The Longobards reached Pannonia in the early 6th century and remained there for about two generations, during which time they consolidated their social and political structures and converted to Aryan Christianity. The finds which record this sojourn come almost exclusively from funerary contexts; migration-period Longobard architecture exhibits no special features with respect to that of other contemporary Germanic peoples.
The Pannonian Longobard house was a wooden hut, often sunken, and rectangular, square or irregularly circular in plan, with a beaten-earth floor. The villages were sometimes enclosed by ditches. In several Hungarian sites the huts were located within abandoned Roman towns, re-using the foundations of ruined houses and recycling building material in new constructions.
Through the cultural diffusion typical of border areas, the Longobards (like the Gepids) adopted mould-made and burnished pottery styles, which featured distinctive stamped decorations and imitated the forms of Byzantine metal and glass containers. They also produced hand-made vases similar to those of north Danubian and Germanic tradition.
The objects found as grave-goods in pre-Italian phases (weapons, jewellery and brooches) – evidence of considerable skill acquired in metalworking – document a highly militarized society ruled over by warrior chiefs, who were buried in extravagant tombs. In the Pannonian graveyards, with their typical lines of burials, most of the dead were interred in wooden coffins or on funerary beds. In the richest burials the coffin was placed in a deep pit to avoid violation, and the grave covered by a funerary hut held up by four wooden posts set in the earth, in accordance with customs known from north of the Danube.
The tombs of those who died far from home had distinctive markers, consisting of the figure of a dove on top of a post. It was an exclusive privilege of the military aristocracy to be interred with their horses, either whole or with the head severed. The king’s guard (Arimannia) were usually buried with all their weapons (sword, spear and shield), with a bone comb and a small bag containing personal items that was attached to the belt by buckles and other fittings decorated with silver or gold.
In female burials, the social status of the deceased was indicated by the presence of jewellery and dress fittings: necklaces, disc brooches or paired S-shaped brooches, and curved cloak-clasps. Certain belts were equipped with small chains for the attachment of so-called ‘belt-pendants’: amulets, spinning whorls, keys, small knives, shells and glass beads. The practice was widespread in Merovingian lands, and continued for several decades after the arrival in Italy.
Decorative patterns include abstract and plant motifs of Mediterranean tradition, as well as fantastic animals derived from both northern myths and the cultures of Steppe peoples. These decorative styles are found in various contexts and are important for establishing chronology and detecting cultural influences.