Some problems of the ethnogenesis of the Slavs and of the settlement process of the Central Danubian Slovenes – Slovaks in the 6th and 7th century
by Bohuslav Chropovský
One of the most important questions of history is the history of the formation and the development of ethnic groups, tribes and nations. No historic phenomenon can be sufficiently explained without knowing its sources, origin and the circumstances of its formation. Such a complex historical phenomenon as people, the historical ancestor of a nation, with its distinctive traits, language and culture can be comprehensively explained only after having answered the question of its formation and the origin of related original tribes. The problems of the origin of the Slavs have belonged to the most important ones in the field of ethnogenetic research since the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries. They have been focused on by researchers of various branches of study as well as by experts of various nationalities. (1) The reason is that the Slavs have been a widespread ethnic population of Europe playing an important role in the history of Europe and the world history in general since time immemorial (2). As well as the development of Slavonic tribes and nations and other tribes and nations that are or are not related to the Slavs but came under their economic, cultural or political influence. Of course, it is necessary to examine these relations also from the opposite perspective, i.e. how these tribes and nations influenced Slavonic community.
Extensive scientific research into the field of Slavistics in general and Slavonic archeology, in particular, permanently provides us with new knowledge crucial for the exploration of the complex problems of the genesis, political organization and cultural profile of the Slavs as a whole as well as the individual nations. The development of scientific research activities and a widespread discussion are continually bringing new and more detailed knowledge of all the spheres of political, economic and cultural history of the Slavs and their wider or more concrete relations with other tribes and nations of contemporary Europe (3).
Some experts suggest that Slavonic tribes had continuously developed at the territory where they appeared later in the history from the beginning of Neolith (6th-5th millennium BC – culture with linear ceramic) (4). Others are searching for their place of origin far in the East and provide us with the evidence that they spread from that area to their later settlements(5). It is not rare to come across the theories that consider themselves scientific and attempt to prove that from the beginning of Mezolith (10 thousand years BC) the whole world was Slavonic(7), similarly to some German scientist explaining so called ”pure Germanic race”. It stands to reason that it is impossible to agree with them and even the discussion with them is pointless. An adequate number of concrete scientific sources from the field of archeology, linguistics, anthropology, history, ethnology and other branches of study have been collected that enable us to seriously approach this vital even if still very complex problem.
There is not space enough here either to discuss in detail various approaches of different scientists and even ”schools” existing nowadays contributing to the answering the questions of the ethnogenesis of Slavs or to critically analyze individual theses or their conclusions. On the basis of the state of the art results of linguistic and particularly archeological researches we will just try to point out some fundamental perspectives of the subject matter of the place of origin of the Slavs and their various settlements (8). The first one to suggest the main directions and conclusions about the place of origin of the Slavs in Central European region from a wider multidisciplinary perspective was Pavel Jozef Šafárik in his work ”Slovanské starožitnosti”(9). I really feel like citing from this excellent piece of work from § 1 following words: ”Nezběhlost v jazyku slovanském dle všech jeho nářečí a proměn v oběhu času vzešlých, nepovědomost povahy, mravuv, obyčajuv, domáciho života a vnitřních příběhu v národu tohoto, a naposledy, ať díme zrovna, i jakási nepřízeň a nechuť ke Slovanstvu, bezděky ke strannosti vedoucí byli jsou na příčině, že žádný z cizozemcu o starožaitnostech našich píšicich, třebás v jiném ohledu sebe dumyslnějších, posavad nic dokonalého v tomto oddílu dějin na světlo nepronesl”(10). I wanted to point out these words because the history of the Slavs is even nowadays in scientific writings on various ”reasons” either neglected or purposefully omitted(11).
