Materials under study

In anthropological studies, skeletal samples are often limited for reliable statistical comparisons (little sample size), and thus we interpret result with many biases. It is all the more so real when we attempt to compare individuals with different lifestyle and/or socioeconomic status.

In this way, the archaeological site of Mikulcice-Valy (cf. Fig. 1) offers many advantages and the Great Moravian Empire is a specific historical period which allows studying the transition between a rural life and a progressive urbanization.

pvv Mikulcice-Valy



Fig. 1. Situation of the archaeological site under study in relation to current Czech Republic and the location of the Great Moravia in medieval Europe (box adapted from Havelkova et al., 2011).

2.1 Historical background

Till the end of the 8th century, life in Eastern Europe is rather rural with no clear organization and subject to the different waves of migration. Great Moravia was the first Slavic state formation. It was accompanied with a progressive Christianization. The Great Moravian Empire was funded by the Prince Mojmir the 1st (833-846) (Böhm et al., 1963), from different Slavic populations of the northern Danube River. They took advantage from the conflicts between Frankish and Avars in order to found a structured state, bringing together different principalities (Leger, 1868). On the whole, the hierarchic organization is similar to those in Western Europe, with a clear dependency of the peasant farmer to the aristocratic class (Polacek, 2008). With its small territory, the Great Moravian Empire is a privileged area to study the mutation between rural lifestyle to urbanization. Moreover, the principalities are founded around centres of power such as Stare Mesto, Nitra, or Devin (Conte, 1986). Mikulcice-Valy was one of these power centres, bringing together the different socioeconomic classes at that time.

2.2 MikulCice-Valy, how to gather different socioeconomic status in a same archaeological site?

The archaeological site of Mikulcice-Valy is the vastest site in Czech Republic, which is registered as national cultural heritage, and has competed for the World's heritage centre of Unesco since 2001 ( Situated at 7 km southern from the town Hodonin, near the border of Slovakia, the power centre of Mikulcice was established at the beginning of the 6th century and knew its height between the 9th and 10th centuries (Polacek, 2000; Trestik, 2001).

2.2.1 The power centre organization

The power centre of Mikulcice is a large fortified settlement, discovered at the end of the 19th century. It is constituted by remains of a palace, at least 12 churches accompanied by several cemeteries, representing more than 2500 burials (Polacek, 2000; Polacek & Marek, 2005; Trestik, 2001). The remains of the palace were found at the top of some hill above the ancient channel of the Morava River (Fig.2).

The different churches were built around the palace and the basilica (church n°3 on the plan). Archaeological remains suggest that the highest social class (aristocratic part of the population and churchmen) was buried in the cemeteries near these areas. Further the other churches are, lower are the socioeconomic status of the people buried in the adjacent cemeteries.

This organization shows that we could study different social groups in a same site belonging to the same historical period. This is the case and an incredible chance for an anthropological study. However, we must be cautious, because in such settlement moving from urbanization, the limits of each burial place are often difficult to separate and cultural data are missing to exactly differentiate each part of the population. That is why the collections under study come from clear different part of the site in order to have different socioeconomic classes.

2.2.2 Mikulcice "Bazilika", burying the upper social class

The cemetery directly linked to the basilica (named "Bazilika") is of the richest burial place of the area. Many archaeological remains were found suggesting that the upper class was buried here (Polacek et al., 2006). Around the Basilica (IIIrd church) were discovered 564 burials (Polacek, 2008). There are 314 adults, 221 non-adult individuals and 29 individuals with un-estimated age (Stloukal, 1967). The sample under study comprises 217 juvenile individuals (the last four are too poor preserved to be included in the data), ranging from birth to adolescence. In the figures and table, this sample is named Mikulcice Bazilika and is abbreviated "MkB".

2.2.3 Mikulcice "Kostelisko", the suburb of the fortifications

The second area under study is the burial place named "Kostelisko". It takes place in the suburb of the acropolis and is considered as the servants, craftsmen of the castle (Veleminsky, 2000; Veleminsky et al., 2005). It corresponds to a lower social class than the individuals buried around the basilica. Once again, we must be cautious because of the possible mixture between the parts of the population and the part of the cultural way of thinking that we have no clues.

The second sample under study comprises 425 burials holding 235 juvenile individuals. The skeletons, correctly preserved, present the same age-at-death range than the "Basilika" sample. In the figures and table, this sample is named Mikulcice Kostelisko and is abbreviated "MkK".

^^m Expected course of the original river channels

Inverstigated area of the necropolis of «Kostelisko»

VI, VII, P Numbering of the churches, Palace

Burial places under study and used for comparisons

Fig. 2. Mikulcice-Valy, general plan of the site and topography (adapted from Polacek, 2008)

2.2.4 Comparison with other data

The two first samples show contrasting socioeconomic status, whether we consider that the populations were clear separated in the Mikulcice settlement. In order to compare the "urban" samples with a clear different lifestyle, we chose to study a third sample coming from a rural cemetery in the hinterland of Mikulcice.

The archaeological site of Prusanky, is situed at less than 10 km from Mikulcice. This geographical closeness does not reflect proximity in the lifestyle. Indeed, the cemetery associated at this site represents a rural population (Beeby et al., 1982). The location near the power center induces clear exchanges between the two community, but the lifestyle is different. This second site seemed to be self-sufficient (Klanica, 2006a). 676 burials accompanied by Moravian archaeological remains were excavated (Klanica, 2006b).

The last sample under study comprises 173 juvenile individuals from newborn to late adolescent. In the figures and table, this sample is named Prusanky and is abbreviated "Pk".

Thus the three samples show different socioeconomic status:

• MkB, the "aristocratic" and churchmen sample, representing the highest social class of the site;

• MkK, the "middle social class" (above all "craftsmen), who are poorer than the individuals of MkB;

• And Pk, the rural place, where the lifestyle contrasts with the two others.

Their teeth should reflect these life conditions and socioeconomic status. All the skeletal remains are deposited in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum in Prague.

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