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Revue Pamiatky a múzeá – Summary 1/2008

Zdeněk Farkaš

The first inhabitants of
our land
The Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) and the subsequent Middle
Stone Age (Mesolithic) mark the longest period in human history. In Slovakia,
this period roughly dates from 500,000 to 5,600 BC. During that time the Homo
species separated itself from the animal kingdom and finally reached the current
form of Homo sapiens sapiens.
We do not know and probably never will know the
date when the first humans, or their ancestors, entered Slovak land for the
first time. Based on the scanty archaeological evidence collected so far, it
could have been half a million years ago; sometime during the warm fluctuations
of the Mindel Ice Age, or during the following interglacial period. The first
“explorers”, later to become Slovakia’s inhabitants, were probably the small
groups of hunters and harvesters of the Homo erectus type, who wandered up here
in their quest for food.
More records in Slovakia talk about the
Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). Apart from the stone tools often
located near mineral springs, this type is also remembered through skeletal
remains found in Gánovce and Šaľa. The next, late Paleolithic period introduced
the man of the modern type (Homo sapiens sapiens). These people brought a new
technique of making stone tools to our land – cutting long narrow blades with
parallel razor-edges made of cores specially adjusted for this purpose. The
first settlements appeared in Slovakia around that time. They had a tent
structure supported with thin tree trunks and branches covered with divets,
grass and skins of big animals (e.g. in Košice, the city part of Barca). The
largest boom within the late Paleolithic civilisation in the country is linked
with the originators of the so-called Gravettian culture. They had gradually
settled throughout the whole area, with the possible exception of the high
mountains, from around 26,000 to 18,000 BC. The finest and most famous evidence
of primeval artistic expression found in our territory so far – a 7.6 cm tall
female figure carved from a mammoth tusk, which was discovered in the second
half of the1930s in Moravany nad Váhom – also dates to this period.

Zdeněk Farkaš
The victory of Neolithic
The New Stone Age is often considered one of the
breakthrough periods in human history. The permanent rise in temperature and
related changes in the natural environment at the end of the last ice period,
enabled man in various places on earth, especially where there were suitable
conditions, to gradually transfer to productive farming based on intentional
cultivation of suitable plants and livestock breeding.
The first farmers
came to the Slovak territory from southeastern Europe. Between 5600 and 4300 BC
they had formed quite a number of cultures and cultural groups. Archaeologists
tend to refer to primeval communities, as they know neither their language nor
what they were originally called in the area, which can be partly attributed to
the largely broken terrain of our land. These groups mainly differed from each
other in the way they created and decorated ceramics – one of the most numerous
of archaeological findings and most liable when it came to changing period
The people of the New Stone Age, as farmers, chose fertile lowlands
and slightly undulated uplands near streams for their settlements. Primarily
found in western Slovakia, these settlements often consisted of several large
wood constructed houses above ground with a palisade and bearing a saddle roof.
The walls were covered with a thick insulating layer of clay coating. In Silická
plateau, but also elsewhere, people from the mainly Bükk culture, whose pots
serve to highlight the primeval pottery in our territory, also lived in numerous
caves (e.g. Domica near Kečov).
In the New Stone Age we can also track roots
of several significant inventions – e.g. the stone-edged sickle for grain
harvesting, the stone axes for tree cutting and wood processing, as well as the
pierced stone hammeraxe. The gradually stabilising funeral ritual was connected
with the spiritual development of the society. It suggested faith in an
after-life as well as in a higher power through artistic items, probably
including the massive wooden-earth round buildings, or roundels, known for
instance from Svodín, Bučany and Ružindol.