In my opinion, also contemporary experts from Slavonic nations should take lesson from this outstanding scholar who pointing out the works of his predecessors asks the question if it’s appropriate to publish his work, which is according to him modest and imperfect, and in so doing contribute to the treasures of the Slovak history or rather not to publish it. Nowadays it is clearly evident that without this work we would be really impoverished. And here is the message that the great scholar left for the contemporary and future generation of researchers: ”Ale přirozená láska k mile národnosti naši, náklonnost k domácimu dějepisu a mluvozpytu vubec, vroucí žádost, všestraným zhloubáním a rozsudným vyložením starožitností našich vytrhnouti z nehodného zanedbání původ a vzrost národu našeho, a vyjasniti, pokud možné, nejdřevnejší dobu života a dějin jeho,….. Každého zajisté z otrlosti a surovosti vyzutého a národu svému neodcizeného člověka srdce vře neukojenou túžbou po hodnověrné zprávě o milých svích předcích, ale ještě vice učeného, provodíciho život svuj v naukách národnosti jeho se týkajícich, totižto v národním dějezpytu a jazykosloví. Pokudkoli tedy milovníkuv jazyka národu našeho mezi námi stávati bude, až potud, neleze o tom pochybovati, nalézati se budou mezi námi i přatelé a pěstounové podobných skoumání o původu a vzrústu slavného národu našeho a jeho starožitnostech.”(12).
Lubor Niederle, an outstanding expert on Slavonic prehistoric times, continued in doing what P.J.Šafárik had not managed to bring to an end in his magnificent work ”Slovanské starožitnosti”(13) as well as in collected works ”Manuel de l’antiquité slave”(14). Niederle’s work was continued by J. Fisher who in cooperation with his followers started to publish the collection ”Vznik a počátky Slovanú”(15) and prepared excellent collected works about the Slavs in days of yore in his work ”Rukověť slovanské archeológie”(16). Z. Váňa(17) wrote the summary overview of the ethnogenesis of the Slavs. Apart from that there are some important works summarizing ethnogenesis from wider perspective focusing either on autochthony or migration. As there is a great number of published works from various branches of study, I would like to focus mainly on the field of archeology and its contribution to the topic as well as on the state of the art approaches and contribution of linguistics. In the first place there are the works of P.N. Tretjakov(18), B.A. Rybakov(19), V.V. Sedov (20), V.D. Baran (21), L.D. Poboľ (22) and particularly of W. Hensel(23), who deals also with methodology, then the works of K. Jazdzewky (24), M. Gimbutas (25), J. Žak (26), J. Werner(27), H. Jahkuhn(28), J. Herrmann (29) and last but not least the work of O.N. Trubačev (30), which my ideas presented in the following part are based on.
We will just briefly outline the main directions in our search for the place of origin of the Slavs.
Proponents of so called Visla-Dneper theory place the Slavs to the catchments area of the Dneper and the southern region of the Visla. However the experts differ in their opinions on the period of their origin. Some of them searched for these roots in the Bronze Age (1500 years BC), others in the Historic Age ( 5th-6th century AD) (31).
The Odra-Dneper theory claims that the Slavonic place of origin was at the territory where they were settled also in the early Middle Ages, i.e. it is one of the theories of autochthony (32).
The Dneper theory places the Slavonic place of origin to the Southern or Northern Dneper region. The Slavs are supposed to have settled there from the 5th century BC (33).
Another theory, the Odra-Visla one, suggests that the Slavs were originally, it means in the 6th - 5th century BC, settled between the rivers Odra and Bug. According to the proponents of this theory the Slavs are supposed to have moved further to the East under the pressure of the Germans (34).
So called ”Upper-Danubian” theory claims that the place of origin of the Slavs was at the area of South-East Europe, at the Danube region (35).
From the above described most influential theories (also some further different opinions existed) two main approaches to the identification of the region from which the ancient Slavs set off to move to their historic settlements may be derived. And so the western and the eastern theories may be distinguished. The proponents of the western theory suggest that the place of origin of the Slavs spread out between the Elbe and the Odra and the Visla regions since the origin and development of the Lusetian culture in the early Bronze Age (1200 years BC). This is the theory of so called Polish school (36). On the other hand, the eastern theory locates the Slavonic place of origin between the Visla and the Central Dneper. However, there are two varieties: the Central-Dneper one placing it to the regions of Kiev and Polesie and the Visla-Dneper one placing it to The Visla and Dneper regions (37).
