Twenty years ago things seemed to be quite clear: several different groups of Slavs had invaded East Central Europe at some point during the sixth century, and all archaeologically identifiable, cultural characteristics pointed to a Slavic 'homeland' in Eastern Europe. More recent research, however, has shown this to be a rather simplistic view of the past. This paper is intended as an overview of the current archaeological research on the early Middle Ages that is responsible for the radical change of view of the last decade or so. Dendrochronology, new approaches, and the critical assessment of the historiography of the problem contribute now to a different understanding. The material culture - pottery, hillforts, settlement features, burials - can now be explained in terms of the contemporary situation in East Central Europe, i. e., the consolidation of settlement patterns, economic structures, and society. Exactly what that means for the debate about the 'origins' of the western Slavs remains a matter of further research and discussion.