Eneolithic cultures
An important feature of the
Late Stone Age, which in Slovak territory dates between 4300 and 2300 (or 2000)
BC, was the spread of its first metal products using copper, gold and silver.
Given the relative scarcity, noble look and the softness of the latter two,
these were mainly used for making what were then very rare decorations and
jewellery, as well as prestigious and cult items. Copper, on the other hand,
could almost be used as a serial production for tools and weapons.
beginnings of the Eneolithic period brought clear evidence of the first
“mechanisation” in agriculture by using a simple plough tool – a wooden hook or
dot-wheel. This was often set to motion by the power of animals, usually by
yoked cattle. Firstly, the animals pulled the heavy-handed one- and two-axle
carts with wooden wheels. Clay models of such carts, for example, come from
Radošina and Pezinok in western Slovakia; a copper sculpture of a yoked bull is
from the Liskovská cave near Ružomberok.
Influenced by metallurgic
development – in our area documented by fragments of melting pots (Bratislava,
Devín Castle, Biely Kostol, Slepčany), salamanders (Suchá nad Parnou, Senica,
Slovenské Pravno), and remains of smelting works (Bratislava, the city part of
Dúbravka) – the Late Stone Age also gave rise to other specialised workmanship,
such as stone processing and pottery.
The search for new material sources,
the transfer to cattle rearing, the restless times caused by the movements of
various ethnicities and the gradual social differentiation even visible in
unequal tomb property, made part of the population move to the country’s hilly
areas. Some communities built fortified settlements there, protected by simple
walls and a moat. Based on archaeological findings, one can assume that Slovak
copper ore sources, mainly the ones around Banská Bystrica (Špania Dolina), were
already in use at that time.

Juraj Bartík
Bronze – the metal in man’s

It is not easy to clearly date the beginning of the general
spread of the new metal – the alloy of copper and tin, as it varied from region
to region. In Mesopotamia and Egypt the Bronze Age started at the end of the 4th
millennium BC, in northern areas later. Whilst the Mycenaeans and Minoan
civilisations were getting in direct touch with the most advanced parts of the
civilised world at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, crossing the history
border in the Bronze Age, the northern parts of Europe, including Central
Europe, had remained deeply rooted in the primeval age. Their inhabitants mostly
lived in small, village dwellings. Farmers grew crops, herdsmen bred
domesticated animals for their own use, and craftsmen worked for the community
in general.
Evidence of the mining of copper ores in Slovak territory
was found in Špania Dolina in the Low Tatras Mountains. However, it is generally
assumed that ore was mined and smelted in other regions as well. We lack the
specific data on tin origin, therefore we can only presume it might have been
imported or panned out of streams in the form of a tin oxide mineral –
cassiterite. Copper and bronze was distributed throughout the Bronze Age and was
to be found in the form of pies, cravats, ribs, fractions and bar pounds. Blast
jets, fire pots for melt metal and casting, mostly stone forms were needed for
producing bronze tools, weapons and decoration. These casting facilities were
put into the graves of some specialised craftsmen, though most are known from
the settlements.

Juraj Bartík
Burial grounds –
settlements – treasures
Slovakia did not form a cultural unity
during the Bronze Age. Its divisions belonged to larger areas whose centres lay
outside our territory. Almost 1500 years of the Bronze Age together with the
mountainous terrain of today’s Slovakia resulted in an unusually manifold
settlement – at least 19 groups classified archaeological culture had “changed
places” in the space and time within this area. It is obvious that the density
of population in individual regions was subject to natural conditions, such as
soil quality and altitude with its related temperature and rainfall.
the archaeological point of view, the Bronze Age monuments can be divided into
settlements and burial grounds. Less often does the opportunity arise to
research the remains of manufacturing objects and various religious activities.
The last two often, but not always, come out in mass and sporadic findings. Each
of the mentioned monument groups provides us with important, mutually
interconnected information.
The research in settlements is important for
knowing the density of settlements, the size of individual communities and
family units, as well as the civilised level of each period. Residencies of
central and local significance, with a different hierarchy of mutual relations,
existed within the settlements. We assume that settlements and other forms of
accommodation in our territory had developed, and in some periods, were subject
to radical changes. We can formally divide the Bronze Age residences to open
(unprotected by walls) and protected fortifications and walled settlements.
Rarely can we talk about late Bronze Age findings from caves.
Burial places
offer important information on the physical state of the Bronze Age
civilisations, their societal layering, farming, the level of material culture,
costume and last but not least the basic religious ideas of the inhabitants. In
the early Bronze Age we find skeletal graves, later it became more and more
popular to place burnt body remains into urns. In the late Bronze Age the manner
of burial was to separate family aristocracy by placements into massive mounds
after death.
Apart from settlements and burial grounds there is a third
group of information source – the depots or mass findings, or treasures. The
reasons for placing bronze, rare gold or ceramic depots into the ground (or
water) were of an economical, political and religious character.
uninterrupted development could be seen throughout the whole Bronze Age in
Slovakia. Though there were various forms of migration and interventions from
other regions, the biological continuity did not break. The beginning of a “new,
iron age” was signalled by the arrival of nomadic tribes from the northern areas
of the Black Sea as well as by the gradual increase in the importance of iron

