The EBA in the Carpathian area is marked by a great population increase compared to the previous period, suggested by a peaceful lifestyle in tell settlements and the large number of graves in cemeteries. Advanced cultivation skills (grain cultivation supplemented with horticulture) and cattle breeding are probably behind this improvement. Riverine transport and animal transport over land, suggested by spoked wheels and horse cheek-pieces, suggest intense trading networks (Marková and Ilon 2013).
Similar to the findings in the Baltic coast, east Baltic inland and Belarus (see §VIII.8.2. North-Eastern province – Iwno), there is a sort of eastern march of the Bell Beaker territory that spans from the easternmost Classic Bell Beaker groups (like Moravia or Csepel) to western Ukraine, where the comb–stamp decorated beakers with horizontal band structure are strongly reminiscent of Classical Bell Beakers, even though their shape is clearly original from the Catacomb Grave culture (Heyd 2013).
Bell Beaker findings in this huge eastern area of influence, which covers the Carpathian Basin, include wristguards, Begleitkeramik, flint arrowheads, and bone pendants, as well as the preferred comb–stamp decorated vessels and sherds with horizontal zoned decoration. They reflect their late connection with Bell Beaker, as well as cultural adaptations to local or regional cultures. The Csepel group shows often cremation graves instead of inhumation as is common to the west, and features extensive riverbank settlements with boat-shaped buildings and ritual pits. Bell Beaker materials are also encountered in traditional Vučedol territory (Heyd 2013).
Roots of the EBA of the Carpathian region are found in the extensive Makó/Kosihý–Čaka culture, which showed isolated graves featuring cremation in scattered graves and in urns, and sporadic inhumations at the end of the culture. Metallurgy shows a connection with Circum-Pontic cultures, including artefacts and moulds for copper, and shaft–hole axes During the EBA, the Somogyvár–Vinkovci culture dominates over the north and north-western Balkans up to Transdanubia in the west. It shows scattered, short-term open settlements, with post-built or semi-subterranean houses, and varying funeral rites including usually inhumations, and less often urned cremations, with graves in mounds, flat, or with stone packing (Marková and Ilon 2013).
The Nagyrév culture from the Danube–Tisza region to the Carpathians in the north show short-lived, unfortified, sparse settlements, with post-built houses and relief ornamentation in walls and pottery. Burials feature scattered graves and urned cremations, with inhumations proper of its formative phase (Marková and Ilon 2013).
In the north-east Carpathian area, the Nyírség–Zatín culture shows single-phase upland and lowland settlements and tells. Burial rite was cremation in an urn. The Andrid culture represents a transitional group with the Ottomány culture, appearing in settlements before tell sites. It is supposed to have consisted of farmers and stockbreeders. Cremation in pits or urns was the preferred burial rite (Marková and Ilon 2013).
The Kisapostag culture was based on the Makó/Kosihý–Čaka culture, with contributions from the late Somogyvár culture. Cremation is prevalent, with urns and scattered graves. Copper-sheet industry artefacts (like pendants, tubes, diadems) are typical, and imports from this culture are found as far as the Tisza region in the east, and the upper Danube in the west. It was succeeded by the Transdanubian Encrusted Pottery culture (also North Pannonian culture), with a distinction into a northern and a southern group. Settlements are usually short-lived, and cattle breeding is the main subsistence economy. A hierarchy is suggested based on settlement size. Cremation in pits and urns are the norm, they are placed in groups, and elite objects associated with social ranking are deposited in a ritual manner (Marková and Ilon 2013). West of the Danube, the wire-brushed pottery culture (Litzenkeramik) was probably a regional variant of the Kisapostag culture, and the few graves found show bi-ritual funerary practices, i.e. inhumation and cremation.
The Vatya culture forms from the basis of Nagyrév with influences from the Kisapostag culture. Burials show a consistent rite, with cremations laid out in a structured manner, sometimes bounded or covered by stones. Cemeteries comprise several hundred urn burials, and urns were ordered initially in clan groupings. Social differentiation was seen in grave goods in the final phase of the culture. Fortifications appear probably reflecting the formation of social hierarchy, and they show enclosed areas dedicated particular functions, such as metallurgy. Bronze artefacts are abundant. Nagyrév sites are continued in Vatya settlements, which expand to previously unsettled sandy locations (Marková and Ilon 2013).
The Hatvan culture formed from the former Nagyrév culture (with eastern influence evident in its metallurgy), in previous Nagyrév and Nyírség areas. Settlements include tells and tell-like settlements, with small fortified areas surrounded by ditches in settlements which had unfortified annexes or satellite settlements. Small family cemeteries with scattered cremation and urn graves in groups were located around the settlements. Interaction with the Ottomány–Füzesabony complex induced changes in the pottery (Marková and Ilon 2013).
