A housing estate with a 6000-year-long history being built in Csillaghegy

From the archaeological finds we can learn about the lives of those who once lived here.

Soon the buildings of a housing estate will stand on the site where archaeologists of the Budapest History Museum have been excavating continuously since January 2017. Excavations have found remains from the Copper Age as well as the Celtic and Roman periods.  The 3500-year-old loom weights, Celtic glass bracelets, and Roman accessories tell us about the colourful and exciting story of Csillaghegy.

Excavations in early 2017 running in parallel with the construction of the Forest Hill estate in Budapest’s 3rd district have proved that the area had been inhabited for thousands of years, with three different settlement periods. The presence of the earliest of these – a Copper Age community from 3500 BC – is evinced by debris from a wattle and daub house.

“After excavating the surface consisting of thick, burnt pieces of daub, we found objects in their original location that may have been part of the building’s household goods. These include the large earthenware vessels, storage vessels, loom weights and spindle whorls. The former two were crucial parts of storing food, while the latter two were key tools for weaving” said archaeologist Dávid Kraus of the Budapest History Museum’s Department of Prehistory and the Migration Period.  In the house excavators also found chipped stone tools and a quern fragment as well as two instances of clay plastering, indicating a fireplace. Underneath both was a sacrificial pit in the ground. The large number of animal bones, several layers of ash, a ritually broken hollow-pedestal bowl and traces of red ochre found in the pit tell us about the cult’s rituals.

Finds and buildings discovered roughly on the same layer as the Copper Age settlement suggest that at the end of the Iron Age, around the 1st century BC and the AD 1st century Celts populated the area. The houses (dug halfway into the ground) and the contemporaneous pits, which prove the presence of a Celtic settlement, contained rich finds. The majority of these are earthenware vessel fragments, but the finds also include kitchen refuse, spindle whorls, whetstones, clay weights and smaller iron tools, serving as reminders of the settlement’s laborious daily life. We can draw inferences about contemporary attire from two fragmentary glass bracelets, an iron fibula (brooch) and a bronze fibula.

In the highest layer of the construction site we found the debris of a Roman building. Based on the archaeologists’ observations, a building with a stone foundation and adobe walls, covered with roof tiles stood nearby. Based on a mosaic tessera found here, the house may have had a mosaic floor. Burnt spots with charcoal indicate that the house was destroyed in a fire.

“The high number of finds discovered in the debris sheds light on the building as well as the daily life of those who lived here. Finds are in part personal accessories e.g. a bronze brooch, scale armour fragments, hairpins; and in part kitchenware and tableware. In addition to pots, simple bowls, plates and cups we found large numbers of so-called terra sigillata imported from what is now Germany between the late 2nd and early 3rd century. The excavations found fragments of not only ceramic vessels, but also glass bowls, glasses and perfume flasks” said archaeologist Dr Gabriella Fényes of the Budapest History Museum’s Aquincum Museum. A bone dice, gaming chip and a small bronze bell hint at the erstwhile residents’ fondness for games. The finds overall indicate that the house’s occupants in the Roman period were wealthy and led a rich life. Archaeological excavations and surveys will continue during the construction of the housing estate. Following conservation, finds will become part of the Aquincum Museum’s collections and the most beautiful artefacts will be presented to the general public at the museum’s future exhibitions.

Széchenyi 2020
Széchenyi 2020