Dr Hajnalka Herold

Research interests

My research focuses on two main topics

  • Archaeology of the early Middle Ages in Europe and beyond (c. AD 400–1100)
  • Archaeometry and experimental archaeology of pottery from various chronological and geographical backgrounds

Selected projects and publications

1) Between the Carolingian West and the Byzantine East: fortified élite settlements of the 9th and 10th centuries AD in central Europe
This recent project has investigated fortified élite settlements of 9th- to 10th-century central Europe, situated in the border region of the Carolingian and the Byzantine spheres of influence. An important aspect of this research has been to reflect upon, and go beyond, current national narratives of the investigated period, to develop interpretative frameworks for the entire central European region and to contextualise these results in a wider European perspective. The analysis of excavations from Gars-Thunau in Lower Austria constituted the starting point of these investigations. The large-scale excavations at this site, spanning almost four decades, represent a prestige project of the Department of Prehistoric and Medieval Archaeology of the University of Vienna. The project has been funded by the Austrian Science Fund (project P21256) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

2) Trade and technology transfer in central and south-eastern Europe in the Carolingian and Ottonian period: archaeometry and experimental archaeology of pottery
Projects on this theme have analysed high-quality ceramic wares (e.g. polished yellow ceramics, graphite containing ceramics) and lower-quality pottery from centres of the the Carolingian and Ottonian period (9th to 10th centuries AD) in central and southeastern Europe. Samples were investigated from e.g. Zalavár (Hungary), Mikulčice, Uherské-Hradiště, Břeclav-Pohansko (Moravia, Czech Republic), and Pliska (Bulgaria). The results suggest that while preferences concerning the culturally accepted appearance of ceramic vessels, especially of high-quality pottery, may have been shared at a supra-regional level, the exchange of actual ceramics only occurred within particular regions (e.g. Moravia).

3) Aspects of the archaeology of the Avar Khaganate: the site of Zillingtal in context
The final publication of the 7th- to 8th-century AD settlement, and of the pottery from the 797-grave cemetery, at Zillingtal (Austria) was completed in this project, including the contextualisation of the results within the broader field of early medieval central Europe. Particular use was made of archaeometric ceramics analysis (thin sections, XRD) and experimental archaeology, providing new insight into the organisation of early medieval economy. In addition, novel contributions were made to the understanding of the re-use of Roman ruins, and of age/gender-specific patterns in the deposition of grave goods. Additional publications in English make results accessible to a wider audience.

4) Technological traditions in early medieval eastern Austria
Archaeological and archaeometric analysis (thin sections) of 7th- to 9th-century AD ceramics was carried out in this project from two groups of sites, one associated with an ‘Avar’ and the other with a ‘Slavic’ population. The analysis revealed that the inhabitants of all these sites shared complex technological traditions, and are thus, contrary to long-standing previous opinion, unlikely to have represented two unrelated population groups. The investigations embraced English and French-speaking theoretical approaches to material culture and thus bring a novel perspective into the early medieval archaeology of central Europe.

5) Early and high medieval settlements in Hungary
These projects comprised establishing a chronological framework for early and high medieval (6th to 12th centuries AD) settlements, as well as reconstructing settlement patterns and production structures in the regions under study. Investigated sites included Örménykút in south-eastern Hungary, Karos and Zemplénagárd in north-eastern Hungary, and Alsóbogát and Vörs in south-western Hungary. In some regions, these projects represented the first attempt to provide an in-depth analysis of early medieval settlements.

6) Pottery production and distribution in the prehistoric and Roman periods in central and south-western Europe
In addition to the analysis of medieval artefacts, I have also investigated prehistoric and Roman-period ceramics from different geographical and chronological contexts. Sites of origin include Hallstatt (Upper Austria, early Iron Age), Hoyas del Castillo (Pajaroncillo, Cuenca, Spain, Bronze Age), Schwarzenbach (Lower Austria, La Tène period), Franzhausen (Lower Austria, late neolithic period – early Bronze Age), and Halbturn (Burgenland, Austria, Roman period). These investigations identified various complex production and distribution systems both in the prehistoric and the Roman periods.