The Early Bronze Age Ottomány I–Füzesabony cultural complex (ca. 2150-1650 BC) spread over a good part of the Pannonian basin, and a quite close interaction with the Hatvan culture. Decorative elements on fine wares mostly geometric, including incised lines and chevrons (Duffy et al. 2019). Regional Füzesabony groups show differences in pottery forms, but they share a common strict burial rite: inhumation burial in crouched position with gender differentiation—males on the right side and females on the left side—and large cemeteries formed by hundreds of graves. Orientation varies depending on phase and region. Grave goods reflect social status, as do the use of a wooden coffin or a grave lining or shroud (Marková and Ilon 2013).
At the end of the culture, urnfields begin (Ottomány–Piliny horizon and Ottomány–Suciu de Sus horizon). Settlement patterns suggest social and economic distinction, and there is evidence of craft production of gold and bronze. In the Middle Bronze Age Gyulavarsánd/Otomani II–III culture (ca. 1750–1450 BC), to the east of the Tisza, Forms become elaborate, flared rims appear on pitchers, cup handles rise high above the rim and smoothed, uniform surfaces become sculpted bas-relief. The culture shows southern influences from the Vatina culture, and ornamental elements similar to the Füzesabony culture, with imports from the eastern Wietenberg culture (in Transilvania). Burial rite shows inhumations in crouched position. Tell settlements appear in new locations, with fortified tells and open settlements with post-built houses (Marková and Ilon 2013).
Figure 68. Relationship between pottery and material body in MBA graves. Encrusted Ware: scattered bones, large amount of pottery over the grave, body-sized. Vatya: enclosed bones, pottery as container, urns in pits. Füzesabony: inhumation, sets of pottery annotating parts of the body, body-sized grave pits. Image and text from (Sørensen and Rebay-Salisbury 2008).
It has been argued that important ideological changes in Europe (starting ca. 1600 BC) may have corresponded to the abandonment of tell settlements, but not non-tell sites, in the Great Hungarian Plain, which may also be related to a mass west-to-east migration of the Tumulus group into the area. In the Late Bronze Age, the enormous variety of Ceramic styles across the Carpathian Basin—including forms, techniques, and combinations of elements, such as the vast array of lugs, spirals, chevrons, channels and other motifs and appliqués—fell out of use. The tell system collapses, with densities showing a striking decrease in the early phase (ca. 1450–1200 BC) until a late stage (ca. 1200–900 BC), when the arrival of the Urnfield culture in Central Europe and Transdanubia coincides with large numbers of settlements (Duffy et al. 2019).
After the admixture of Yamna settlers with local populations in Hungary to form the East Bell Beaker group, the genetic picture in the Carpathian Basin in the following centuries (ca. 2500–2200 BC) probably reflects to a great extent the sink that the Hungarian Plains represented for Yamna migrants, with high variability in Steppe ancestry and R1b1a1b1-L23 lineages (see §vii.7. North-West Indo-Europeans).
During the early phase of the Nagyrév culture in the Csepel island—formed by foreign Bell Beakers gradually merging with local populations and replacing local Bell Beakers—samples from Szigetszentmiklós–Üdülősor (ca. 2500–2200 BC) show a reduction in Steppe ancestry (ca. 19%) compared to the previous Csepel group (which belonged to the Danubian EEBA), and a more mixed haplogroup distribution,among them a child of hg. R1b1a1b1a1a-L151 (xR1b1a1b1a1a1-U106, xR1b1a1b1a1a2-P312), a brother of R1b1a1b1b3-Z2106 lineage, another relative reported as R1b1a1b-M269, and one sample of hg. I2a1a-P37.2, consistent with further admixture with (and resurgence of) locals (Olalde, Brace, et al. 2018)
Samples of the Vatya culture show a continuation of this trend, with two individuals from Százhalombatta–Földvár (ca. 2200–1600 BC), one of hg. I2a1a-P37.2 and the other of hg. I2a1b1a-CTS616; and four individuals from Erd (ca. 2000–1500 BC), one of hg. I2a1b1a1b1b-S18331 (formed ca. 3400 BC, TMRCA ca. 3200 BC). A similar ancestry is found in samples of the Makó culture from Kompolt–Kigyoser (ca. 2200–2000 BC), of the Hungary MBA from Battonya Vörös (ca. 2000–1800 BC), and of the Maros culture from Szöreg (ca. 2100–1600 BC), one of them of G2a2a1a2a-Z6488 subclade, a haplogroup also found in the Vučedol Tell, in a central European Bell Beaker, and previously in Ötzi the Iceman (Allentoft et al. 2015).
An early sample from Szólád (ca. 1900 BC), of subclade R1a1a1b2a2a1-Z2123 (Amorim et al. 2018) belongs to the westward expansion of Srubna; a sample of the Kyjatice group of the Urnfield culture from Ludas–Varjú dűlő (ca. 1200 BC), of hg. J2a1b-M67, probably reflects a local lineage (Gamba et al. 2014); while a sample of haplogroup N-M231 of the Mezőcsát Culture (ca. 900 BC) belongs to the expanding Cimmerians from the steppes. This and further movements reveal the nature of the Hungarian Plains as the sink of many different migrations since prehistoric times.