Bükkábrány is situated within a cradle of life. In simplified terms, this means the surroundings promoted life in every age. The mountains and plains meet here, and the proximity to water provides a foundation for settlement. The quantity of archaeological findings from various periods also suggests richness of life. We speak not only of the history of Bükkábrány and its surroundings, but also of its contribution to the mosaic of the Carpathian Basin or even European history. Here we reveal the secrets of these important mosaic pieces.
The secret 12.: 1. Ancient trees in the lignite – 2. Bovine protome – 3. Baden carriage pot – 4. Map pot – 5. Bronze depot – 6. Boar with a bird’s beak – 7. The first Euro – 8. Sarmatian lunula, fibula – 9. The Csörsz Trench – 10. Olaszegyháza – 11. The Battle of Mezőkeresztes – 12. The reclusive map
1. Ancient trees in the lignite
Photos of the gigantic, 7 million-year-old bald cypress trees in the quarry have traveled the world. In 2007, 16 trees were discovered at a depth of 60 meters. The remains of these trees measure at an incredible 4-6 meters height and 1.5-3 meters in diameter.
It is no coincidence that experts have described the cypress tree trunks found in the Bükkábrány lignite mine "one of the most beautiful group of findings in the history of Hungarian geology and paleobotany."
The findings are also "beautiful" in the sense that trees this old have never been found in their original location, form and, more importantly, in their original envelope. The remains have not turned into carbon or flint, and have remained organic material with their cellular structure intact. Conservation of the 300-400-year-old tree trunk fossils was a particular challenge for researchers. They are able to draw conclusions about the climate of the Late Miocene epoch from the tree rings; their placement and root structure also contain an abundance of new information.
What happened to the gigantic bald cypress and sequoia woodlands at the coast of the Pannonian Sea? They were the catalysts for the several million tons of lignite at the bases of the Mátra and Bükk. ▲
2. Bovine protome
Alongside the settlement lifestyle, the so-called "Neolithic package" also includes farming, animal husbandry and pottery. This package arrived to the Carpathian Basin in 5-6000 B.C.E. from Anatolia and the Balkans. The wild equivalents of the domesticated plants and livestock species were not native to the Carpathian Basin. Thus, it can be ascertained that migrants brought the ancient "alakor" and "tönke" wheat types as well as the sheep-goat ancestor of today's sheep and goat to the region.
However, aurochs were native to the Carpathian Basin. The adaptive lifestyle of local communities allowed for the domestication of aurochs in the Middle Neolithic period. From this point on, bovines are included in the list of domestic animals.
The ornamental etching on the side of the displayed Neolithic pot depicts a bovine. ▲
3. Baden carriage pot
In the middle of 4th century B.C.E. during the Late Bronze Age, the appearance of the wheel and carriage occurred simultaneously in Mesopotamia, the Carpathian Basin and in northern Europe. The invention of the carriage had revolutionized transportation, hastened information exchange, and expanded long-distance relationships. The carriage-pulling bovine were not only bred for their meat; their milk was extracted and their strength was utilized for pulling the yoke. Bovine became one of the most valuable resources, and other animals were bred for wool instead. The developing innovations in gastronomy and the cottage industry introduced new customs to all aspects of everyday life, such as clothing and pottery.
There are few examples of Bronze Age carriage models from the Carpathian Basin area. The exhibited object here is an abstract representation of the carriage. The upper part with the scratched zigzagged line represents the chassis, while the intersecting base compartment represents the wheels and the axle. ▲
4. Map pot
In the first half of the 2nd century B.C.E., settlements with engineer-like precision and orderly layouts were established at the base of the Bükk mountain range. The foundation of this layout was the use of concentric circles. The people established the village center, living quarters, and other areas of activity in a concentric circle-shape, which were divided by ditches.
This concentric circle motif is also present on the ceramic pottery and metal objects. It is a recurring motif encompassing all aspects of life at the time, thus we cannot discount them merely as ornaments. If we could decipher its meaning, we would be a lot closer to reconstructing the mindset of people living in that age.
The units depicted on the bottom of the bowl on display are exact representations of the interior of settlements, and their placement indicates their location in space. ▲
5. Bronze depot
During a 2014 metal detector search, artifacts from the late bronze age were excavated. The bronze objects were placed in a clay pot that fell sideways and shattered, which in turn may have been buried in a small pit. The fragmented and simplistic design of these few objects indicate that they are not spoils of war or offerings to the gods; instead, they are personal items holding value for one specific person.
A peculiarity regarding these items is that no other archeological finding of the same late Bronze Age was excavated in its vicinity. By 2015-16, the excavations reached the former ford crossing the Csincse Creek, a route used for centuries and even millennia. It is highly likely that the bronze artifacts were hidden underground along this route.
The treasure consisted of the following objects: two sheathed axes, saw fragments, clothing pin and awl fragments, one intact cloth needle, one large intact ring, ring fragments, and two small melted bronze nuggets. ▲
6. Boar with a bird's beak
The Scythians are the first archaeological group within the Carpathian Basin assigned a folk name. The folk name Scythian was handed down to us by Herodotus, however, this term encompasses several ethnicities and tribes.
The Scythians arrived to the Carpathian Basin from the northern coast of the Black Sea. An object (a deer antler amulet depicting a wolf and a boar) belonging to the neighboring Sarmatians from the Black Sea found its way to the excavated Scythian settlement in Bükkábrány. This served as a testament to the fact that the locals have maintained active communication with the motherland. Counterparts of the amulet were excavated in Sarmatian mass graves in the lower Volga region, dating from around 6-5th century B.C.E.
