Abstract

The prehistory and history of the Carpathian Basin have long been treated as a series of moszly discontinuous cultural events triggered by population movements largely from the East and South of an ambiguous nature. Twenty years of research into the nature of prehistoric bone working in Hungary, which lies at the center of this geographic region, has begun to reveal spatial and temporal continuities in bone tool. Some of these continuities, cross-cutting modern precepts of archaeological cultures, are found over very wide areas, some are limited to regions within the Carpathian Basin, while others clearly reflect continuous manufacturing traditions within a limited territory.The very special case of bone skates will be examined here. On the one hand, there are skates from the Early and Middle Bronze Age in northwest Hungary that seem to mark continuity in their manufacturing tradition lasting over 1000 years. On the other hand, there are bone skates from the Late Bronze Age, Roman Period Sarmatian and later, Medieval contexts which display a similar use of horse bone to make skates but which represent less social continuity reflected in manufacturing traditions than parallel responses of disparate cultural groups to identical environmental and cultural pressures. This paper seeks to explore the question of both continuity in manufacturing traditions of bone skates in the Bronze Age of western Hungary and the broader relationship between the exploitation of horse in humid plain environments, apparently a necessary but not sufficient variable effecting the use of bone skates in both prehistoric and historic periods.