Contemporary experts tend to hold with the theory of the Czech researcher L. Niederle locating the Slavonic place of origin to the vast territory between the Odra and the Visla to the South of Pripiatske swamps and to the West of the Dneper (38). I myself used to adhered to this theory(39). However, being aware of some crucial, especially recent, conclusions of the Slavonic linguistics, whose vital importance in connection with this problems was emphasized also by P.J. Šafárik, L. Niederle and recently also by many other experts dealing with the ethnogenesis of the Slavs, I have been focusing more on the results of this discipline, which slightly differ from those of archeology (40).
Nowadays it is also suggested that the place of origin of the Indo-Europeans is and that in the 3rd millennium BC various Indo-European tribes populated vast territories in Europe and Asia. According to L. Niederle, two groups of languages, Satem and Kentum, developed from the original Indo-European language. The former consisted of the Pre-Slavonic language and the Pre-Lithuanian language, which preserved their relation with the Old Track language (the Armenian language) and the Indo-Iranian languages. The ancestors of the Germans belonged to a group of Kentum nations and represented the closest neighbours of the Slavs from whom many Slavonic loans were overtaken into the Germanic language and vice versa (41). The conclusions of the research suggest that the Pre-Slavs originate in the group of Indo-European tribes that inhabited the majority of the Central and Eastern Europe since the 3rd –2nd millennium BC. I am not going to analyze the outcomes of linguistics in detail. To get more information I recommend the latest work of O. N. Trubačev who from the wide perspectives of linguistics, toponymi and hydronomy very clearly points out the beginning of the Slavonic ethnogenesis in Central European region in the 3rd millennium BC (42).
However, it is a shame that in older as well as in the latest linguistic, archeological, and historic literature not enough attention is paid to the Biblical explanation of our topic connected with the Jafet theory (43) that could shed more light on many questions. Often it is even rejected. Apart from that, it is necessary to emphasize that the problems should be studied by a separated discipline, as also W. Hensel suggests, which also the Biblical (Christian) archeology would be part of (44). On the basis of the conclusions of the Slavonic ethnogenesis from linguistic, archeological, historic and ethnologic perspectives it may be concluded that the Slavonic culture in the Pre-Slavonic period was of agricultural character with some features of hunting and fishing civilization. However, as the names of metals and metallurgical products show the processing of metals was not unknown here (45). According to the names used for market and money it is obvious that the Slavs were also traders. From the above mentioned it can be clearly concluded that it cannot be supposed that the Pre-Slavonic or Slavonic cultures were unified, neither from linguistic nor cultural perspectives (46).
On the basis of a detailed study of the linguistic researches, which were recently summarized in the work of O .N. Trubačev (47), he suggests that the place of origin of the Slavs was Central Europe, the region of Panonia and to the North of the Danube, where the original agricultural tribes separated in the 3rd millennium BC. Therefore the question arises whether this may be confirmed by archeological cultures. It seems to be an extremely complex and critical task for the Slavonic and Slovak archeology. At the 9th Congress of Slavistics in Kiev when I presented the opinion that some experts search for the roots in prehistoric times I was responded by the disagreement of O.N. Trubačev, who attracting the attention of the participants presented the conclusions mentioned above. Therefore I started to study and think about the possibility to support the ideas by archeological cultures and in so doing to support or disprove these conclusions.
In our opinion it is not necessary to emphasize that the process of the development or discovery of archeological cultures does not necessarily appear in its genetic connections, which has always been taken into consideration. Thereby it is necessary to emphasize that often the same culture is described by means of different terminology according to a current political division. If we want the study of ethnogenesis to progress, it is necessary to take into consideration the results of all fields of study dealing with the topic, their mutual critical analysis and to abandon the mechanical understanding of the unity of Slavonic as well as Pre-Slavonic cultures.
