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The Archaeological Collection

“The land of Székelys is full of treasures worth preserving. The mementoes of elder age are unveiled even in our days in rich findings from the depth of the soil” – wrote once the founders of the museum, setting a goal in collecting and preserving these antiquities. The outstanding archaeological collection of the museum is a result of the activity of generations of curators and researchers. The majority of the items come from our delimited region, but the collection was enriched with precious findings from other, more distant parts of the Carpathian Basin. In time we can speak of an archaeological material covering around 35 000 years, from the first tools found in South-Eastern Transylvania to the findings of the late middle ages.

The base of the material was given by the collection of treasures of Emília Csereyné Zathureczky, consisting of coins, Roman bricks, prehistoric stone tools, and most of all bronze items, a collection of more than 1300 pieces. A few precious items of this collection were exhibited already at the 8th International Congress of Prehistory and Anthropology, organized in Budapest by the father of Hungarian archaeology, Flóris Rómer. In these early years the most important sources were the donations, however since 1882 there systematic scientific research was possible as well. Géza Nagy, who succeeded Gyula Nagy Vasady as curator, also carried out archaeological excavations, and he was also the first to make a scientific systematization of the collection. At that time the collection of the museum included almost all mementoes of the past, with smaller collections of items from prehistory, from the Roman era and the time of the migrations, with a historical collection of arms, goldsmith’s craft and numismatics.

In the first decades of the 20th century, with the coordination of the curators Ferenc László and Vilmos Csutak, set off the first archaeological research at a greater scale, thus we can talk about the start of the systematic archaeological mapping of Székelyföld, especially of Háromszék. In was the time of the exploration of the world famous prehistoric “settlement” from Erősd, the Paleolithic site from Szitabodza, the Bronze Age tombs from Eresztevény or the Roman camp from Komolló. At putting together and the scientific research of this precious collection contributed such great scholars of international fame as Gábor Téglás, József Hampel, Vasile Pârvan, V. Gordon Childe, Márton Roska and István Kovács. Unfortunately, in the 1945 bombing of the train from Zalaegerszeg a smaller, but a most valuable part of the collection was also destroyed.

Following World War II, the archaeological research was led by the archaeologist-director of the museum Zoltán Székely. His vast area of expertise, including all periods of the history of the South-Eastern Transylvanian region, resulted in the discovery and exploration of several famous sites and the preservation and scientific research of the objects discovered. During his activity of almost half a century the archaeological collection of the Székely National Museum was completed, counting almost 100 000 pieces. This outstanding collection could already be seen at the time of the moving of the museum into its own building, and its most representative pieces are even today parts of permanent or temporary exhibitions, offering an insight into the early history of our region.

The earliest archaeological findings come from the surroundings of Szitabodza and the caves of the Vargyas Pass, their discovery and exploration being the merit first of all of Julius Teutsch, a Saxon antiquarian from Brassó, and of Ferenc László, Márton Roska, respectively of geologist István Dénes. The stone tools and the waste material dated to the Upper Paleolithic period represent the material legacy of the hunting and collecting communities living 35 000 years ago, at the end of the Ice Age (Aurignac Culture).

One of the most important parts of the prehistoric collection is given by the findings of the New Stone Age and Copper Age. The settlements of the agricultural and animal keeping groups from 7000–4000 B.C. (the Starčevo–Körös, linearly ornamented ceramics, Boian, Precucuteni, Erősd, Tiszapolgár, Bodrogkeresztúr, and Coţofeni Cultures) expanded the collection of our museum with great findings. These represent the specific objects of that era: handmade pottery for everyday use, stone tools, bone and shell jewellery, amulets, mementoes of their religious life, humanoid and zoomorphic figures made of clay, altars. In the Copper Age we can discover the first signs of metalwork, in the forms of gold and copper jewellery (rings, pearls, bracelets, hanging jewels) and weapons (copper pickaxes, daggers). Some of the sites are of an outstanding importance even in the European context. The site from Lécfalva-Várhegy (exploited in 1949–1955) has a great significance from the viewpoint of Early and Middle Neolithic chronology. The Tyiszk Hill from Erősd is the name giving spot of the western group of the Erősd–Cucuteni–Tripolie Culture from the Early Copper Age, better known for its painted pottery. The first systematic excavation was led by Ferenc László (1907–1913, 1925), and it was continued by Zoltán Székely in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of the Romanian Academy of Sciences (1968–1985).

