Migration Period
between Odra and Vistula

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Burgundians, an East Germanic people. The earliest reference to them is in Pliny the Elder, around 70 AD, by whom they are grouped with the →Vandals . By Ptolemy B. are placed between an unidentified river Suebos and the Vistula, with a note made that their lands do not extend to the Baltic Sea. Around mid-3rd century the people came into conflict with the →Gepids and their king Fastida and were forced to move, presumably to the area east of the Lower Vistula. In 269 they are recorded in Dacia, in 278 they reside in Rhaetia, where they were defeated by the Romans, presumably on the river Lech, a decade later they are seen on the Main and the Neckar. They suffered another defeat when they invaded Gaul in 286, routed there by Maximian. The defeat of the B. in the war with Fastida was presumably the reason for their westward migration.

B. are poorly attested to in the archaeological record. Traditionally their homeland was thought to be Bornholm, during the Middle Ages known as Burgundarholm, but neither on the island, in northern Great Poland or central Poland, their most likely abodes (according to Ptolemy), is there a uniform archaeological culture, one we could identify with B.. More recently their abodes are now placed – admittedly, without support from the written sources – on the territory of the Luboszyce Culture, which starting from mid-2nd century may be seen to occupy the western reaches of Lower Silesia, Lubusz Land, eastern Brandenburg and Saxony.

In Luboszyce Culture the dominant funeral rite was cremation, and a distinctive feature was deposition of weapons in male graves, especially battle-axes, rare in other cultures. There is evidence in grave inventories of influence from Elbe Germans →Germanic Tribes and from the eastern neighbour of Luboszyce Culture people, the Przeworsk Culture. Contacts with Pomerania are suggested by tradition of setting up stone circles, known from some cemeteries, e.g., the eponymous site at Luboszyce in Krosno Odrzańskie district. In settlements large hall houses and half-sunken pit houses are recorded, as well as burials of dogs, placed under the threshold or inside iron smelting furnaces and lime kilns.

At the end of the 4th c. the Luboszyce Culture is no more, and it follows from the written sources mentioned earlier that as early as during the 3rd c. the B. started to migrate west. There is a reference in the written record to the victory of Emperor Probus over B. and →Vandals  on river Lech, possibly, the Rhine, in 282. During this time, or soon after, the B. established themselves on the Rhine near to the confluence with the river Main, in an area vacated in 259/260 by the Alemanni. However, their imprint on the archaeological record there is very faint and the cemetery at Lampertheim, long understood to have strong links with Luboszyce Culture on the Middle Odra, but according to input from more recent analysis is no longer thought to document this connection. From settlement sites on the Middle Rhine comes a small number of finds, dress accessories among them, which may be interpreted as East Germanic.

The B. kingdom on the Rhine, its capital at Worms, continued until 436, when it was destroyed by Aëtius and the →Huns . This spectacular defeat of the B. forms the historical core of the medieval epic Nibelungenlied. Remnants of this people were resettled by Aëtius to Lake Geneva where a new B. kingdom was established, its capital city Geneva, and later, Lyons. During the second half of the 5th century it extended to the Rhone and the Durance. Here too, archaeological relics are not much in evidence; possibly they include the remains of the royal palace underneath the Cathedral at Lyons. Graves are mostly without furnishings, the handful of the earliest burials contain ornaments brought from across the Rhine. Soon the people became strongly Romanized, as expressed by the lack of grave goods and adoption of a Romance language.

In 534 the B. kingdom was annexed by the Frankish Empire →Franks . Female graves from this period feature outstanding great suites of belt fittings adopted under the impact of Frankish fashion prevailing in Neustria.


Literature: A. Leube, Die römische Kaiserzeit im Oder-Spree-Gebiet, Veröffentlichungen des Museums für Ur- und Frühgeschichte Potsdam 9, Berlin 1975; G. Domański, Kultura luboszycka między Łabą a Odrą w II – IV wieku, Wrocław 1979; K. Godłowski, Przemiany kulturowe i osadnicze w południowej i środkowej Polsce w młodszym okresie przedrzymskim i w okresie rzymskim, Prace Komisji Archeologicznej 23, Wrocław 1985; H. Gaillard de Sémainville (ed.), Les Burgondes. Apports de l’archéologie. Actes du colloque international de Dijon 5-6 novembre 1992, Dijon 1995; J. Schuster, Zwischen Wihelmsaue und Lampertheim. Bemerkungen zur Burgundenproblematik,Germania 79, 2001, p. 63-92; J. Kolendo, Plemiona Pomorza w starożytności [in:] W. Nowakowski et all. (eds.), Goci i ich sąsiedzi na Pomorzu, Koszalin 2006, p. 17-33; M. Mączyńska, Światło z popiołu. Wędrwówki ludów w Europie w IV i V w., Warszawa 2013, p. 164-171.