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1: Transylvania is Far from Mesopotamia

Prologue || 2: Who Were The Dacians and What Became of Them? >>


It is easy to draw Transylvania's natural geographic boundaries. The region lies in the mighty embrace of the crests of the eastern and southern Carpathians. It begins in the north at the sources of the river Tisza and extends in the south to that stretch of the Danube which once again flows in an easterly direction, and which by snuggling up to the southernmost tip of the Carpathians, separates the Carpathian and Balkan mountain systems. Its western boundaries are formed by the rivers flowing toward the center of the Carpathian basin. They emerge among their own detritus from the valleys of the central, isolated Transylvanian mountains, and both to the north and south of these mountains from the Carpathian ranges. Thus, it is enclosed on two sides by mountains, traversed only by nearly intractable passes, and on the third side by rivers and, formerly, extensive marshy areas. This conception of Transylvania as a geographic entity is currently widely accepted in Hungary. It is inaccurate and, more importantly, not historically correct. The term Transylvania may be used today to define three distinct territorial entities . There is a geographic Transylvania. It has an ideal shape and is a geographically homogenous basin surrounded by well defined mountain ranges with an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometers. We can talk about a historic Transylvania with a variable area which in the 17th century, as an independent principality, extended far beyond the boundaries of the geographic Transylvania. The attached areas were referred to as Partium. This Partium shifted back and forth between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Principality of Transylvania. The third Transylvania is the area that was assigned to Romania by the peace treaties of the 1920s, and which today still forms a part of Romania. This area is larger by 46,000 square kilometers than the geographic Transylvania and encompasses a total of 103,000 square kilometers.

The geographic Transylvania has magnificent natural boundaries. In the east and south we find the continuous 1,500-2,000 meter high walls of the Carpathians, while in the west there is the massive block of the Bihar mountains. This bastion is traversed by three wide, easily passable gates, all three of them pointing toward the west, toward the Hungarian Great Plains. They are the gate of the Szamos valley, the Meszes gate leading to the Berettyó region, and the gate of the Maros valley. The Carpathians and the Bihar mountains are traversed only by a few narrow passes, across extensive, poorly populated areas. In the lap of the great mountains there is a central basin, the Mezőség, and a hilly area fragmented by rivers, the Küküllő region. There is also a whole range of small, peripheral, mountainous basins among the ranges of the Eastern and Southern Carpathians, and in their foothills. Outside of the historic Transylvania, there is a wide segment of the Hungarian Great Plains, given to Romania in the 1920s, now also referred to as Transylvania and extending from the plains to the watershed along the crest of the mountains. This region does not consist of adjacent, compatible parts and each part has a natural affinity toward a different area of the Great Plains.

At this point, however, we have advanced far beyond ourselves. As we turn to the beginnings of the historic development of Transylvania, let us return to the natural geographic considerations. Transylvania's valleys are in some places only 200-300 meters above the sea level, while the surrounding and central peaks rise to heights of 1500 to 2500 meters. Its climate is determined by its low average temperature and by relatively copious precipitation. This favored a hunting and grazing economy, while it was less favorable to agriculture. The latter is also limited by the contours of the land and by the relative poverty of the soil.

According to the earliest archeological findings, in ancient times Transylvania was a well circumscribed area, occasionally bypassed by ethnic and economic movements, but in which external forces or settlements, produced a transient but specific internal cultural environment, and led to tangible progress. Yet everything that can be found in Transylvania today and that can be subsumed under the heading of prehistory, is not sufficiently specific or detailed to warrant inclusion in this brief summary. It may suffice to say that the Neolithic evolution, which showied marked Mediterranean influences, suffered repeated and marked stops and regressions. Even though the domestication of animals did take place, hunting and the consumption of game was still significant. This can be easily explained by the environment. (It may be mentioned here, that very many years later the last European bisons and aurochs in the Carpathian basin were killed in Transylvania, and that the Carpathian brown bear can still be found in the forests.)

The historic spotlight shone, albeit briefly, on this region after the discovery of the famous artifacts in Alsó-Tatárlaka, which showed pictographic writing and which were dated to 4000 B.C. It may be assumed logically that the local evolution in the Transylvanian area at that time led the inhabitants to a level of specialization and social stratification that required a system of permanent, written means of communication, and thus the introduction of writing. The Tatárlaka tablets are not unique. Their interpretation is supported by other pictograms dating to the same period, which had never been viewed in this light, and which suggest the evolution of a high civilization, extensive both in space and time and centered on the Vinca-Tordos Culture located in the Banate-Southern Transylvania region.

What is there in this period of the Transylvanian Neolithic age -- already leaning toward the metal and early Bronze Age -- which would permit that the Tatárlaka written tablets be interpreted as being indicative of an early, high civilization? We encroach here on an enormously complex problem. Is the Transylvanian Neolithic culture the result of an independent evolution, or is it inseparable from the Mediterranean Fertile Crescent evolution? In any case, it represents the existence of an astonishingly mature early Balkan metal culture.

