2. The Site and its Research History

The first report on the presence of prehistoric burials on the site of Holešov was published in 1951 by Bohumil Struhala, a former curator of a local museum. Between 1964 and 1970 the site was re-opened and completely excavated by Jaromír Ondráček, who later completed a catalogue that included the results of his predecessor, Struhala, together with several specialist appendices (Ondráček and Šebela 1985). This publication provides a complete excavation plan and comprehensive descriptions of the individual graves, which have been adapted by the present author into a digitised descriptive system. This was then used for subsequent analyses, presented here.

Out of the total number of 430 well-recorded graves, 10 belong to the Bell Beaker culture (Figure 2) that slightly precedes the Early Bronze Age in central Europe; the rest can be assigned to the transitional period between the Stone and Bronze Ages and the Early Bronze Age proper (broadly corresponding with Nitra and Únětice cultures). The whole funerary area gives an overall impression of a continuous development over a considerable period of time. Only a few (as yet unpublished – J. Peška, pers. comm.) radiocarbon dates have been obtained so far for the EBA burials, which indicate the usual EBA timespan of c. 2100 to 1700 cal BC. This interval may be refined in the future if more absolute dates are available. In this article, I will touch upon the questions of relative chronology and selected aspects of the social structure of the buried population.

Figure 2
Figure 2: A plan of Bell Beaker grave no. VIII showing orientation of the body and grave goods. Image credit: L. Šmejda.

The site has already been the subject of several studies. Bátora (1991) included it within a wider dataset covering social and economic issues of the Early Bronze Age in the territory of the Chłopice-Veselé group and Nitra culture. Pavúk (1995) focused his undergraduate dissertation exclusively on this site, with the aim of making an initial synthesis of the knowledge gained during excavation. His approach, however, could not be supported by any formalised methods of data analysis at that time. In 2000, the present author defended his Masters dissertation, where he aimed to fill this gap by developing a spatial database that was examined in Geographical Information Systems and statistical software packages, which by then had become accessible at archaeology departments in Central-Eastern Europe universities. Some parts of this work have already been published (Šmejda 2003a; 2003b; 2004). Hårde (2005) then studied this and other sites when searching for evidence on EBA warfare. The cemetery of Holešov also appeared in a handful of papers discussing problems of the origins and relationships of local cultural groups and their chronology (Benkovsky-Pivovarová 1998; Stuchlík 2000; Šmejda 2001).