Radoslav Čambal
Hallstatt cultures

The Early Iron Age – Hallstatt culture comes out of the younger and
late Bronze Age tradition. The Hallstatt age was named after the significant
archaeological locality in Upper Austria – Hallstatt. It can be characterised as
the period when they gradually mastered the production and processing of iron,
which did away with the then common use of bronze. A much more developed farming
culture characterised the earlier and middle period of the Early Iron Age.

The Kalenderberg culture (750 – 600/550 BC) was famous for its vast lowland
settlements and the power centres of fortified hill-forts in the Small
Carpathians. The elite of contemporary society, the “earls”, were buried in the
mounds. Along with the incinerated remains of the deceased ones, the mounds also
included many offerings in the form of richly decorated ceramics. New
power-political centres with developed economical and cultural life originated
in the Small Carpathians, e.g. the Molpír hill-fort near Smolenice, and Devín
and the Bratislava castle hills. Jewellery and the clothes and accessories of a
warrior had appeared as well. A unique finding is the bone plate from Pusté
Úľany, decorated with hinds and reminding us of so-called Situl art from the
The inhabitants of the Lusatian culture settled in northern and
central Slovakia. They had lived there since the Bronze Age. The Early Iron Age
was represented through the so-called Orava group of the Lusatian culture
centred in Orava and Liptov. We are only aware of it from a few fortified
hill-forts and cremation burial places. The Lusatian culture was famous for its
centres of advanced metallurgy. Among the significant findings are the bronze
items from Istebné-Hrádok. Famous localities include the settlements of Vyšný
Kubín-Ostrá skala and Vyšný Kubín-Tupá skala, and the cremation burial places in
Oravský Podzámok, Dolný Kubín and Vyšný Kubín. The Lusatian localities of the
Early Iron Age in western Slovakia are the settlement in Pobedim and cremation
burial place in Vrádište.
Eastern Slovakia in the Early Iron Age was a
manifestation of the so-called Kuštanovice culture that originated on the basis
of the late Gáva and partly the late Kyjatice cultures. The lowlands settlements
mainly gathered along the rivers of Bodrog, Topľa, Hornád and Torysa. The
centres of power were fortified settlements on hills, e.g. on the top of Stráža
in Obišovce, Hradová hura in Šarišské Sokolovce and Somotorská hora in Somotor.
The burial grounds of the Early Iron Age were in Vojnatina, Kráľovský Chlmec and
Zemplínske Kopčany. The Ždaňa burial place features unique findings. Famous are
mass findings of bronze and iron tools and weapons from Nižná Myšľa, Jasov and
Terňa. The people of the Hallstatt period mainly lived on agriculture, cattle
breeding and hunting. Known crafts included smithery, metal casting, weaving,
wood and bone processing and pottery.
The agricultural cultures of the Early
Iron Age (Kalenderberg culture) ceased to exist in the middle of the 6th century
BC after the raids of nomads related to Scythians, who came from the East and
settled in the western parts of the Carpathian basin and along the upper Tisza
region. They created here the Vekerzug culture. The central hill-forts
(Smolenice-Molpír) perished. The most visible traces of the nomad Scythians are
the tripod bronze points of the bow arrows, which were the main weapon of the
riders, as well as the so-called animal style in art. The nomad graves from
Chotín, Senec and Modrany are from the younger/late Hallstatt period (550 – 400

