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The Earliest Avar-Age Stirrups, Or The "Stirrup Controversy" Revisited

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Chapter Summary

At the center of the "stirrup controversy" was the question of whether technological innovation is a cause or an effect. In various articles, Bernard Bachrach has made it clear that although the stirrup became known in (western) Europe by A.D. 700, it had no military impact for another couple of centuries or more. Bachrach's conclusion was that the Avars may have known the device, but had no real use for it, since their combat techniques were mainly based on archery. This chapter corrects Bachrach's chronology and shows that, far from being isolated, the number of stirrup finds that could be dated before 650 is quite significant. The examination of the archaeological record of Early Avar-age burial assemblages has lent strong empirical support for the view that stirrups were symbolically associated to a class of "professional" warriors, who were often accompanied in death by their warhorses.

Keywords: Bernard Bachrach; early Avar-age burial assemblages; stirrup controversy



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