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Medieval moderns : the peasants of Hungary

Identifier: Film Collection no. 210

Scope and Contents

The film begins with panoramic views of Hungarian farmlands and Magyar peasants hoeing their fields, then focuses on their dwellings, made of wattle-anddaub, with reeds used to make a thatched roof; one such dwelling has been whitewashed by its female owner. The next sequence depicts the process used in making linen cloth from flax. After the flax is crushed to separate the fiber from the woody parts, the fiber is spun onto a spindle, then put through a whorl, a spinning wheel, and finally a large loom on which the cloth is woven. The men engage in a number of crafts such as making brooms, assembling barrels, and throwing pots on a foot-propelled pottery wheel. They also fish with nets and herd various types of livestock, including goats, geese, sheep, horses, long-horned white oxen, and Hungarian curly-haired pigs, all the while smoking long-stemmed pipes. Market day is vividly depicted with vendors selling cloth comforters, clothing, livestock, leather boots, and large loaves of bread. In the center of all this, a town crier disseminates news and gossip to the villagers. The next piece of footage is a visual study of the unique costumes of the shepherds, swineherds, and cowboys of the Hortobagy Plain. These men wear full length sheepskin coats and the regional decorated felt coat, with its sewn sleeves serving as pockets. The wells used for watering the vast herds on the plain are seen, as are the herdsmen sharing bread and soup from a common pot set up near their reed huts. Next, the distinctive costumes worn by the Sunday churchgoers are photographed. The men wear long embroidered aprons over their suit pants, and high derbies embellished with feathers. The women's apparel features long full skirts and embroidered shawls; one worn over the shoulders and bosom, and another covering the head. The babies among the crowd are swaddled in beautiful Sunday pillows. The final portion of the film depicts a wedding ceremony and the accompanying feast. The sequence begins with the arrival of the guests, who bring bread and chickens for the feast, as horses decorated with bread rings transport the dowry of furniture to the groom's home. Following the church ceremony, "csardas," which are lively Hungarian dances, are performed to music provided by gypsies. The musicians play violins and brass instruments, among which is a clarinet-like instrument known as a tarogato.


  • [1924]

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (36 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (36 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 16 mm. print.



John A. Haeseler, filmmaker.

Medieval moderns : the peasants of Hungary, [1924]
Iris Lee
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
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