Igor Bazovský
Celts – the Iron Age
The warlike nation of Celts first entered our country at
the end of the 5th century. Within a short space of time they had managed to
populate a large area stretching from the Pyrenees peninsula to the Black Sea
and from the British isles to the Padan Plain. Based on archaeological findings,
their centre lay somewhere between the Seine, Vltava River and Alps, in the area
of the so-called Western Hallstatt culture.
By the end of the 6th century,
power lay in the hands of the local chiefs: they had started to build
ostentatious houses and were being buried in burial-mounds. Trade with the
south, which brought in luxurious goods, helped to manifest their exceptional
rank. The influence of these imported goods as well as the intellectualisation
of the advanced Mediterranean nations gave rise to the La Tene culture in the
5th century. The name was derived after the La Tene settlement in Switzerland.
The first Celtic groups entered Slovak territory around 400 BC (Stupava, Bučany,
Horné Orešany). A more massive influx of the Celts to the Carpathian basin took
place in the second half of the 4th century.
The Celtic groups moved down
the Danube River and mainly populated the fertile southern areas of today’s
Slovakia. The northern regions remained home to the locals. The Celts initially
kept to their custom of burying the unburned dead bodies in a straightened
position. Weapons were mainly found in the male graves, occasionally jewellery.
Women used to wear rings and bracelets of bronze, glass and sapropelit. Metal
circular jewellery often decorated the feet as well. Bronze and iron buckles
were used to fasten clothes on shoulders. Belts from leather, textile and metal
were worn around the waist. The cravat or neck-cloth was specific Celtic
jewellery. Vessels were a frequent offering in the female, as well as the male
graves. From time to time items of stone and amber were found. Half-buried
rectangular dwellings, with a saddle roof supported by two columns fitted in the
middle of the buildings’ shorter sides, dominated the settlements.
Celtic civilisation reached its largest boom in the 2nd and 1st century BC.
Fortified tribal centres – oppida – originated in Plavecké Podhradie and
Bratislava. They were the centres of power, skill and trade. In the 2nd century
BC, Celtic groups gradually moved to northern regions. One reason behind this
was the interest in iron ore. The combination of the local and Celtic elements
gave rise to a specific cultural phenomenon, which archaeologists came to refer
to as Púchov culture. Typical for this culture was the existence of elevated
fortified positions, often near settlements built at the start of a valley.
Central hill-forts appear in some regions of northern Slovakia, e.g. Liptovská
Mara at Liptov and Janovce – Machalovce at the Spiš region. Quite rare were the
Celtic settlements in southern regions of eastern Slovakia, which the Celts
entered during the first half of the 3rd century BC. The hill-fort in Zemplín
was the most significant centre of the Celts in the eastern Slovak valley. In
the 1st century BC, the Dacians gradually gained control of the Celtic tribes in
the Carpathian basin.

Vladimír Turčan
On the border with Empire

When the Celtic colonisation came to an end, the Central European
lands opened themselves up to the expanding Romans. They came to the area after
battles in the Balkans, as the legions reached the southern bank of the Danube
at its mid-point. The first time the Romans likely entered the land which today
is Slovakia was probably during the battles against the Dacians, around 10 BC
(the so-called Tuscul inscription). Other evidence of their occupation was the
foundation of a tower at Devín castle, erected during an unsuccessful campaign
against the Marcomanni king Maroboduus who ruled central Bohemia.
In the 1st
century AD, the Romans built a fortified border on the Danube, the limes
romanus. They relocated the Germanic communities from Bohemia behind this line,
specifically between the rivers of Morava and Váh, and named Vannius of the
Quadi tribe as their king. When his relatives killed him, the line became more
complicated and the Romans had to pay closer attention to secure it
The heaviest battles took place between 166 and 180 (the
so-called Marcomannic wars), when the Germans broke through to central Italy.
The Emperor Marcus Aurelius pushed the invaders back behind the Danube, thus
shifting the battles into the territory, which is today‘s Slovakia. A separated
unit even reached the area of modern day Trenčín. The event is remembered
through an inscription engraved into the rock on which a medieval castle was
later built. The emperor personally took part in the battles, while working on
his philosophical work Ta eis heauton (Writings to Himself) in the marching
camps in the Pohronie region. His early death, however, thwarted his plan to
incorporate Slovak territory as a Marcomannic province of the Empire. The Romans
retreated from the regions north of the Danube and completed the Danube border.

