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
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
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