My task or purpose here is not to analyze the conclusions of O.N. Trubačev or of Slavistic discipline in general. Due to a large number of available scientific materials I consider these conclusions as plausible and acceptable. But there is a question if archeology can support the historic facts presented by linguistics. When fulfilling the objective I did not take into consideration the typological-analogical process and purpose of material culture, which is often preferred in archeology. Instead, I took into consideration a very important conclusion of the scholar Trubačev which claims that the Slavs have continuously developed at this territory since the 3rd millennium BC and from here they stretched partially to the West, North and South of Europe and partially they reached also Eastern Europe, where another important Slavonic center spread especially in the first half of the first millennium AD 948).
While in the previous Neolithic period there had been a kind of gradual population of Europe, in the late Stone Age (Eneolith) Europe experienced a real migration of nations and it is characterized as a period when various cultures overlapped. The permanent migration of tribes was in progress and so the first Slavonic tribes came to our territory from where they afterwards stretched out. It may be said that this area was the main crystallizing center of the origin and development of the Slavs – the Slovenes and Slovaks at the very same place (49).
As the development of the material culture, either in narrower or wider regions, was not straightforward, it is necessary to trace the continuous development of the Pre-Slavonic ethnic in prehistorical as well as early historical epochs in domestic foundations of agricultural civilizations, i.e. in the development of agriculture, cattle breeding, in the structure of settlements, castle sites as well as in burial ritual. Of course, it is necessary to consider also typological-analogical criteria. However, only in the framework of chronological or territorial horizons.
Despite the fact that some researchers understand the ethnogenesis of the Slavs in connection with the development of the Tripoľ culture or with Lengyel cultural region (50), big changes in the Central European framework can be noticed only in the second third of the 3rd millennium BC in the Baden culture; particularly in so called Boleraz and especially in Post-Boleraz horizons and in the further development of the Baden culture ( also called culture with kanel ceramic), as V.Pavúková-Němejcová suggests emphasizing that foreign elements and varieties appear particularly in the Danubian region (51). The Baden culture spread in the territory of Hungary (so called Peczel culture), Slovakia, Moravia, Lower Austria, reached even Bohemia and Southern Germany, Southern Poland (so called Promienista culture) as well as Yugoslavia. During this period some changes occurred not only in material culture but also in the character of settlements, in social structure, in economy as well as in religious images (characterized by the change of burial ritual from a skeleton to cremation, later to bi-ritual one). They testify to new tendencies in development, which do not follow directly a tradition of previous Neolithic-Eneolithic cultures. In the Central European region this new reality and performances created new foundations for the further development of all domestic cultures of the early Eneolith, or the Bronze Age until the Skyt-Track and especially Celtic historical expansions which in a way interrupted the previous continuous development in the Carpathian hollow (52).
In the Baden culture agriculture again became the main part of the ecosystem. The increased population brought about the inhabitation of new areas often situated even rather high that had not been populated before. People were often looking for higher situated and naturally well protected areas, which they often also artificially fortified. In the Baden culture regional and temporal groups are separated. In Hungary there were Viss, Ózd-Piliny, Úny and Kostolac groups. In Slovakia the early, classical and late phases can be distinguished in the development of the Baden culture. In Poland the late phase is called Dreveník (Lomnica) type. Those creating the culture, which develops as a new one directly continuing the previous culture, are the Slavs who O.N. Trubačev places to the Central Danubian region (53). It is true in spite of the fact that from the point of view of a present archeological classification the Baden culture according to some experts comes to an end (54). However, it does not disappear, it is just further developed in some smaller cultures, cultural types or groups such as the Bošácka group (the region of the Eastern Moravia, Western and North-Western Slovakia and a part of Southern Poland (55). Further continuous development proceeds in a group Kosihy-Čaka in Southwestern Slovakia and a part of Hungary (where it is called Makó-Čaka or just Makó), as well as in Kostolacka group spread in Serbia and Bosnia (56). In Southwestern and Southern Moravia it is Jevišovická culture that stretches far into Austria (Modlin –Zobin group) and in the region of Central Bohemia it is the Řivnáčska culture (57). In my opinion, cultural and genetic relations can be proved in these cultures.
