The Archaeology of Early Medieval Service Settlements in Eastern Europe

Archeológia ranostredovekej služobníckej organizácie vo východnej Európe

"Service settlement" is a favourite phrase of several Polish and Czech medievalists who use it commonly to refer to villages of specialised workers (peasants or craftsmen) serving the exclusive needs of neighbouring fortresses or local manor houses. Polish historians have linked the service settlements to ducal or royal estates and argued that such villages emerged to meet the exclusive demands of Polish dukes or the king and his court. Service settlements were therefore to be found around ducal or royal residences and palaces, located within or outside regional fortresses. Since the 1960s, local names have represented the most significant evidence as far as the study of medieval service settlements in Bohemia, Kingdom of Hungary and Poland was concerned. However, as a rule, the archaeology played only a minor if any role. While further prospects of the archaeological research of the service settlements in Bohemia and Poland do not seem to be particularly promising, the research of sites base around the 9th century centres of powers in Moravia, western Hungary and Bulgaria have essentially progressed within last ten years. It has offered new interpretation options concerning a clarification of "service settlement" functioning. In any case, it is necessary to say that the progress in the service villages' research is after all less dependent on an analysis of the local names and shall be rather based on the archaeological research. Such a research can be carried out only through long-term excavations and modern techniques of a space analysis.