The ornamented deer antler depicts two animal heads: on the left is a predator (wolf), on the right is a wild boar with a bird-like beak. ▲
7. The first Euro
The Celts often worked under the employment of other nations. Among others, they have served in the Macedonian army of King Philip. Thus, they were introduced to the concept of money. The "global currency" at the time ("global" referring mainly to Europe) was the philippeus – the 4 drachmas coin of King Philip. The Roman expansion resulted in a shortage of money within the Carpathian Basin and Celtic counterfeits emerged. The beginning of barbarian mintage dates from 88 B.C.E.
In case of the original coins, there is a head of Zeus on the front and an Olympian horseman on the back. The images were drastically altered on the counterfeits. The shape of the horse and the rider were depicted separately; in many cases, the body of the horse was changed to a curved line. The depiction on the front of the coin often wore off and only a bump is visible. The size of the coin plate shrunk and only part of the mold fit on the coin. The change in the image of the coins may be the result of intentional stylization or by the wear-and-tear of the molds. ▲
8. Sarmatian lunula, fibula
The most accurate information of Sarmatian attire is provided by burial grounds. In Bükkábrány, 263 (!) graves were excavated in five separate cemeteries. These findings show that Sarmatian women wore ornamented attire, characterized mainly by clothing embroidered with pearls.
Pearls can be found at the neck and hands which could have been parts of necklaces or sewn on clothing. Pearls can also be found around the waist (as belt ornaments) and more commonly around the ankles. In case of contiguous beading, they would wear skirt-like garments. In case the beading is non-contiguous around the two legs, a pants-like garment would be worn.
In terms of female jewelry, hooped earrings, arm braces and chains stand out, as well as the ornamental patching pins, i.e. fibulas.
Based on the male graves, they probably wore Roman-style light cloak or twin-breasted coats. They wore jewelry as well: mostly arm and neck braces were excavated, and buckles for belt parts and less commonly, for footwear and shoes. ▲
9. The Csörsz Trench
The Great Wall of China is not the only stronghold visible from outer space. A mysterious trench stretching more than 1200 kilometers runs from the Danube Bend to Mezőkövesd, continuing through Bükkábrány towards the east, then making a turn south at Ároktő all the way toward the lower Danube.
The exact age of the fortification cannot be determined accurately. It is most likely that during the 4th century – possibly between 322 and 332 – it was built with the planning and supervision of Roman military engineers for the protection of the Alföld Sarmatians. However, it is also possible that the trench system was the line of demarcation for the Avar empire.
The name "Csörsz Trench" originates from lore. The multiple variants of the lore hold the same essence: King (Knight) Csörsz had to get to his bride by boat, thus his people dug a huge channel at his command. However, the endeavor results in failure.
During the construction of the barrier system, they dug a deep and wide trench and piled the excavated soil on the inner side. It is believed that they reinforced this pile with sharpened pegs and spikes. A portion of the Csörsz Trench fort is also the border between today's Vatta and Bükkábrány. ▲
Olaszegyháza is the largest Árpád-era settlement excavated in Northeastern Hungary. However, the sites only held pit-houses like the ones found in other contemporary settlements. This is a step backward compared to the Neolithic and Bronze Age buildings discovered in the area. As the animation demonstrates, building such a house is not a complicated task.
In Olaszegyháza, a building with an almost perfect square-shaped base pit of 4x4.2 meters was also found. The entrance of a pit-house dug out at 1.1 meters deep opened from the south. The sidewalls were carefully constructed with horizontally placed beams. When the house burned down, the remains of the wall charred. This slow burning process has conserved the wood for 800 years.
The floor was covered in a thick charcoal layer, in which one intact hand mill and 19 tools (serving mainly agricultural purposes) were found. Although a surprising amount of iron objects and ceramic pots were found in the building, there is no sign of a stoker. Could it be that this was a storage building instead of a dwelling? ▲
11. The Battle of Mezőkeresztes
In the 16th century, running from the mountains to the Alföld along the borders of Bükkábrány, the two banks of the Csincse Creek were one of the most crucial scenes of the war between the Hungarians and the Turks. Following the devastating defeat at Mohács (1526), the Habsburg-Hungarian forces would not dare to face the Turkish Sultan in open battle for 70 years. However, in October of 1596, the unified Christian army led by Prince Maximilian clashed with the Turkish army led by Mehmed III.
On the first day, victory seemed promising for the Christians due to their effective use of firearms. They became overly confident and began ransacking the Turkish camps. This gave the Turks time to regroup and ambushing the looters, slaughtering 15000 people.
The signs of battle show up everywhere along the banks of the Csincse Creek in the form of carved stone cannonballs and cast lead musket balls.
Lead balls deform differently following impact with armor than piercing through human bodies or falling to the ground without hitting the target. The ammunition and cannonballs found at the battleground during the search provide sufficient information to reconstruct the maneuvers of the warring sides. ▲
12. The reclusive map
We know the location of Olaszegyháza in the Middle Ages. However, do we know where Ábrány was in the Middle Ages?
Today's Bükkábrány was formed from two villages in the Middle Ages: Upper-Ábrány and Lower-Ábrány. The border of Lower-Ábrány village is mainly the area of today's lignite mine. Although its border is partially destroyed, the location of its temple is known. There is a secret map depicting these locations. It is kept in the Stockholm Royal Archives.
The map was drawn at the battlegrounds of Mezőkeresztes in 1596. During the battle, the major landmarks were the temples of the surrounding settlements. Thus, the temples of Mezőkeresztes and Lower-Ábrány were marked on the map as well. If we insert this ancient map into a contemporary one, it would show the Lower-Ábrány temple in the middle of the cemetery located at today's Kálvária Hill. ▲