From the point of view of our subject matter, important is the cultural complex of ”snurova” ceramic, the creators of which are assumed to be Indo-European tribes who contributed to the development of the Germans, Slavs and Balts (59). It is a cultural complex spread from Holland to the Central Dneper and Volga and it takes up the Carpathian hollow. In this wide cultural complex several local varieties can be observed. A wide-ranging discussion about the origin of the cultural complex goes beyond the framework of scientific exploration and it has become an object of political interpretations. There are also contradictory opinions on its western, eastern or autochthonic origin. At present this goes to show that this cultural complex must be regarded not only as the Central European developmental phenomenon but also as a phenomenon that made up the foundation of the first cultures of the Bronze Age (60). In the Central European region there is a very important culture called Chlopice-Veselé, which is considered to have been a foundation of Carpathian cultures (60a). It was spread in Maľopoľsko, Horné Sliezsko, in Moravia and in Southwestern Slovakia. The people of the Chlopice-Veselé culture settled at lower and higher terraces in the vicinity of rivers on fertile dark soil as well as brown soil. The Nitra culture and most probably also Wieselburg one, called by Hungarian archeologists Gáta type, developed from this culture. The Nitra group was spread in Southwestern Slovakia and in Eastern Moravia (61). From the domestic origin in the early Bronze Age the Únětická culture developed, which in the period of its heyday was dominant in the region from Harz and Magdeburg, through Bohemia, Moravia to Slovakia, Lower Austria, in the North it reached Horná and Dolná Luzice, Sliezko and Southern Veľkopoľsko. It is divided into two developmental phases and there are some local varieties (62). The Únětická culture contributed to the development of Hurbanov type, which according to the latest findings of A. Točík is connected with Southeastern influences and the appearance of material culture comes from a wider Hatvansko-Kisapostácko-Tokotský region (63). Under the influence of the Únětická culture also the Unterwolbing cultural group in Lower Austria and the Straubing group in the region of Southern Bavaria were developed.
If we were to look for the further phase of domestic Central European Slavonic ethnic in the manifestation of the Bronze Age culture, it seems that a great importance should be attached to the Maďarovská culture, whose place of origin is Slovakia where it developed from the old domestic background. From there it stretched to the South as far as to Yugoslavia, to the North to Poland, westwards to Burgenland and to Hungarian Zadunajsko. It is remarkable that the people of this culture used to build not only vast agricultural settlements in the vicinity of rivers on terraces and islands but also fortified settlements (64). It is also remarkable that similarly to previous Eneolithic cultures also in the location of Maďarovske fortified settlements also Slavonic castle cites were built in the 8th-9th century AD. The period of the late Maďarovská culture significantly contributed to the genesis of the Carpathian mound culture. This period is continuous and its manifestation is close to the horizon of Rákospalota in Zadunajsko and Mistelbach in Burganland. From the archeological perspective the decline of Maďarovská material culture is connected with the emergence of the people of mound culture as well as with the changes of the economic and social structure of the population.
At the turn of the older and middle Bronze Age the cultural-historical situation changed, which was not brought about by a new ethnic but due to the economic and social change of the society. From the point of view of our subject matter it is important that in the period of mound cultures the infiltration of these cultural influences from the Central European area into the Western and Southern Europe occurred. I am not going to deal in detail with the theme of ashes fields and mound cultures and their contribution to the primeval development of the oldest Slavs and their place of origin as it has already been appropriately analyzed and emphasized from a wider perspective (65). In the Central European region the Central Danubian and Carpathian mound cultures play the main role. Although some local groups are detached within these cultures, in all of them continuous autochthonic development either with the previous or following cultures or cultural complexes, mainly the Lusetian cultural complex, may be observed. While Hungarian researchers put forward the theory of the development of mound cultures and their stretching from the West to the South, other experts suppose that they developed in the Central Danubian region from which they stretched to the West through Bohemia, Horné Falcko, Bavaria as far as to Northwestern Germany and Southern France. The material content of mound cultures was affected by cultural-historical development at the turn of the older and middle Bronze Age. Domestic elements, influences from the central part of the Carpathian hollow and particularly the influences of western mound cultures are obvious in the sources of the material culture.
