Archaeology in the 21st century: A bridge between humanities and sciences

Archaeology in the 21st century:
A bridge between humanities and sciences

The Institute of Archaeological Sciences at ELTE is one of the oldest higher education institutions in Hungary. Its predecessor, the Cathedra Numismatica et Archaeologica, was founded in 1777. At present, courses are held in seven fields of archaeology: Prehistory, the Ancient Near East, Classical and Roman Archaeology, the Migration Period, the Middle Ages, and Archaeometry.

Research at the Institute not only spans huge time periods and covers vast territories, but also employs the most recent approaches and analytical techniques of the discipline, making full use of the countless recent advancements in archaeometry. The studies focus on human communities and their intricate cultural connections, as well as their activities that shaped the environment. The latest archaeometric results and up-to-date analytical procedures have been integrated into the university courses, and many students participate in research projects employing these methods. Several research projects are carried out as part of international collaborative research programmes.

Some of these projects focus on the investigation and excavation of major archaeological sites in Hungary and abroad. These include the complex investigations conducted at the Roman settlement of Brigetio since 1992, under the supervision of László Borhy and Dávid Bartus; the archaeological exploration of the oppidum of Bibracte in France since 1988, supervised by Miklós Szabó; and the excavation of the Neo-Assyrian provincial centre and prehistoric site at Grd Tle in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2016, headed by Gábor Kalla and Tamás Dezső. Pál Raczky has conducted excavations at major Neolithic sites in Hungary, while Tivadar Vida is currently coordinating the complex assessment of the Langobardic cemetery uncovered at Szólád.

Other innovative research projects cover larger territories. One of these focuses on changes in the utilisation of lithic resources from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Neolithic in Northern Hungary. Another project investigates Late Bronze Age hoards discovered in Hungary, with a focus on ritual deposition and interpretation. The goal of the “INTERREG Iron-Age-Danube” project is to reconstruct extensive Early Iron Age tumulus burial grounds and fortified settlements in Hungary, and to examine their location and influence on the landscape of the period. Between 2020 and 2026 the Institute is participating in the HistoGenes Synergy Grant by ERC, exploring the population of the middle Danube region 400-900 AD through the cooperation among Austrian, German, American and Hungarian scholars.

Bioarchaeological research projects integrate the most recent advancements in archaeology, physical anthropology, molecular biology (DNA), and geochemistry (isotope analyses) in order to study the biological condition, mobility, social organisation, diet, lifestyles, and diseases of past populations within the framework of international collaborative projects.

The results of these projects have been published in Nature and PlosOne. The faculty of the institute has contributed a number of influential studies to international academic journals, and has presented their findings in the institute’s own journals, independent volumes, and book series.

In 2022, the Institute of Archaeological Sciences is hosting the 28th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists on the campus of ELTE. The meeting is expected to attract 2,500 to 3,000 participants, making it the largest and most important archaeological conference in Europe.