Location: Sanpaul, Harghita County, Transylvania, Romania


Excavation Dates:

Session 1 : May 22 - June 11, 2016

Session 2 : June 12 - July 2, 2016


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 and Sekler cuisine; we can accomodate vegetarian diets



Session 1 : US$ 1585 (3 weeks)

Session 2 : US$ 1585 (3 weeks)


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

          During the late Middle Ages, Transylvania has lived through many fundamental changes, from the European defeat at the Battle of Mohacs resulting in the collapse of the Kingdom of Hungry and the Ottoman invasion all the way to Vienna, to the spiritual struggles triggered by the Reformation, followed by the Counter-Reformation, while separated from the rest of Europe by the Muslim armies. The ensuing crisis was not only political but also social, cultural and religious, resulting in normative behavioral vacuums when confronted to various catastrophic events, such as famine, plague, military or civil strife, epidemics, etc.


          In this context, deviant practices are implemented in an effort to bypass the immediate crises and establish normalcy. As a result, unique anthropological sites are created. Our funerary site near Sanpaul is an exemple of this phenomenon. Whoever is buried there, is separated from the community and from the church. Either it is a shunned segment of their social construct, or it is a place where they buried individuals that displayed certain not predetermined physical, social, religious stigmata, or they are the victims of an epidemic. As such, our excavation aims at addressing questions of pathology within the context of catastrophic implementation (and evolution) of rural prophylactic practices and superstitions.


          The targeted site for excavation is likely that of an epidemic cemetery. Epidemic cemeteries contain the bodies of those who have succumbed to a fast moving and devastating disease. As can be seen in the plague pits in various European cities, individuals who die during epidemic disease may be buried outside the “normal” burial program for a community. Our site is a relatively large funerary mound, containing an estimated 150 individuals buried in unconsecrated ground. It consists of a single monument (a funerary mound) in which the deceased have been buried, by our estimation, more or less synchronously - i.e. within a very short time frame - in individual graves. It is a mass grave in the sense that it has been generated by a single event in time and space. The site is very unique in Transylvania. This event in question incurred a relatively high and fast mortality and a need to "ostracize" the dead for "moral"/religious and/or physical/physiological prophylactic reasons.


          During excavations, students will be instructed on proper field methodology and ethical behavior. Students will be expected to work together in groups, exposing skeletons. They will then record the skeleton’s context, do an in-situ analysis, and respectfully pull the remains for thorough lab analysis (which will occur during the lab portion of the workshop (the final three weeks). These sets of remains will form the basis for lab-based projects revolving around health and disease patterns as well as demographically centered investigations.


          Several other projects are available to all our participants to enhance and expand their skills in osteology, bioarchaeology and field archaeology, respectively:

  • Applied Geophysical Survey Workshop

  • Intensive Human Osteology Research Workshop

  • Adult Osteology Research Workshop

  • Juvenile Osteology Research Workshop

  • Pathology Osteology Research Workshop

Deviant Mass Grave
Medieval Funeray Excavation

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