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

... 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 $200 over the combined costs of the individual programs.



By now, everyone has  been caught in the media whirlwind surrounding the subject of the coronavirus (COVID 19). We are monitoring the situation very closely through both the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), WHO (World Health Organization) and ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control). Those institutions are the only competent and informed sources of factual information and subsequent advice for further action in this matter. We will fully abide by their recommendations.


In case the CDC raises the travel health advisory to level 3 or above for our region of interest, we will cancel the osteology, bioarchaeology, and Roman Villa and Settlement Excavation and the associated program fees will be refunded. In this very unlikely event, the GPR intensive workshop will be moved to Ottawa (Canada) and we will proceed with the training during the same dates, adding urban GPR signatures to the program. In this latter case, if you are registered to the Geophysics (GPR) Exploration and Roman Excavation, you will be reimbursed for the Roman Villa Excavation portion of the fees and receive a bonus credit of $495 off the program fees for our 2021 Roman projects, if still interested in exploring the archaeology of the Dacian Provinces.


At the moment, both Hungary and Romania have no travel restrictions or advisory of any kind. I do not anticipate either of them to change in any drastic way, as prophylactic measures have been set in place early and efficiently, following all ECDC and WHO guidelines.


To obtain the correct (and credible) information on the reality of the coronavirus outbreak, check the following sources:


WHO Situation Reports: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/

CDC Situation Report: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

CDC Travel Advisory: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

ECDC Risk Assessment: Daily risk assessment on COVID-19, 7 March 2020

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