A Soldier's Life on the Edge of Europe
Castrum Cumidava: Home of the VI Cohors Cumidavensis Archaeology of the Roman Frontier
Roman Military Excavation and Survey

          The Transylvanian Limes (Limes Alutanus) was the richest, hard fought and unstable European frontier of the Roman Empire. The conquest of Dacia has been a long and arduous process. After the humiliating peace forced on Domitian in 88AD and the destruction of several legions, Trajan managed to conquer Transylvania after two hard fought wars in 102 and 106AD. Dacian resources has allowed the Roman Empire to keep its economy afloat for another two centuries.

          Our project seeks to explore the human dimension of the military presence on the imperial frontier, assessing the military aspects of Roman colonization from various anthropological perspectives. We are first and foremost interested in the various vectors of creolization resulting from the dynamic cultural, social, economic, religious, political and military interaction between the “representatives” of the Empire and the autochthonous Dacians. Our multiscalar and multidirectional approaches aim at exploring the various elements that constituted the daily lives and practices of the soldiers and how they responded to the imperatives and pressures generated by the liminal environments emerging on the imperial frontier.

          The VI Cohors Cumidavensis, stationed in Castrum Cumidava on the limes, was likely formed in Noricum, from German Romanized conquered populations. Through the exploration of their barracks, we will focus on the evolution of their personal and military practices as they dynamically integrate their Germanic origins, Roman imperatives and Dacian local realities. The excavation takes us from the early Dacian Wars wooden castrum to the stone fort abandoned during the Aurelian Retreat of 271AD.

          The project will introduce our participants to a multidisciplinary integrative approach, combining excavation, remote sensing, and geophysical, geochemical and field survey. They will learn to operate a ground penetrating radar, conduct phosphate surveys and perform geospatial analyses, such as military terrain analysis and/or using various vegetation indices to locate other structures as well as the civilian settlement(s) associated with the castrum.

            Castrum Cumidava is situated half way between the amazing medieval city of Brasov and Bram Stocker’s Dracula’s Bran Castle, at the foot of the imposing Bucegi Mountains, near the small city of Rasnov with its medieval fortress overlooking the Barsa Valley. It is one of the best places to experience Transylvania and its incredibly rich archaeology, history and natural beauty.






          The region of Transylvania (Romania) has been one of the most important frontiers of Old Europe. Its huge and easily accessible salt deposits made it unavoidable since domestication took place in the early Neolithic. Large deposits of copper, tin, iron, silver and gold transformed this region into political, economic, cultural and, of course, military focal point from the rise of the Metal Ages forward. Its prehistory saw the rise of great civilizations such as the Ariusd-Cucuteni Culture during the Eneolithic and the mighty Dacians during the second Iron Age. The latter played an important role in the evolution of the Roman Republic and Empire, as attested by the pervasive Dacian imagery present throughout the Empire after the Dacian Wars.

          Our project, formerly known as Cumidava Archaeological Research Project (CARP), is an international endeavor seeking to better understand what is occurring in Dacia after the Roman conquest. By focusing on small scale interactions between Roman legions and Dacian civilians, we seek to understand what it actually meant to the average person to now be subjected to Roman rule.

          Castrum Cumidava was established during the Daco-Roman wars (102-106 A.D.), and was utilized for roughly 150 years by the Romans. This duration, along with evidence of several building episodes, indicates that the fort was an important part of the Roman limes in present day Transylvania. Even though the inside of the fort has been explored for many years, only recently has research begun on what was occurring just outside of the fort’s walls. This work began in 2010, by conducting an intensive survey of the area to locate the civilian settlement(s) that would have supported the fort. As a result of that survey, a promising location has been found, as well as some additional areas that also seem to be tied to the fort, but in what capacity is still unclear. 2011 - 2013 seasons were devoted to intra muros excavation, digging through the second phase of the barracks. Last summer, we uncovered the Roman road that transected the fort, and found many assorted artifacts, from Roman coins to what may turn out to be a cursed tablet, which was found directly under the road.

          Following the discoveries from the barracks’ area of Castrum Cumidava from the 2011-2015 seasons, we will be looking at how soldiers would have used the space in terms of short, medium and long term practices, and how the area shifted in use in the fort’s later stages. Our 2015 ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey has revealed a very complex a dynamic internal castrum structure. During our 2016 campaign, we will continue investigating the interaction between the foreign soldiers and the local Dacian populations, trying to establish vectors of creolization. We will conduct several remote sensing, geospatial and military terrain analyses to better understand the integration of the castrum in the landscape. The mix of established site along with exploratory work will offer a great deal of opportunity to experience different styles of archaeology, as well as dealing with research of forward thinking ideas about the past.




Location: Rasnov-Cumidava Castrum, Brasov County, Transylvania, Romania


Dates: TBD


Housing: housed in a beautifully renovated hotel, 2-3 participants per room, with private bathrooms


Meals: breakfast and dinner is served Mon-Fri at the hotel; traditional Romanian


Cost: US$1895 ($485 per week for short stays - 2 weeks minimum)


Fee includes: registration and field fees, lectures, field and laboratory gear, housing and meals as described above

... about travel and safety, room and board, sightseeing




  • The outstanding success of our 2018 and 2019 GPR projects, the Applied Field Geophysics Workshop - GPR Applications, prompted us to buy a second GPR unit with a different central frequency and a different configuration. As a result, our participants will have the unique opportunity to get fully proficient on a 250MHz GPR system, in a cart configuration, as well as 500MHz system, in a rough terrain configuration.

  • Furthermore, participants who are committed to expand their field skill set can register to our new Geophysics Exploration and Field Excavation program. It is a 4 week program, combining the GPR Applications Workshop (5 days) and  Roman Villa Excavation (3 weeks). Participants save $400 over the combined costs of the individual programs.



Keep a close watch of your state vaccine registration methodology and get an appointment as soon as you have access.



Some good and potentially useful advice to get the vaccine in time to travel:






As we are approaching the summer, it appears that there is some light at the end of the... trowel!!!


The new recommendations from the European Council to lift international travel restrictions are official (https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/02/02/covid-19-council-updates-recommendation-on-travel-restrictions-from-third-countries-into-the-eu/ ) and, if the trend continues, both Canada and the US will meet those standards by the end of May (maybe sooner as the vaccination campaign progresses).


Furthermore, Dr. Fauci has indicated that all Americans who want the Covid-19 vaccine will have access to it by April (https://people.com/health/dr-anthony-fauci-coronavirus-vaccine-april-open-season-logistics-several-more-months/ ). If that is the case, both June and July participants could get vaccinated in time for the summer sessions. I strongly recommend you find out what is the procedure in your state and place yourself on the vaccine list as soon as possible.


Although Canada is significantly behind in the vaccination game, it will pick up the pace within the next month or so. It looks like it might be available for participants for the June session. However, it is almost certain participants to the July session will have access to it.


At the present time, a negative PCR test taken 72-48h (depending on destination) is required to board any international flight, it also appears more and more that Covid-19 vaccination will become a condition for unrestricted international travel (https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-55718553 ). At least one airline has made vaccination mandatory to access their planes - I suspect more will follow. Although it seems that coming from a country with a very low infection rate and having a negative PCR test might be enough for the EU in general, there would be additional restrictions on arrival for specific destinations for individuals who are not vaccinated.

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