Lost Churches Project - Medieval Funeray Excavation
Living and Dying on the Edge of Europe

          As Europe redefines itself in the wake of the Ottoman invasion, the Carpathian frontier still holds fast against the Eastern invaders. Although Transylvanian suzerainty has passed from the Hungarian Kingdom, to the Ottomans, to the Habsburgs from the 15-17th century, its territory has never been invaded by the Turkish troops. However, the local populations lived under constant social, political, economic and religious stress. Since the Neolithic, Transylvania has been at the crossroads of European identity. During the late Middle Ages, this region goes not only through major political changes, but also through a spirituality crisis, under the pressure of Islam from the East and Protestantism from the West.

          During the 18th century, several churches around Odorheiu Secuiesc have been abandoned. What is even more interesting is that those churches were removed from collective memory as well. Not only the written records pertaining to these churches were lost, but the local communities forgot about their existence.

          Our excavation aims at retrieving the memory of these churches and to try to elucidate the social, political and religious context that created such an environment that would extract a church from local collective memory.

 

          The Lost Churches Project started in 2013, with the excavation of two of these churches and associated cemeteries: Bradesti and Lueta.  Concurrently, our osteology team has uncovered a very strange phenomenon within another church, at Teleac: 69 out of 70 burials were juveniles, with 49 preterm or fetal age, all of which dated to the 17th century.

           In 2014, we have started exploring the environment that created this very unique skeletal assemblage, with the excavation of Teleac' sister church in Valeni, with outstanding results We have discovered the building phases of the ecclesiastic buildings and their relationship to the deceased. Two of theses phases, an early medieval and a Gothic one have been uncovered, but the stratigraphy indicates that there is an even earlier church that we have been identified. The most surprising result of our 2014 campaign is the presence of what appears to be a migration period, pre-Christian tumulus under the church, as indicated by the burial of a horse associated with several individuals buried in fetal position. These results could also shed light on the Christianizing processes in the region as well as the relation between the various churches and their subsidiaries. Through a more thorough study of the cemeteries and their occupants, we will also explore the different processes that led to the penetration of Protestantism in the region and then its subsequent return to Catholicism. The further study of the human remains in our osteology laboratory will provide a more detailed view of the human aspects of these transitions.

          Our excavation will deploy a bioarchaeological field approach. Within this context, we will concentrate our work on the individuals themselves and their immediate surroundings (i.e. clothing implements, jewelry, coffin and other primary funerary depositions. during one session of the excavation, we expect each participant to fully excavate a minimum of 2 individuals. Primary processing of the excavated remains, together with various lectures will provide our participants with the necessary training in human anatomy and morphology to be able to fully take advantage of the field experience.

          To further expand their skills, several other projects are available to all our participants  in osteology and bioarchaeology, as intensive laboratory research programs, respectively:

Adult Osteology Research Workshop

Juvenile Osteology Research Workshop

LOGISTICS

 

Location: Valeni, Hatghita County, Transylvania, Romania

 

Dates:

Session 1 : June 6- July 3, 2021

Session 2 : July 4-July 31, 2021

 

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 Szekler cuisine; we can accommodate vegetarian diets

 

FIELD PROGRAM COST

(non-credit):

Session 1 : US$ 2495 (4 weeks)

Session 2: US$ 2495 (4 weeks)

Single Room Supplement: US$400 (per 4 week session - optional)

Fees includes: registration and field fees, lectures, field and laboratory gear, housing and meals as described above. Academic credits/tuition not included in the above cost.

Academic Credit (optional): 3 or 6 undergraduate (graduate - if applicable) credits can be earned through University of South Florida - additional USF tuition. See USF Program Brochure for more information. USF procedures and deadlines apply. Contact Dr. Jonathan Bethard at USF for more details.

WHAT'S UP?
NEWS

NEW PROJECTS

 

  • 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.

2021

​​THE US WILL HAVE ENOUGH VACCINE FOR EVERY ADULT BY THE END OF MAY:

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

https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/02/politics/biden-merck-johnson--johnson-vaccine/index.html

HOW DO I SIGN UP FOR A COVID-19 VACCINE IN THE US:

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

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/02/18/967448680/how-to-sign-up-for-a-covid-19-vaccine-in-your-state?utm_source=pocket-newtab

GREAT NEWS: ROMANIA IS IN THE PROCESS OF OPENING ITS BORDERS TO VACCINATED TRAVELERS:

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/countries-open-to-vaccinated-travelers/index.html?fbclid=IwAR3OvHxxL4JQxNPMl5GkLMwBsQ0EW5hPWrSxElLLCp_Nu4DYk2MYdenbKEg

SUMMER 2021: DOES IT STILL HAPPEN? SHORT ANSWER: YES!

OUR PROJECTS ARE STILL UP AND RUNNING

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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