Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Robert H. Tykot, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan D. Bethard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tamás Hajdu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth M. Miller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zsófia Rácz, Ph.D.


Bioarchaeology, Children, Stable Isotope Analysis, Weaning


This project investigates children, childhood and diet of two different Migration Period (4th-8th century AD) populations, the Gepids and the Avars, in the Great Hungarian Plain. The main goal was to assess whether there are differences in treatment of children and differences in breastfeeding and weaning practices in these distinct sites and populations. Secondarily, this research also focused on characterizing diet for the Gepids and the Avars at four different sites from the Migration Period, to understand how the migration and settling into the region and the assimilation of other groups into the two populations affected their subsistence practices. The Gepids, a Germanic tribe, entered the Great Hungarian Plain (GHP) during the late 4th to early 5th century AD and established a kingdom during the 5th century that can be considered a continuation of the Hunnic Empire. The Avars, a group from Central Asia and the Eurasian steppe zone, entered the GHP during the 6th century and united the Carpathian Basin for over two centuries. The Avars are considered a heterogenous group that incorporated many other groups and populations into their numbers. These two distinct and dynamic groups are both considered agro-pastoralists, though archaeological evidence indicates a shift to a more agrarian lifestyle after they had settled in the region.

A total of 131 individuals were sampled from four sites on the GHP spanning 5th to 8th centuries AD. These samples underwent pathological analysis along with stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis to assess diet. A subsample of 38 adults and non-adults had microsampling stable carbon and nitrogen analysis on teeth to assess breastfeeding and weaning patterns. Previous paleodietary analyses and ethnobotanical analyses suggested the Avar consumed millet and were reliant on animal husbandry and secondary animal products, while the Gepids consumed wheat and millet and also practiced animal husbandry.

The dietary analysis shows significant differences between the two populations. While both the Gepid and Avar populations consumed millet, the Avar have enriched nitrogen isotope values and were consuming either fish or pigs. The breastfeeding and weaning practices varied between each site, but there is some indication that weaning at certain sites was supplemented by plant resources, and other sites may have had supplementation from animal milk or other animal products. The results indicated that childhood existed as a life stage for the Gepid populations, maybe have existed for the Avar populations. This research is significant because it addresses childhood and children in the GHP, which is highly understudied aspect. This research fills in a geographical and chronological gap of Hungarian history during a period of migration and change.