In the wide-ranging and complicated archaeologic debate dealing with as yet insoluble chronological dilemmas and arguing whether the evolution of the various early cultures was independent or interdependent, whether they developed in isolation or whether they learned and borrowed from each other, one thing appears to be certain. The advanced Balkan metal culture produced gold and electron (gold-silver) masterpieces, found in the Várna area since 1972, which in their sum total equal the esthetic and historic significance of the Tutankhamen treasure or of pre-Columbian gold. It could not have developed without either extensive exploitation of the Aegean or Transylvanian metal ores and the exportation of the precious metals from the mines to the heartland of the Balkans. We believe that Transylvania was the source of these ores. Yet, even if the ores came from the Aegean, the history of Transylvania shows that this area served as the source of discord for a variety of peoples, and that this was due primarily to the salt mines and to the mining of certain metals, namely gold, silver and, most importantly, copper, which can be dated back to the Neolithic era.

The great step forward documented by the Tatárlaka findings was, however, only temporary, and the speculations linking Transylvania to Sumer are without foundation, as is the idea that Transylvania was the cradle of Sumerian civilization, and that the native "pre-Hungarian" people were the sires of the civilization in which the prehistory of man was turned into the history of humanity. This "theory" was developed and propagated as the completely erroneous Hungarian answer and as a spiteful reaction to the equally fantastic Romanian hypothesis of the Daco-Roman continuity. The further, sometimes slow, sometimes more vigorous, but never complete exchange of populations was the at times peaceful, at times violent fusion of migrating peoples who belong to a historic framework in which even the name of the tribes is unknown. The neighboring and sequential cultures can be separated only on the basis of certain indicators of their ethnicity, found in their burial grounds. It should be mentioned, however, that when the extensive Bodrog-Keresztúr culture, preferring the less wooded areas, was expanding toward Transylvania, even though the natural environment was not favorable for it, the motivation for this expansion is clearly shown by its use of copper, which was highest in the settlements closest to Transylvania and least in the settlements farthest from it.

Over the years, eastern pastoral tribes repeatedly invaded the Late-Neolithic and the copper and Bronze Age people of this region. The animal husbandry of these tribes was also a Neolithic achievement, but represented a less effective production of food than that of the early agriculturists. The belligerence and mobility of these tribes temporarily overshadowed the advantages of an agricultural economy. There was also a time when these pastoral people completely overwhelmed the developers of the Transylvanian metal mines, and the latter withdrew from their settlements to caves in the mountains.

Transylvania is Far from Mesopotamia

It is easy to draw Transylvania's natural geographic boundaries. The region lies in the mighty embrace of the crests of the eastern and southern Carpathians. It begins in the north at the sources of the river Tisza and extends in the south to that stretch of the Danube which once again flows in an easterly direction, and which by snuggling up to the southernmost tip of the Carpathians, separates the Carpathian and Balkan mountain systems. Its western boundaries are formed by the rivers flowing toward the center of the Carpathian basin. They emerge among their own detritus from the valleys of the central, isolated Transylvanian mountains, and both to the north and south of these mountains from the Carpathian ranges. Thus, it is enclosed on two sides by mountains, traversed only by nearly intractable passes, and on the third side by rivers and, formerly, extensive marshy areas. This conception of Transylvania as a geographic entity is currently widely accepted in Hungary. It is inaccurate and, more importantly, not historically correct. The term Transylvania may be used today to define three distinct territorial entities . There is a geographic Transylvania. It has an ideal shape and is a geographically homogenous basin surrounded by well defined mountain ranges with an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometers. We can talk about a historic Transylvania with a variable area which in the 17th century, as an independent principality, extended far beyond the boundaries of the geographic Transylvania. The attached areas were referred to as Partium. This Partium shifted back and forth between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Principality of Transylvania. The third Transylvania is the area that was assigned to Romania by the peace treaties of the 1920s, and which today still forms a part of Romania. This area is larger by 46,000 square kilometers than the geographic Transylvania and encompasses a total of 103,000 square kilometers.

The geographic Transylvania has magnificent natural boundaries. In the east and south we find the continuous 1,500-2,000 meter high walls of the Carpathians, while in the west there is the massive block of the Bihar mountains. This bastion is traversed by three wide, easily passable gates, all three of them pointing toward the west, toward the Hungarian Great Plains. They are the gate of the Szamos valley, the Meszes gate leading to the Berettyó region, and the gate of the Maros valley. The Carpathians and the Bihar mountains are traversed only by a few narrow passes, across extensive, poorly populated areas. In the lap of the great mountains there is a central basin, the Mezőség, and a hilly area fragmented by rivers, the Küküllő region. There is also a whole range of small, peripheral, mountainous basins among the ranges of the Eastern and Southern Carpathians, and in their foothills. Outside of the historic Transylvania, there is a wide segment of the Hungarian Great Plains, given to Romania in the 1920s, now also referred to as Transylvania and extending from the plains to the watershed along the crest of the mountains. This region does not consist of adjacent, compatible parts and each part has a natural affinity toward a different area of the Great Plains.

