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Abstract

Tribal fragments of the Cumans, a people of the Eurasian steppe region, appeared in the medieval kingdom of Hungary in the early 13th century, on the eve of the Mongol Invasion. Many of them permanently settled in the Great Hungarian Plain, and their community had to undergo profound transformations both in terms of social and economic strategies. Mobile pastoralism, often associated with the Cuman communities of the steppe, was definitely impossible in their new homeland. However, animal husbandry remained the most important economic activity in this part of the Carpathian Basin in the centuries after the Cumans’ arrival. This paper provides a case study on the region called Greater Cumania in the Great Hungarian Plain, and especially on one Cuman village, Orgondaszentmiklós, where 14th–16th-century habitation layers were brought to light. Archaeological and written evidence for animal husbandry is analyzed in order to establish patterns of integration or specialization in terms of animal herding. The results show that although some preferences that may have been rooted in steppe tradition were retained, the main factor in economic orientation was the position in the settlement network and the connection to markets. Swine keeping, a tradition virtually non-existent in the steppe area, was adapted relatively quickly as a response to available natural resources (marshlands) in the area. It seems, on the other hand, that horses preserved their high social value and their flesh was also consumed.
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