1. Musli-Sziget Pánzio—Vésztő, Hungary

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Körös Region, Hungary
© Attila Gyucha
Looking for Markers

Jonathan Harker’s Journal, 3 May:

"...Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets... The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule..."

Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1897

As my plane landed in Budapest, I was again reminded of these opening lines from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In several ways, it still feels as though one is leaving the West and entering the East, albeit for different reasons than it did for Mr. Stoker’s fictional character a century ago. I entered the country on a jet airplane from Chicago (via Brussels), not on a train from Munich. For me, the remnants of Communist architecture and the remaining vestiges of the Cold War that have etched themselves onto the landscape are what seem "Eastern," not the Ottoman influences, which have been absorbed into Hungarian culture over the last century.

I've been coming to Hungary for over a decade to conduct research, but as we got in the 4x4 and set out from the airport across the Great Hungarian Plain (Nagy Alföld), I had the distinct impression that I was leaving the west and entering the east. The Plain feels like home to me, not only because I grew up in the fields of the Midwest, but also because I've spent so much time here. I know the back roads, the good restaurants, and even how to find the good bars in little villages (hint: you look for the ones with a lot of bicycles out front!) It's good to be back.

I arrived last Sunday to begin another season of field work in Hungary. My colleague, Attila Gyucha, picked me up at the airport and we spent the night at his apartment in Békéscsaba, the seat of Békés County in the Körös Region. We haven’t run a field season together since 2006, when we were excavating a Copper Age village named Körösladány-Bikeri. Then, we worked in the summer and stayed in the Vésztő elementary school. Since we're now here in March and April, classes are still in session and that's clearly not an option.

So this season we're staying in a new place—the Musli-Sziget Pánzio—which means we don’t have to put mattresses on the floor like we did in the school! These are good digs for us! Attila and I spent the next couple of days using our new (well, used but new to us) Global Positioning System to set up a grid at the prehistoric tell site of Szeghalom-Kovácshalom and the other sites immediately around it (see above image and Photo #1 below.) We also met with our local "support staff," which includes Marika Csóti, the woman who has cooked and taken care of us for the last decade, and István Garzo (nicknamed Golyó, which means "Bullet"), who owns the restaurant where we eat lunch.

We managed to get quite a bit of work done, despite the fact that it has been a very wet (and cold, see Photo #2 below) winter and spring. Since our site is nearly 2 km from the nearest road, it's very difficult to get to, even with a heavy duty 4x4. The rest of the team—including several undergraduate and graduate students from the U.S., as well as Apostolos Sarris and several other scientists from Greece and other countries—arrived yesterday. We began collecting at the site today. The weather finally broke last night, and we're looking forward to a productive field season.

Thanks for joining us during our field season!

Bill

© Dr. Paul Duffy
Setting up GPS
© W.A. Parkinson
Room with a View