At this point, however, we have advanced far beyond ourselves. As we turn to the beginnings of the historic development of Transylvania, let us return to the natural geographic considerations. Transylvania's valleys are in some places only 200-300 meters above the sea level, while the surrounding and central peaks rise to heights of 1500 to 2500 meters. Its climate is determined by its low average temperature and by relatively copious precipitation. This favored a hunting and grazing economy, while it was less favorable to agriculture. The latter is also limited by the contours of the land and by the relative poverty of the soil.

According to the earliest archeological findings, in ancient times Transylvania was a well circumscribed area, occasionally bypassed by ethnic and economic movements, but in which external forces or settlements, produced a transient but specific internal cultural environment, and led to tangible progress. Yet everything that can be found in Transylvania today and that can be subsumed under the heading of prehistory, is not sufficiently specific or detailed to warrant inclusion in this brief summary. It may suffice to say that the Neolithic evolution, which showied marked Mediterranean influences, suffered repeated and marked stops and regressions. Even though the domestication of animals did take place, hunting and the consumption of game was still significant. This can be easily explained by the environment. (It may be mentioned here, that very many years later the last European bisons and aurochs in the Carpathian basin were killed in Transylvania, and that the Carpathian brown bear can still be found in the forests.)

The historic spotlight shone, albeit briefly, on this region after the discovery of the famous artifacts in Alsó-Tatárlaka, which showed pictographic writing and which were dated to 4000 B.C. It may be assumed logically that the local evolution in the Transylvanian area at that time led the inhabitants to a level of specialization and social stratification that required a system of permanent, written means of communication, and thus the introduction of writing. The Tatárlaka tablets are not unique. Their interpretation is supported by other pictograms dating to the same period, which had never been viewed in this light, and which suggest the evolution of a high civilization, extensive both in space and time and centered on the Vinca-Tordos Culture located in the Banate-Southern Transylvania region.

What is there in this period of the Transylvanian Neolithic age -- already leaning toward the metal and early Bronze Age -- which would permit that the Tatárlaka written tablets be interpreted as being indicative of an early, high civilization? We encroach here on an enormously complex problem. Is the Transylvanian Neolithic culture the result of an independent evolution, or is it inseparable from the Mediterranean Fertile Crescent evolution? In any case, it represents the existence of an astonishingly mature early Balkan metal culture.

In the wide-ranging and complicated archaeologic debate dealing with as yet insoluble chronological dilemmas and arguing whether the evolution of the various early cultures was independent or interdependent, whether they developed in isolation or whether they learned and borrowed from each other, one thing appears to be certain. The advanced Balkan metal culture produced gold and electron (gold-silver) masterpieces, found in the Várna area since 1972, which in their sum total equal the esthetic and historic significance of the Tutankhamen treasure or of pre-Columbian gold. It could not have developed without either extensive exploitation of the Aegean or Transylvanian metal ores and the exportation of the precious metals from the mines to the heartland of the Balkans. We believe that Transylvania was the source of these ores. Yet, even if the ores came from the Aegean, the history of Transylvania shows that this area served as the source of discord for a variety of peoples, and that this was due primarily to the salt mines and to the mining of certain metals, namely gold, silver and, most importantly, copper, which can be dated back to the Neolithic era.

The great step forward documented by the Tatárlaka findings was, however, only temporary, and the speculations linking Transylvania to Sumer are without foundation, as is the idea that Transylvania was the cradle of Sumerian civilization, and that the native "pre-Hungarian" people were the sires of the civilization in which the prehistory of man was turned into the history of humanity. This "theory" was developed and propagated as the completely erroneous Hungarian answer and as a spiteful reaction to the equally fantastic Romanian hypothesis of the Daco-Roman continuity. The further, sometimes slow, sometimes more vigorous, but never complete exchange of populations was the at times peaceful, at times violent fusion of migrating peoples who belong to a historic framework in which even the name of the tribes is unknown. The neighboring and sequential cultures can be separated only on the basis of certain indicators of their ethnicity, found in their burial grounds. It should be mentioned, however, that when the extensive Bodrog-Keresztúr culture, preferring the less wooded areas, was expanding toward Transylvania, even though the natural environment was not favorable for it, the motivation for this expansion is clearly shown by its use of copper, which was highest in the settlements closest to Transylvania and least in the settlements farthest from it.

Over the years, eastern pastoral tribes repeatedly invaded the Late-Neolithic and the copper and Bronze Age people of this region. The animal husbandry of these tribes was also a Neolithic achievement, but represented a less effective production of food than that of the early agriculturists. The belligerence and mobility of these tribes temporarily overshadowed the advantages of an agricultural economy. There was also a time when these pastoral people completely overwhelmed the developers of the Transylvanian metal mines, and the latter withdrew from their settlements to caves in the mountains.


Prologue || 2: Who Were The Dacians and What Became of Them? >>