The Balla Discovery
The Balla Child was discovered by Jeno Eugene Hillbrand in 1909 in the Balla Cave in Northeastern Hungary and is thought to have been intentionally buried due to its anatomical position and lack of gnawing by rodents and carnivores (Hillebrand 1911, p.519). Attempts to situate the remnants in history were made by Kadic (1934, p.72) and Hillebrand (1935, p.13) who attributed flint blades and foliate tools recovered in the soil strata to the “Magdalenian period”, and Vertes (1965, pp.208-209) who associated the remains with the Pilisszanto culture due to the nature of the lithic assemblages. However, a yellow stratigraphic band above the remains was identified as the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. The micro-fauna and macro-fauna offered evidence of the Pleistocene period; the former by a comparison of biostratigraphic data collected by Kadic (1934) in the Puskaporos rock shelter, and the latter due to the absence of lemmings and reindeer (Mottl 1941, pp.19–20, 24–25).
Based on observations of the teeth and skeleton, the Balla child was about one year old when he died. Further, the cranial features appeared similar to those of European modern children, but the well-preserved bone structure did not exhibit any specific upper Paleolithic or Holocene human origin. However, the morphology of the braincase resembled that of the Hungarian Neolithic population (Bartucz 1940, p.54) and the stage of development was identified as closely resembling that of immature specimens found in the Czech Republic at Predmosti (Matgieka 1934 & Matgieka 1938) and at Krems-Watchberg in Eastern Austria (Einwogerer et al. 2006).
Previous radiocarbon dates from Balla were inconclusive. In 1965, Vertes dated the Szeletian lithic assemblage found in the cave at 22,300 ± 180 BP, an anomaly because it resembled the dates obtained for the Gravettian site of Sagya (about 18 Ka BP) (Vogel & Waterbolk 1972, p.64). Further, Vogel & Waterbolk (1972) disputed the result on the basis that the charcoal was poorly preserved and the Groningen Laboratory had placed the Szeletian period between 43,000 ± 1100 BP and 32,620 ± 400 BP. Consequently, direct dating of the skeleton seemed appropriate.
Direct dating was performed on a ground bone sample using a CHN elemental analyzer in order to determine collagen preservation from carbon and nitrogen in the bone (Bocherens et al. 2005). The nitrogen and carbon contents were 4.5 percent and 14.4 percent respectively, and the isotropic data corresponded to that of contemporaneous humans from the Iron Gates along the Danube River. Thus, the direct dating of the Balla Skeleton corresponded to that of an early Neolithic time period in Central Europe (Hertelendi et al. 1995), about 6600 ± 50 BP.
The discovery of the Balla Child in 1909 brought controversial attempts to situate its origins. Kadic (1934, p.72) and Hillebrand (1935, p.13) placed it in the “Magdalenian” period due to the recovery of flint blades and foliate tools from the soil structure. The nature of the lithic assemblages was associated with the Pilisszanto culture (Vertes 1965, pp. 208-209). However, an investigation of the micro-fauna and macro-fauna offered evidence of the Pleistocene period. Further, examination of the teeth, skeleton and cranial features was associated with a modern European child who had died at the age of one, and the morphology of the braincase resembled that of the Hungarian Neolithic population.
Past radiocarbon dating was inconclusive. Vertes’s estimate of the Szetelian lithic assemblage found in the cave (22,300 ± 180BP) was controversial because it resembled dates obtained for the Gravettian site of Sagya (Vogel & Waterbolk 1972, p.64). Further, the authors disputed this estimation because the Groningen Laboratory placed the Szetelian period between 43,000 ± 1100 BP and 32,620 ± 400 BP, in addition to the unreliability of the poorly preserved charcoal. Thus, direct dating was deemed appropriate. Analysis of a ground bone sample using a CHN analyzer revealed that the isotropic data corresponded to that of humans from the Iron Gates along the Danube River, an early Neolithic time period of Central Europe, about 6600 ± 50 BP (Hertelendi et al. 1995).
