Case Study: Hic sunt leones? The Morava valley region during the Early Middle Ages

Stefan Eichert – Mária Hajnalová – Jakub Tamaškovič

"Hic sunt leones" is a joint project of the University of Vienna and the University of Nitra (Slovakia) and is funded by the Centre for International Cooperation & Mobility (ICM) of the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD-GmbH). It investigates the development of the border region between Austria and Slovakia during the Early Middle Ages and aims at creating a homogenous state of research that scholars from both countries will benefit from. It cooperates closely with the Project "Frontier, Contact Zone or No Man’s Land" and DPP.

The area of interest is defined by the Morava/March River that forms the central axis and its adjacent areas. In Slovakia it covers the territory of the Záhorie region (South of Myjava River to the Bratislava Gates area) and in Austria it covers parts of the so-called Marchfeld.

In the 6th and 7th century AD Slavs settled here and established new communities on the today's Austrian, Slovakian and Moravian side of the Morava River. To the South of this area, in the vicinity of Bratislava, there is a strong evidence of interaction between Slavs and Avars, but the evidence of the Avaric influence declines as we move further to the West and North. At the beginning and in the first half of the 8th century AD the dichotomy of the development of the areas to the East and the West of the Morava River seems even more obvious.

Later, during the late 8th and in the beginning of the 9th century the area on both sides of the river seems to transform into a buffer zone between the Carolingian Empire, the Principality of Morava and the Principality of Nitra. After the Principalities of Morava and Nitra were united in the 9th century by the conquest of Mojmír I, the region became a contact and at the same time also a frontier zone to the Carolingian Empire. Most probably the life of the people, dwelling there at that time, was influenced strongly by several military conflicts lasting for over half a century. At the beginning of the 10th century the area witnessed the collapse of Great Moravia and the violation by the raids of the Old Hungarian tribes. During the 11th century the region became a territory of interaction between Přemyslid Morava, Árpád Hungary and the Babenberg march.

The scholarly aim of the project, respectively case study, is to collect, organize and use archaeological and environmental data and analyse them mostly in GIS and by statistics. The first goal is to observe connections between the environment and the settlement structure. The starting point will be the collection and comparison of the quantity and quality (type of research) of archaeological data and the comparison of the environmental data. We would like to revalue this environmental data, because of possible changes in the environment from the early Medieval Ages to nowadays. Then we can focus on the second aim of research, which is a better understanding and more realistic characterisation and visualisation of the cultural-historical development of the area along the lower stretches of the Morava/March River in the early medieval period from the 6th to the 11th century AD.

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