In the course of the younger and late Bronze Age the area of South-Western Slovakia as well as South Moravia, Lower Austria, Burgenland and Zadunajsko belonged to the sphere of the Central Danubian ashes fields complex. The geographical location of this territory at the crossroads of numerous cultural movements constituted a favourable location for the development of further cultures that continued the previous domestic development. The continuous development of mound cultures brought about the development of independent cultural groups as the Velatická culture in the late and the Podolská one in the late Bronze Age (66). In the mosaic of primeval cultures in the Central and Eastern Europe the Lusetian culture belongs to dominant ones. The crystallizing center of the Lusetian culture, which was formed on the basis of mound background, was Southern Sliezko, Southern Luzica, Sasko, Central and Eastern Moravia, and Central Slovakia. Lusetian cultural complex is divided into several local and temporal subgroups. In its heyday the people of the Lusetian culture inhabited the territory from Sála to Bug and from Slovakia and Northern Bohemia to Balt. The Polish school of J. Kostrzewsky (67) threw light on the development of Lusetian culture from the point of view of its genetic relations with the Slavs and J.Filip focused on the Central European region (68). The problem of the Lusetian culture and its Slavonic connection is commonly known; even if it has not been generally accepted as far as their genetic relations are concerned. As O. N. Trubačev claims, it seems that also the movement of the cultures of the Bronze Age westward, northward and eastward in the 2nd-1st millennium BC was brought about not only by their inner features but also by brisk cultural and ethnic movements that were observed in that period in the Central Danubian region. J. Filip brought forward concrete evidence that Lusetian people inhabited Danubian territory in the period of Laténska culture and according to the latest findings of archeological research as long as the Púchov culture developed (69). However, during this period the inland autochthon development was temporarily interfered by the expansion of so called German tribes and the Daks into our territory. However, it does not mean that the original inhabitants ran away or were exterminated; it just means that foreign influences are prevailing in material culture.
New archeological finds shed more light on the period when the first Celtic groups came to the area northwards of the Central Danube as well as on the rich martial graves in the older and middle Laten Age. However, so far we have not learnt much about the settlements and the life of the original population, about the grounds of the rapid economic development of the society on the threshold of the late Laten Age and its decline at the beginning of the Roman Age. However, there is the evidence from the 7th-9th century AD that the original domestic population must have survived here as numerous kinds of agricultural tools and metallurgical production rooted in the Laten civilization still survived and were further developed in this period.
From the point of view of the interpretation of historical facts the period of the first four centuries AD is called the Roman Age as the territory of the Central Europe was populated also by various German tribes and Roman legions. Although vast archeological research focused on the discovery of numerous settlements and burial sites and the clarification of typological-chronological-cultural perspectives, unfortunately they haven’t managed to precisely localize cultural features, names of the tribes and to track down the elements of home origin. Nevertheless, it is obvious that they had existed here, as it is evident from some discoveries in Slovakia (70) and Bohemia (71) even if they are explained on the basis of the theory of migration of the Slavs to the Central Europe from the East according to which the ”oldest” Slavonic tribes got to co-existence with German tribes in the 5th century AD. Therefore future research activities in this mixture of archeological cultures and historically discovered but not yet precisely localized tribes should aim at the separation of old domestic ethnic with its material culture and at making up a synchronizing map in the first five centuries AD.
Neither the first written documents mentioning historical Slavs shed much light on the mixture, far from it. As far as the messages of ancient writers are concerned, I think that in antiquity as well as in modern history written documents started to appear only when the Roman empire as well as Byzantine empire and later the Franks commenced their expansion and fight against old Slavonic agricultural dwellers settled in the Danubian region who put up resistance to them. In this developmental epoch of the emergence of nationalities and nations ”great Slavonic nation” is given various names according to various writers. I am not determined to interfere into the interpretation of the names. However, I feel like pointing out that even in the 7th –9th century AD we almost do not come across identical names as far as he Danubian Slavs are concerned (on the contrary, many are quite mixed up); and it was the period even characterized by close direct cultural, political and personal contacts.