This article is important because it educates the reader on the various methods used to determine the age of archaeological remains. It highlights the role of scientific debate and technique in archeology. The earlier dating methods used by Kadic (1934, p.72) and Hillebrand (1935, p.13), which associated the Balla child with the “Magdalenian” period due to the recovery of flint blades and foliate tools from the soil structure, is an illustration of the relevance of direct dating and the need for more accurate methods that will situate remains commonly found all over the world.
The article also allows present civilization to relate to its past and uncover how past civilizations used to exist and look. According to Long (2009), radiocarbon dating can be applied universally as long as there is organic matter present and can go back as long as 50,000 years. However, it is not precise, and other techniques, such as dendrochronology, should be researched and developed so that events going back more than 50,000 years can be understood and chronicled. The Balla discovery was therefore significant, not only to the scientific community but to the public because it educates on a subject that remains the sole preserve of science; carbon dating. The discovery also brought to the fore the similarity of anatomy between present and past civilizations.
- Bartucz, L, Dancza, J, Hollendonner, F, Kadić, O, Mottl, M, Pataki, V, Pálosi, E, Szabó, J & Vendl, A, Editors, Die Mussolini-Höhle (Subalyuk) bei Cserépfalu, Geologica Hungarica Series Palaeontologica 14, Editio Instituti Regii Hungarici Geologici, Budapest (1940), pp. 49–105.
- Bocherens, H, Drucker, D, Billiou, D & Moussa, I 2005, ‘Une nouvelle approche pour évaluer l’état de conservation de l’os et du collagène pour les mesures isotopiques (datation au radiocarbone, isotopes stables du carbone et de l’azote)’, L’Anthropologie 109 (3) (2005), pp. 557–567.
- Einwögerer, T, Friesinger, H, Händel, C, Neugebauer-Maresch, Simon, U & Teschler-Nicola, M 2006, ‘Upper Palaeolithic infant burials’, Nature 444 (2006), p.285.
- Hertelendi, E, Kalicz, N, Raczky, P, Horváth, F, Veres, M, Svingor, É, Futó, I, & Bartosiewicz, L, Re-evaluation of the Neolithic in Eastern Hungary based on calibrated radiocarbon dates. In: Cook, G.T., Harkness, D.D., Miller, B.F., Scott, E.M. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 15th International Radiocarbon Conference. Radiocarbon 37, 239–245.
- Hillebrand, E 1911, ‘Die diluvialen Knochenreste eines Kindes aus der Ballahöhle bei Répáshuta in Ungarn’, Földtani Közlöny 41 (1911), pp. 518–531.
- Hillebrand, J 1935, ‘Magyarország őskőkora—Die Ältere Steinzeit Ungarns’, Archaeologia Hungarica 17, Magyar Történeti Múzeum, Budapest (1935).
- Kadić, O 1934, ‘A jégkor embere Magyarországon—Der Mensch zur Eiszeit in Ungarn. Mitteilungen aus dem Jahrbuch der kgl’, Ungarischen Geologischen Anstalt 30 (1934), pp.1–147.
- Matiegka, J 1934, Homo předmostensis, fosilní člověk z Předmostí na Morave 1, Česká akademie věd a umění, Praha (1934).
- Matiegka, J 1938, Homo předmostensis, fosilní člověk z Předmostí na Morave 2, Česká akademie věd a umění, Praha (1938).
- Mottl, M 1941, Az interglaciálisok és interstadiálisok a magyarországi emlősfauna tükrében. A Magyar kir. Földtani Intézet 1941. évi Jelentésének Függeléke, 5–42.
- Vértes, L 1965, Az őskőkor és az átmeneti kőkor emlékei Magyarországon, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest (1965).
- Vogel J.C. & Waterbolk, H.T. 1972, ‘Groningen radio-carbon dates X’, Radiocarbon 14 (1972), pp. 6–110.
- Long, K 2009, Why Is Radiocarbon Dating Important To Archaeology? viewed 11 March 2010.
We hope this sample helped you with your paperwork, if not ask our essay writer for assistance.
Another essay example that you might be interested in: The Neanderthals and Denisovans