Around 3000 B.C. a new era started in the history of the population of Transylvania: the Bronze Age. Its classical archaeological cultures (Schneckenberg, Wietenberg, Noua) preserved precious archaeological mementoes for posterity. Most of our material comes from the excavations of South-Eastern Transylvanian settlements (Albis, Sepsiszentgyörgy-Avasalja), earth fortifications (Kézdiszentlélek-Perkő, Kisgalambfalva) and cemeteries (Zabola, Uzon). From the ceramics of that period we underline the beauty of the Wietenberg Culture pots with scratched, lime inserted ornaments. The great technological achievement of the period was the invention of bronze by alloying copper with tin: weapons (swords, axes, lance heads), jewels (bracelets, hanging jewels) and everyday objects (pins, sickles, chisels) were made of it.

At the end of 1000 B.C., in the Early Iron Age, bronze manufacturing was prospering and its mementoes – in the form of treasures hidden in the ground and stock findings – were discovered in large numbers throughout our region. For example our museum keeps the remaining pieces of the bronze findings from Árapatak, Bölön and Zágon. This is the time when the signs of metalwork appeared: in the fortification of Csernáton, Zoltán Székely discovered axes and knives, the earliest evidence of metalwork in South-Eastern Transylvania.

There are also specific archaeological findings of the Scythes in our region, a group of eastern origin, known from the end of the 7th century B.C., mentioned already in the antique historical sources. One of their specific burial grounds with annexes (pots, pearls, bronze jewellery) was revealed by Zoltán Székely within the city of Sepsiszentgyörgy. There was also an outstanding piece in our museum, a Scythe sword with eastern zoological ornamental motifs discovered in the surroundings of Aldoboly in the year 1880, one of the most beautiful weapons of that period, which unfortunately was taken in 1972 to the recently founded National Museum of Romanian History from Bucharest.

In the centuries before the Roman conquest there were Dacian groups living on the territory of South-Eastern Transylvania. Their archaeological mementoes come from excavations carried out in open settlements (Eresztevény, Sepsiszentgyörgy-Bedeháza) or in earth fortifications situated on heights (Zsögöd, Kovászna). The Dacian material culture is represented in our collection through a rich material of ceramics, but we have some findings of national importance, such as the silver treasures from Csíkszentkirály and Szörcse (from which we have only the copies, as they were also taken to the Romanian Museum of History), the silver jewellery from Székelypetőfalva, and even some larger monetary findings (Fotosmartonos, Gelence).

The Roman period is well-researched, with a well-known archaeological material, present with numerous items in our collection. There were excavations carried out in all the four reinforcements camps of our county, protecting the South-Eastern part of Transylvania – Oltszem, Komolló, Nagyborosnyó, Bereck, the latter one guarding the Ojtoz Pass and identified as Angustia –, thus we know very well the names of the troops, their material culture and burials. Some of the material from the excavations of the camps from Énlaka and Sóvárad were also included in our collection. Many of these larger items – first of all tombstones with inscriptions, altar stones – are exhibited in the lapidarium arranged in the main building of our museum. Besides the material resulted from systematic research, we have many occasional findings, mostly coins of the Roman era.

In the 4th century A.C. this province abandoned by the Romans was occupied by a group of German origin, the Visigoths, and their archaeological legacy is the Maroszentanna–Cerneahov Culture. In its largest Transylvanian settlement (Sepsiszentgyörgy-Eprestető) the first archaeological diggings were started by Géza Nagy in 1883. His work was continued in the next century by his successors, Ferenc László and Zoltán Székely, while with the discovery of other settlements (Réty, Gidófalva, Komolló) and other findings the greatest centre of the Visigoths’ Transylvanian settlement emerged. The latest complementary information was delivered by the findings of Kilyén, a material that also enriched the collection of our museum. Up to the end of World War II our museum had been the guardian of one of the most important findings of that period, the treasure from Tekerőpatak, consisting of silver fibula, bracelets, rings, clasps and Roman coins. The archaeological sites at the outskirts of Csernáton, Kézdipolyán, Réty and Sepsiszentgyörgy offered findings on other settling populations of Transylvania during the period of migrations, namely traces of 6th century Gepid and 7th–10th century Slavonic settlements discovered by our colleagues.

