Intensive Osteology Research Workshop
Medieval Crisis Populations - Field Osteology

          Transylvania, Romania, has been in a perpetual state of religious and political upheaval for centuries as outsiders have tried to force their identities on the people of the area. Despite this, the people of the area have a culture, which is deeply rooted into their historic landscape. The on-going excavation of a medieval church from the village of Patakfalva (Valeni) in Transylvania, Romania and the cemetery associated with it, have resulted in the excavation of over 200 individuals to date. Through time, the church moved from servicing the three- village area to the immediate area of Patakfalva. The unexpected discovery of a pre-Christian cemetery underneath the church has extended the use of the funerary landscape back to late Migration Period.

          This is an intensive osteology course aimed to prepare students for field osteology, which is challenging in that one must be able to correctly identify, side, and age skeletal elements when minimal osseous material is visible, to properly plan the excavation of the burial. Goals of this three-week intensive workshop include: identification of skeletal fragments (human and nonhuman); estimation of general age of the bones and whether one should expect epiphyses or other additional ossification centers during excavation; identification of element side; and evaluation of pathological and taphonomic modification to bone.


          The high number of well-preserved burials and time depth of the cemetery allows for multiple research questions to be addressed during the course of the project:


1. How have cemetery demographics changed through time and how does this correlate with changing religious and political influences in the area?

2. How have indicators of health changed over time and how do they correlate with changing religious and political influences in the area?

3. How has biological kinship use of the cemetery changed over time? Can we biologically detect a transition from three villages using the cemetery to a single village? Also, can we identify family groups within the cemetery?


          Course material will be presented in lectures, discussions, and hands-on exercises at the Haaz Rezso Museum. The workshop will run from approximately 8h00 to 18h00 Monday to Friday. Typically, mornings will be reserved for lecture and hands-on instruction while afternoons will be dedicated to study time and data collection. Instruction of adult and juvenile remains will occur concurrently. This course is an intense but general course meant to prepare students for successful and efficient field osteological identification and examination.

          Students and participants are strongly encouraged to expand their skills and experience in the field, by applying for a 3 week (June 12 - July 2, 2016) session of the Medieval Cemetery Funerary Excavation or Deviant Mass Grave Excavation immediately following the Intensive Osteology Session.



Location: Odorheiu Secuiesc, Hatghita County, Transylvania, Romania


Dates: May 22 - June 11, 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


Cost: US$ 1685 (3 weeks mandatory)


Fee includes: registration and laboratory fees, museum clearence, lectures, laboratory gear, housing 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 $200 over the combined costs of the individual programs.



The latest update from our Romanian scientific partners indicates that field and museum work will resume, in Romania, by June 1. However, due to the severe mismanagement of the health crisis in the US, the travel restrictions a lot of other countries (including Romania) have set in place in regards to US citizens and/or people traveling from the US will not be lifted at the end of the Romanian state of emergency, on May 15. This aspect of the problem should be resolved by early to mid-June.

As a result, considering that most of the students and staff are coming from the US, the first session (June 7 - July 4, 2020) of our programs is not sustainable any longer, therefore, we are forced to cancel it. The second session (July 5 - August 1, 2020) is still active and we are working on the premise that we will be in the field and lab on July 5 to run the second session as planned. In this context, we will run the session with a much smaller crew, so we can enforce additional prophylactic measures (including housing, meals, work) effectively.

Please keep in mind that the Budapest arrival (and pick up for the osteology and bioarchaeology participants) is no longer an option, due to the unstable political situation in Hungary. The osteology and bioarchaeology pick up has been moved to Cluj Napoca. The GPR/Roman Villa Excavation pick up remains in Simeria, with a potential pick up option in Sibiu.

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