Projects and Science

FWF Projectnumber:
P 293880 - G26

Mag. Dr. Bendeguz Tobias

Funding: fwf logo

Contacts Across the Alps. Studies on Belt Sets of the Bieringen Type

If you were living in Central Europe in the 7th century AD and wanted to purchase a high-quality belt set, you most certainly would be looking for a Bieringen type belt. In contrast to most of the multipart belt sets made of iron of that time, the Bieringen fittings are cast using bronze. What is surprising is that they can be found from the Carpathian Basin to Western Switzerland and from Central Germany to Southern Italy.

How can we explain the enormous popularity of these belt fittings within a relatively short period of about 80 years throughout such a huge area? Why was this type of belt so widespread? Although it is questionable that high quality was the sole reason for its wide distribution, it is certainly the starting point of our considerations concerning the belt.

What characterizes its quality? How was it produced, and which requirements had to be met for its production? The entire chaîne opératoire of its manufacture, from raw material to the final product, will be demonstrated on the basis of chemical and lead isotope analysis. Establishing the chronology of the belt is particularly problematic due to the rare independent dating opportunities offered by grave furnishings. A new chronological framework based on radiocarbon analysis and recently found well dated graves will be elaborated during this project.

The chaîne opératoire and the chronological framework are the two cornerstones of the historico-cultural interpretation of the belt set. In order to be able to find out more about the significance of the belt, different social and cultural layers will be investigated. The grave furnishings containing belts of the Bieringen type combined with the anthropological data of the deceased will be evaluated both in the local and in a more spacious context. Another fascinating question is: Could the belt of the Bieringen type with its characteristic tail-like extension be associated with the so-called “wolf warriors” of the 7th century AD?

As a final aspect, the routes of distribution will be discussed. The clear focus of the distribution of the belt fittings in South Tyrol and Trentino shows that the majority of the belts came to the north across the two most important Alpine passes (especially the Brenner) and from there further into the Carpathian Basin.

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