The political stability based on a military-controlled border enabled
ancient values to enter Barbaricum (Barbarian territory), largely thanks to
trade. Technologically and socially, however, the Germans remained at a primeval
level. Until the end of their stay in Slovakia, they neither made coins, nor
learnt the basics of ancient architectural culture. Neither were they to absorb
the ancient craft skills despite the numerous imports of pottery (mainly terra
sigillata), bronze and silver vessels and jewellery into Germanic land. Roman
influence could be mainly detected among the local elite, based on grave
Ancient buildings in south-western Slovakia (Stupava,
Bratislava-Dúbravka, Pác near Trnava and Dolný Kýr) were important trade
centres. The situation in the country’s east and north is only documented
archeologically. While the Germanic tribes occupied eastern Slovakia, the hilly
north had been the home of the people of Púchov culture and the last remaining
Celts up until the Marcomannic wars. Some of them were later relocated to
Pannonia. The Roman period ended in the 4th century, when the Huns entered the
Empire by crossing the Lower Danube.

Vladimír Turčan
On the threshold of a new
Slavic era
After four centuries of Slovak territory being in
immediate contact with ancient civilisation, the migration of people started. It
brought along significant political and ethical changes. The Roman military
doctrine fell apart after the invasion of the Huns and other tribes, which under
their influence broke through to the Empire. In 43, the Romans handed Pannonia
over to the Huns and most of the Romanised population retreated from the region.
Rome, as well as Byzantium bought out peace with money, proof of which is the
depot of 108 solids found in Bíňa at Pohronie.
The Slovak Germans, weakened
after the battles against Rome, mostly left their habitats and apparently only
formed some settlement “islands”. The production of poor-quality pottery mainly
documents the local traditions. At the same time though, immigrants in the
Slovak territory (Skalica) created quality goods on the wheel. The new situation
also brought changes to cremation burial places. Cremation tombs started to
appear as well.
The Huns founded a Nomad Empire with its centre in the Lower
Tisza area, from where they ruled the vast territory from Caucasus to Rhein. The
communities living in southern Slovakia also came under their power. The
northern areas were less attractive to them, though they also hid findings of
their existence (Bojná). The largest number of monuments belonging to the Huns
comes from the area around Levice. It is assumed that one of the periphery
centres of the Hun Empire was there. Interesting findings were lately discovered
in the Trnava area (Smolenice).
After the defeat of the Huns at Catalaunian
Fields and the death of King Attila, the empire fell apart. Heruls and Skirs
most likely occupied south-western Slovakia temporarily. Original Germanic Quads
formed only an insignificant part of the population of today’s Slovakia. Eastern
Slovakia continued its previous development and the famous archaeological
monuments could be identified with Chernyakhov culture. At the end of the 4th
and the beginning of the 5th century, northern Slovakia was occupied again. The
people of the so-called north-Carpathian group, ethnically connected with
Vandals, settled in Turiec, Liptov, Orava and Spiš regions. A tomb of a Vandals
magnate, which is unique in Euro-Asian contexts, was discovered in
The last tribe to appear during the peoples’ migration were
the Longobards. They settled in Záhorie (Bratislava-Devínske Jazero, Zohor). A
large burial ground was researched in Bratislava-Čunovo. Fearing the Avars, they
moved to northern Italy in 568.
Slavic tribes came to the Slovak land
during the 5th century. Their ethno-genesis took place in a large territory
between the rivers Oder and Vistula in west and Dnieper and Dnister in the east.
The colonisation process is not captured in written form and therefore we can
only refer to archaeological findings. In the 6th century, their stay is also
confirmed by literature sources.

Katarína Tomčíková
Avars – Slavs –
The Early Middle Ages was to embrace several significant
phases in our history. It was the period when Slavs began to settle in Slovak
territory and heralded the period of the Avar Khaganat, the Nitra principality,
and the boom and downfall of Great Moravia. It was to last until today’s Slovak
territory became part of the multinational Hungarian state.
During the Avar
Khaganat, which included southern Slovakia, it seemed that Slavs and Avars lived
in mutual coexistence. Many uncovered places of burial, various settlements and
general mass findings of multifarious items illustrated what life was like back
then. Slavs gradually settled for and in the northern regions.
The end of the
Avar Khaganat opened a space to the Slavs for individual development. The basis
for later regional-administrative centres had been gradually formed. Two,
mutually competitive significant principalities – Moravia and Nitra – sprang up
and led to the Slavs living above the Danube. Joining the two together at the
beginning of the 9th century gave rise to Great Moravia.
An archaeological
research came upon an extensive construction of hill-forts. They served as
residence seats of the ruling class, religious and economic centres, as well as
retreats for citizens during war times. The boom of craft production and trade
began. Most of the inhabitants lived in settlements and the main source of
living was agriculture, stock raising and hunting. Magyar tribes entered the
Carpathian basin at the end of the 9th century. Disunion of the Slavs after the
death of king Svatopluk and the increasing pressure from the Magyars meant the
end of Great Moravia at the beginning of the 10th century. The Magyars gradually
settled and changed their nomadic way of life for that of a farmer’s. They
adopted many of the socio-economic conventions of the Great Moravian Slavs and
used them when building the Hungarian state.

