Hungarian ancestors in Italy? The Hungarian excavations at Rionero (1861)

This was the first and for a long time only Hungarian archaeological excavation in the Mediterranean. The excavator was Izidor Máttyus (1836–1870), an artillery officer in the Hungarian Legion that fought for the unification of Italy. He put his soldiers to digging for “Pelasgian” objects, as he believed the Pelasgians to be the indigenous people of Italy and the ancestors of the Hungarians.

Rionero lies in mainland Lucania in the Apennines. During their time there, the Hungarian gunners probably chanced on a cache of votive objects from a Lucanian sanctuary. The finds originated from Athens (1), Apulia (2–4), Paestum (5–6) and other regions of south and central Italy. Greek and Italic forms are equally present among the vases, the terracotta statuettes are Italic versions of Greek types (7–10). The most beautiful example for the connectivity of cultures is provided by the Apulian red-figure jug (2), whose bottom bears a votive inscription written in Greek and consisting of partly Greek and partly Italic elements, with words that only occur in this inscription. The objects outline the long history of this modest sanctuary. The majority of the finds were made between 370 and 250 BC, when the region was under Lucanian rule, the latest (11) dates after 88 BC, when Italy became united under Roman rule.

The 27 objects from Rionero were all found together, which makes them unique among works of art in the Collection of Antiquities.