The territory of today’s Hungary – as indicated by archeological finds – has been inhabited for about 500,000 years. Vértesszőlős prehistoric man left traces of his presence c. 500-450,000 years ago. The earliest finds of the appearance of ancient man originate from the last stage of the lower Paleolithic era (premoustier age). Knapped stone tools found in the Kálmán-Lambrecht cave indicate that in the Great Ice Age, that is about 150,000 years ago, there was human settlement on the territory of Hungary.
Relics of the Moustier culture, that is the next level of human development, come in the form of remains found in the Subalyuk cave. Human bones found here indicate that about 130,140,000 years ago Neanderthal man did indeed reach the territory of Hungary too.
The direct ancestor of man appeared in Hungary’s territory during the era of the Aurignac culture. In the course of excavations made at the Istállóskő cave. a number of split-shaped bonetipped arrow heads were uncovered, which about 36,000 years ago – clearly indicate the existence of the Aurignac No. 1 culture. The main occupation of Aurignac man–according to archeological evidence – was hunting and only to a lesser extent fishing. He already used the spear and arrows.
As regards man from the last period of the prehistoric age (upper Paleolithic era), finds originating from a few thousand years later from the Szeleta cave provide useful evidence. For instance, the paint mine excavated close to the village of Lovas dates from the period of the Szeleta culture. Hungary’s territory was also inhabited by the Gravette culture (Magdalene culture) of the late Paleolithic era, when developed bone tools played a major role. The main occupation of man of this culture was hunting and gathering. He already understood and could skillfully use the bow and arrow.
The new Stone Age which appeared in the Carpathian Basin between 3,500-2,500 B.C. (Neolithic) represented a tremendous change in the history of mankind. Settlement of the area started around that time. The oldest Neolithic culture in Hungary was the Kőrös culture, the bearers of which were of shepherds dealing with agriculture, fishing and hunting. This was the period when the matriarchal society flourished.
Between 2,500-1,900 B.C. there was a period termed the developed Bronze Age. The people then living in the territory of today’s Hungary conducted ‘hoeing’ agriculture. and domesticated the horse as well as cattle. According to evidence from cemeteries, the role of females was subordinated to that of males.
During the Bronze Age which lasted from 1,900-900 B.C. population densities increased. and towards the end of the Bronze Age new settlers migrated into Transdanubia and the region beyond the Tisza river. At the end of the Bronze Age agriculture had developed to the stage of ploughing and sowing. In place of simply keeping animals, animal husbandry started. Industry separated from agriculture, and trade too surpassed the level of simple barter.
Around 700 B.C. the early Iron Age in Hungary was brought to a sudden halt by the appearance of the Kimmer nomadic people who were fleeing the Scythians. We know nothing of their history.
The first wave of the Great Migrations, the Kimmers, were replaced – around 550 B.C. – by the Scythians. The Scythians did not annihilate the population they found here, but lived together in coexistence with them. This is indicated by many elements of their burial rituals, which they took over from the original population. The weapons of the mounted nomadic Scythians were made of iron, while their tribes were divided into clans headed by the wealthy clan aristocracy.
In Hungary’s territory, the rule of the Scythians was ended – around 300 B.C. – by the incoming Celts, with whom the Scythians merged. The Celts were the first people about whom we have written evidence to indicate their history. The Romans who came to conquer this area were prompted not only by commercial interests but also by the emergence of Dacian rule which threatened the borders of the empire.
Therefore in the year 35 B.C. they conquered the area between the Dráva and Száva rivers. and in the year 9 B.C. they occupied the Danube Bend..
In 10 AD, the province of Pannonia was established.
In 20 A.D. the Romans built a permanent camp at Aquincum. However, the Roman conquest did not sweep away the ancient population. The organization of the native tribes was not changed by the Roman military administration; the native Celtic population preserved – although with major transformations – its ancient culture. Urban life emerged, with industry and trade increasingly developed. In the 3rd century Pannonia played a leading role in the Roman empire. From the point of view of the defence of the empire, this was an important region which gave several emperors to the empire.
In 20 A.D. – simultaneously with the Roman conquest – the region between the Danube and Tisza rivers was invaded by the Sarmata-Jazig mounted nomadic peoples of Iranian origin.
At the end of the 3rd century, in the year 211, Dacia (Transylvania) was invaded by the Goths, and in the 4th century by a new Sarmata tribe, and in addition to the Alans the Germans also began to settle in increasing numbers. Then, at the beginning of the 5th century, the Huns appeared.
Between 401-410 A.D. the Huns occupied the Hungarian Great Pain. The ‘centre of gravity’ of the Hun empire was placed once and far all between the Danube and Tisza region by their chieftain Attila:
After the death of Attila (453 A.D.), the Hun empire disbanded and its place was occupied by the German tribes.
In 456 A.D. Pannonia came under the rule of the Eastern Goths who, after conquering the Sarmatas in 471, left for what is present-day Italy. Their place was occupied by. the Gepids who were in turn replaced by the Longobards. Afterwards the Longobards, having joined forces with the Avars from the east, defeated the Gepids but fearing at the same time their very ally they also moved to Italy.
In 582 A.D. the Avars, having consolidated their rule in Hungary, conquered Sirmium. In 628, the Avars suffered a tremendous defeat at ConstantinopIe, although the empire did not collapse immediately. Only the Croatians and the Serbs separated from the empire. In 680 the Bulgarian state was formed. Finally, the rule of the Avars was ended in two crusades undertaken by the Franks.
In 796, the Avar state ended. Transdanubia came under the rule of the Franks who Cater brought Slav settlers from the south and southwest.
As from the 9th century the Avars who remaíned behind in fairly large numbers were joined by Slavs, who in turn – between 840-810 – struggled for their independence. It was at this point that, from the east – as the last wave of the Great Migrations – a new people appeared: the Hungarians.