The problems connected with the development of the historical Slavs in Central Europe are extremely complicated. Still dominant opinion is that the Slavs came to Central Europe from the West only after the expansion of the Huns, after so called migration of nations had finished, which is closely connected with the question of dates. Hungarian (72), Austrian (73) and some German (74) researchers insist on the fact that the Slavs did not come to the Carpathian hollow before the Avars had come there, which was not before the end of the 6th and at the beginning of the 7th century AD. The problems are also connected with the questions of dating of the Prague ceramic type as well as with the existence of skeleton graves attributed only to the Avars. It is not taken into account at all that the Prague ceramic type represents neither the oldest nor the only Slavonic culture (75). The absolute dating of the Slavonic population of the territory to the North of the Danube is connected with the withdrawal of German population at the end of the 5th century and in Moravia only after the Longobards had withdrawn to Italy in the middle of the 6th century. Nowadays there is a common believe that in the period of migration and settling at new territories the Slavs took over new technological knowledge from late antique and Byzantine cultures having their borders in the vicinity of the Danube.
As far as the ceramic of the Prague and Danubian types is concerned, it is important to realize that the Prague pot is not a model for the Danubian type.
The development of the Danubian type was influenced mainly by Subroman cultural environment of the Central Danubian region. Discovered objects from Southwestern Slovakia, Southern Moravia as well as the oldest pieces of ceramic in Bohemia and Southern Poland enable experts to track this type of ceramic as far as to the 6th century when it independently developed simultaneously with the Prague type (76). It means that the existence of the ceramic of the Danubian type and its time location clearly show that the ceramic of the Prague type in Central European environment is not the only oldest manifestation of material culture of the early Slavonic historical period.
Above I mentioned the evidence of the autochthon development of the Slavonic ethnic in the Central European, i.e. Danubian region. I tried to synchronize the archeological cultures of prehistoric times with this ethnic while I emphasized the continuous development of agricultural cultures developing in the Danubian region where it was of a wider European importance as it is obvious from the works of O .N. Trubačev. That is to say that these are the cultures that spread from the Danubian region in the direction of the location that has been up to now considered the original place of origin of the Slavs. In this connection it is necessary to pay attention not only to the findings of linguistic research but also to written documents and their critical evaluation. We often turn to Herodot’s documents, who is considered to be the oldest teacher of history, while emphasizing that he did not mention Slavonic or Pre-Slavonic tribes in Central European region. There is a very clear reply saying that Herodot describes East European tribes. The territory of Slovakia could get to the field of vision of prehistoric geography and historiography only in the middle of the 6th century BC when Greek trade vessels reached our regions through the Black Sea and along the Danube. Even after that until the period of Poseidon from Apamei (2nd – 1st century BC) there existed just vague imaginations that were gradually more specified by Strabon at the turn of centuries and later mainly by Martin from Tyr and his follower Claudius Ptolemai in the first and second half of the 2nd century AD. On the tombstone of Martin from Tours, who died in the year 397, there are engraved the names of various tribes and ethnical groups, where he used to pursue his missionary activities; the Slavs (Sclavus) are there as well. The parts of the Prokopius from Cesarei’s work ”About the Goth war” where he describes the anabasis of Hildigis (Ildigis) that took place in the year 539 when he joined the Slavs (Sklavins) leaving the territory of the German Varns is an important source of information. Hildigis died after the year 551 and he joined the Slavs at the Central Danube, which is the territory of Slovakia or Moravia. Also the Prokopius’ description of the events in the year 512 when the Heruls migrated through Slavonic area is often cited in connection with our territory. These messages of antique writers as well as some others clearly support the existence of the historically known Slavs in our territory not only before the Avars came but they also show that they had been settled here since time immemorial.
According to the settlements and burial grounds that have been examined up to now we are not sufficiently informed about the social system of Slavonic tribes in Central Europe. However, it can be induced that family community was overcome and regionally determined community based on neighbourhood progressed to a higher level of organization based on families and tribes at the beginning of 7th century just at the area of Slovakia. This was reflected in the position of lower representatives of tribes and their relation with higher ones.
