Magyar Clothing

December 25, 2011

This web site is primarily concerned with the clothing and culture of the ancient Hungarians prior to the year 1000. When I began this research several years ago, I don’t think I really understood at the time how difficult and frustrating it would prove to be.

Several factors hamper the amateur scholar.

  • Soil conditions in the Carpathian Basin and in the ancestral lands of Levedia and Etelköz, are not conducive to preserving textiles in the ground for over a millenium.
  • Little emphasis is allocated toward textile remains due to the admittedly beautiful array of precious metal artifacts that have been recovered.
  • Research expedition funds were stunted and nearly non-existant in Hungary during the majority of the 20th Century.
  • The research that has been conducted appears to be influenced by either the Soviet world view, or, more recently, Hungarian nationalism resulting in slanted interpretations that do not necessarily fit the facts.

My own studies have been slowed by the fact that I only speak American English, not Hungarian, German or Russian, the languages in which most of the research being conducted has been published.




“Archaeology is fossilized ethnography and ethnography is living archaeology.”

Since there is a veritable vacuum of extant garment finds or portraiture, not surprisingly, my theories are speculative in nature. Nothing that will be presented here should be considered definitive, so if you possess additional sources of information, email me.

When there is a complete lack of extant material available to the recreationist of a given culture, it is plausible to look at the information available on the clothing worn by their ancestors and by their descendants. More commonly known as “experimental archaeology” or “experimental reconstruction”, this is a methodology employed in mainstream research to good effect. All to the good as it happens to be the thing at which living history participants excel.

In the case of the Magyars, study is complicated due to the rather profound cultural shift that occurred about 100 years following the conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 896. At that time, the Magyars converted to Christianity and to the more settled life of pastoral agriculturalists. With the cessation of the nomadic way of life, came an accompanying change in the style of clothing as they began to adopt a more traditionally European mode of dress.

The Magyars of the Conquest were nomad horse-bowman. I believe that their clothing closely followed the model of other Asiatic or Turkic nomadic cultures, such as the Huns, Scythians, Avars, Pechenegs and Mongols. These styles are still worn by the modern nomadic, yurt-dwelling peoples of Central Asia such as the Mongols, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Kurdish, Turkoman and Afghani tribes people.

Further Reading

  • The Renaissance Tailor has an excellent article on documenting your research when there is little to no primary source material.
  • Modar’s General Research page has a thorough listing of research articles with an SCA bent.
  • Difficult to find, but worth the effort is “Between East and West. Everyday Life in the Hungarian Conquest Period”. It has an excellent chapter on experimental archaeology as applied to Hungarian research.
  • Easier to locate is an exhibition book published by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County called “Nomads of Eurasia”. This is an excellent starting place to get a feel for nomadism and for an overview of nomadic cultures in history.

See Sources for more information on the referenced books.

Coming soon: discussions on fiber, weaves and dyes, as well as my theories on garment cut, construction and embellishment.

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