archaeological deposits of the eastern Hungarian Plain, The volume is lavish with abundant maps and photographs and is presented in an attractive format. Yet, despite the breadth of topics and time periods represented, one is struck by the lack of substance in these papers. For all the discussions of magnetic anomaly forms and interdisciplinary approaches, the reader learns little about the ecology, settlement or prehistory of the Gyomaendrod microregion from these papers. The only papers to provide any synthesis of data are the editor's own contribution on the vertebrate fauna from Endrod 119, and the discussion comparing the results from differing techniques of geophysical survey by Szekely et al. Except for the latter paper (which discusses the relationship of surface finds with their geophysical signatures) the high-tech geophysical examinations have little relationship to the archaeological investigations they are supposed to be informing. Likewise, the archaeological site summaries are too short and preliminary to be useful. There is also a filler quality about some of the papers, as though they were included more to add pages than for their intrinsic merit. So, while the volume is intended to reflect a project that has been in operation since 1984, one of the three archaeological papers is the report of a minor three-day salvage excavation. The entire volume shares this patchwork quality and lacks any consistent research focus. Beyond the fact that all the research is being conducted within the same area, there is little that binds the papers together. The lack of integration is most obvious in those few instances when the papers do overlap. For example, Makkay concludes that a small settlement of two houses was occupied continuously for the entire 500-year span of the Koros period, leaving Bokonyi to rationalize how a faunal assemblage representing the nutritional needs of two nuclear families for 13.7 years does not conflict with a supposed 500-year occupation of the site. Despite its ambitious goals, the failure of this volume is one of substance. It says almost nothing about the changes in culture or landscape in southeastern Hungary. If, as advertised, there is to be a series of volumes detailing the research in the Gyomaendrod district, this first volume should perhaps be viewed as only a preamble to more substantial investigations to come. As represented in this volume, however, the Gyomaendrod Microregional Project simply does not deliver the goods.

JOHN M. O'SHEA Museum of Anthropology University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)
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Author:O'Shea, John M.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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