The invasion of the Avars (77) negatively affected also the medieval Slavs and advanced social systems developing under relatively peaceful circumstances. When the Avars invaded the area two different systems encountered. Not only were they different ethnic groups, but they were even at a different economic and social levels. This neighbourhood and somewhere even direct hegemony of the Avars significantly affected economic, cultural and political developments of Central Europe. The situation is reflected in skeleton burial grounds, which on a wider scale became the object of archeological exploration on the vast territory of the supposed Avar Empire. The Avar history is given special attention in Hungarian archeology; it is described in detail in the works of J. Hampel (78), N. Fettich (79), I. Kovrigova (80), Gy. Lászlo (81), D. Csallány (82), I. Bona (83) and others (84), as well as in Austria elaborated in the works of H. Mitsch-Mährheim (85), A. Lippert (86) and F. Daim (87). In Slovakia the subject matter was studied from wider perspective mainly by J. Eisner (89), A. Točík (90), J. Dekan (91), Z. Čilinská (92), A. Avenarius (93), J. Zábojník (94) and others. In connection with vast burial grounds two crucial questions come to the fore.
The first one is about ethnic or tribal origin and the second one is about the social status and social-political system of the society. The clarification of the problems is hindered by the fact, that the settlements have not been discovered and systematically examined yet, which would help us to interpret the development of the society as well as their ethnic membership.
Another important question is the territory of the Samo’s realm, its social-economic system and its historical changes until the era of Moravia Magna. I am not going to name or analyze individual theories that have been emerging for almost two hundred years, the period that historiography has been dealing with the topic. I myself adhere to the position of the researchers who consider the area of Southwestern Slovakia, Southern Moravia and Lower Austria as a crystallizing core of the Samo’s Empire. As far as Vogastisburg is concerned, I agree with the attitude of the researchers who do not approach it as a starting point for the identification of the center but instead take it on the one hand as a basis of the geographical stretching of the Samo’s Empire and on the other hand as a testimony of consistent organization and military power of the political system.
The analysis of discoveries from burial grounds enforced the criteria of so called Avar sets of forgings of belts, which point at the ethnicity of the buried. While the older horizon of hammered forgings is connected with the arrival of Avar war retinues in our territory, cast metal fittings are beyond ethnic and mainly fashionable phenomenon particularly of more important social classes of the Slavonic society. The analysis of the decoration of individual forgings showed that there are always ornamental epic or mythological motives that are rooted in antique, Greek-Roman-Byzantine spheres. However, they were produced by handy Slavonic craftsmen. The only cementing element was ceramic that was in the beginning of clearly national Slavonic character but later became a product of specialized production and with universal character.
The influence of lively development in the Danubian region stretched to Bohemia, deeper inter-Slavonic relationships developed particularly with Sálsky, Lusetian or Northeastern Sliezky neighbourhood. Numerous archeological discoveries show that Avar-Slavonic relations were based on wide political equality, which was not only due to the dying out or political elimination of governing Avar class but mainly due to rapidly changing and improving economic and social foundations brought about mainly by political, economic and cultural superiority of the Slavs. And this is what the importance of Central Danubian Slavs in the history of European countries in general and of our Slavonic ancestors, in particular, lay and lies in.
The fact that Samo unified Slavonic tribes and beat Frankish troops is the most important contribution to our national history. That is to say that since Samo’s reign we do not come across the names of individual tribes in the area of Slovakia, which proves a higher stage of political system of our territory. After all this was reflected in the emergence of so called Nitra principality (the most probable founder of which was the father or grandfather of Pribina). Therefore my opinion is that our national and state history started as soon as in the period of Samo’s realm and that this is the period when the names Sloven – Slovien – Slovak - Slovenka – slovensky were created.
However, in connection with the search for the Slavonic place of origin in the Central European territory it’s impossible not to point again at the work of O.N. Trubačev (95) who supports the theory also by the development and stretching out of the Great Moravian Empire which developed at our territory as a follower of the Pre-Slavonic cradle.