Klára Fűryová
Material culture in the
Middle Ages
Individual regions of today’s Slovakia were gradually
integrated into the embryonic union of a multinational Hungarian state. After
the coronation of St. Stephan in 1000 and the establishment of Christianity, the
vital military and economic power ended up in the hands of the monarch and
feudal nobility. The church organisation of our territory was based on Great
Moravia and the significant support from the monarch made it spread its
structure. The prosperity base of a medieval state form was its mineral
resources. Shaft furnaces producing iron from the 11th and 12th centuries serve
as proof. The armaments of knights in the 11th century were almost unified all
around Europe, their basic constituents being spear, sword and bodkin.
monks of the Order of Saint Benedict, who had been building their monasteries in
our territory since the end of the 10th and during the 11th century (e.g. in
Hronský Beňadik and Krásna nad Hornádom near Košice), played a significant role
in spreading Christianity and the culture of the west. The medieval monastery
workshops preserved crafts from the time of the Roman provinces.
After the
Benedictines, other orders spreading Christianity and education arrived. The
monasteries, many of which functioned as credible places (locum credibilium),
were also the centres of developed agricultural production and crafts, the
progressive techniques and methods of which got spread far and wide. This role
was gradually overtaken by the new town settlements at the end of the 12th
century. The crafts, initially closely interlinked with agriculture, were
concentrated in market centres, magisterial courts and settlements under
castles. Many of these centres supported by the monarch’s rights turned into
self-governing towns during the 13th century, thus becoming centres of craft
production, trade and later also education. Given the environment, craft
production could develop more and become specialised.

Titus Kolník
A German grave from
The discovery of a preserved Germanic wooden tomb from
the end of the Roman period uncovered in 2006 in Poprad-Matejovce, demanded an
up-to-date examination and evaluation of the relative findings in Ostrovany, a
district of Sabinov (eastern Slovakia). In 1790 and 1865 significant items of
gold and silver from Roman times were found in the said locality and these were
noted in the likely inventory of Germanic Earl graves I and II, with a Hungarian
name Osztrópataka (the site being situated in what was then Upper Hungary). The
items from the first finding in 1790 went to Vienna and up today are admired at
the Art History Museum. The findings from 1865 create a significant
expositionary portion of the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest. The
circumstances around both finds were not initially clear. Regarding their
deposition sites, Slovak archaeologists researched them only marginally (Kolník,
1984; 1998; Novotný, 1995).
These unique findings, which have mesmerised
explorers of Roman times for more than two centuries, lately caught the
attention of young Hungarian archaeologist Péter Prohászka. In 2002 he began to
closely explore archived written evidence in the Hungarian National Museum in
Budapest about the mentioned findings from Osztrópataka-Ostrovany. He reached a
clear conclusion that findings marked as Osztrópataka I and Osztrópataka II come
from one grave – the grave of a Vandal king from 270 – 290, discovered twice.

Firstly, P. Prohászka sustained the results of his exploration as his thesis
at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. In 2004 he published the study, Az
osztrópatkai Vandál királysír (Esztergom 2004), in Hungarian. He later reworked
it and published it in the German language – Das vandalische Königsgrab von
Osztrópataka (Ostrovany, SK.) (Budapest 2006).
The collection of gold and
silver items from Ostrovany is undoubtedly one of the most important
early-historical findings from Slovakia in general. Their wealth and uniqueness
indirectly suggest that these sorts of jewels could have been found in a hundred
years younger tomb in Poprad-Matejovce before it was robbed. The findings from
Ostrovany, and most recently also the graves from Poprad-Matejovce prove and
highlight the significance of the Spiš corridor in the southeast to Silesia at
the end of the Roman period. At the same time they support the assumption of
Vandal ethnic affiliation of the important royal members buried in Ostrovany and