Our mediaeval collection was expanded at a larger scale in the interwar period and especially after 1945. The main structure of the collection is the result of the excavations carried out by Zoltán Székely in the burial grounds of the Árpád Era from Zabola and Székelypetőfalva, respectively in some castles and churches of Székelyföld (Bálványosvár, Csernáton-Csonkavár, Réty, Árkos-Szentegyházasdomb, Kézdiszentlélek-Perkő). After the settlement of the Hungarians, our region was the eastern borderland of the Hungarian Kingdom, and for the protection of this border the Székely county was formed during the 13th century. The rich material of the Székelys (ceramics, tools, weapons) is illustrated by the mediaeval exhibition, together with the items of the historical collection. An important part of our mediaeval archaeological research is represented by the excavations in the near past of ecclesiastical buildings, churches (Kézdialbis, Sepsiszentkirály, Szacsva), of the abandoned settlement of Erdőfüle-Dobó, and of the mediaeval fortification from the Rika Forest. A part of the discovered stone material can be seen in the lapidarium of the museum.

A separate part of the archaeological collection is represented by the numismatic collection, having only 600 items at the moment of its founding, but expanding to 3800 pieces in 1929. It had a quite diverse structure, with the majority of the coins coming from abroad and representing the Modern Age (around 1800 pieces), while there were 700 pieces of antique origin (mostly Roman, some Sassanid, Greek, Parthian, and Persian), 42 mediaeval coins, and a few hundred pieces from the period of the Transylvanian Principality. There was an important collection of banknotes as well, being attached to the numismatic collection at that time. The first systematization of the collection was made by the renowned archaeologist and numismatist István Kovács. After 1945 the expanding of the collection has become somewhat slower (we are talking about only 967 pieces from the end of World War II to our days), but this included such outstanding findings as the numismatic treasure of 261 pieces from the first century B.C. discovered in the outskirts of Árkos in 1979, or the coins from the age of Sigismund, János Hunyadi and King Mathias, discovered during the excavations of the mediaeval church from Vargyas (1993–1996).

Our most recent temporary exhibition entitled Shades was opened in the Arcade House on Saturday, 24 June 2023.[ details ]
On 1 April 2015 MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe celebrated its 5 years anniversary. During these five years we have collaborated with around 250 artists, art theorists, philosophers, etc. and together we contributed to what MAGMA is today.[ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe cordially invites you to the opening of the group exhibition Examples for Non-universal Chair on March 18, 2015 at 18:00. [ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sf. Gheorghe kindly invites you to the opening of the exhibition 'DREAMHUNTING' by Igor BUHAROV (Kornél SZILÁGYI), Ivan BUHAROV (Nándor HEVESI) and Vasile CROAT (László HORVÁTH). [ details ]
On January 15, 2015 at 19:00 MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe cordially invites you to the opening of the exhibition entitled The geometry of water by Hungarian artist Ágnes PÉTER winner of the first prize at the second edition of the International Graphic Art Biennial in Szeklerland.[ details ]
SALON VIDEO and MAGMA Contemporary Art Space cordially invite you to the opening of the archive-exhibition salonvideo_SUBmissions.[ details ]
Magda CSUTAK // Solo Exhibition[ details ]
Ivan Ladislav GALETA solo exhibition[ details ]
Opening: 14. February, 2014., 19:00[ details ]
Group exhibition[ details ]
Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák & Márton Fernezelyi [ details ]
The 35-year anniversary exhibition of MAMŰ[ details ]
Prints, Drawings and Photos from the Ethnological Archives[ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space invites you to the opening of the exhibition entitled Master and disciple 4 of the artists Ilona NÉMETH and Jaro VARGA [ details ]
Joint temporary exhibition of the Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism, the Hungarian Museum for Science, Technology and Transport and the Fazakas & Kimmel Collection [ details ]
The commune Árkos and the Covasna County Capital, Sepsiszentgyörgy will host an extraordinary event: the ‘Spiral’ International Contemporary Art Symposium takes place here at the Training Center and the garden of the Szentkereszty Castle. [ details ]
Our exhibition attempts to give an overview of the main events, effects and consequences of the greatest plague epidemic of European history, the Black Death, which first devastated Europe in 1347-1349. [ details ]
Holidays and Encounters II. – Ethnographic exhibition and Europe in Miniature cultural program in the Székely National Museum[ details ]
Executive editor: Vargha Mihály.
© Copyright: The Székely National Museum, 2023.