Castrum Cumidava: Archaeology of the Roman Frontier
Field Survey Methods for Settlement Identification
Implementation of Phase 1 Archaeological 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.

            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.





          In 2016, we will address new research questions aimed at expanding our knowledge of the activities and landscape beyond the Roman fortification of Cumidava. Researchers know little regarding the interaction between Roman auxiliary and the inhabitants of the area. Excavations inside of the Roman castrum have provided a wealth of indigenous pottery. Furthermore, the location of the fortification at the uppermost position of the Bran Pass makes it both a strategic position for the Roman army and a crossroads promoting trade and frontier cultural exchange.

          Our geochemical soil survey conducted during our 2010-2011 seasons have yielded interesting results. However, the constant alluvial remodeling of the area, combined with the intensive agricultural use for the last century have rendered the results of our phosphate survey diffuse. One of our main goals for the 2016 season is to delineate the site boundaries for the Roman castrum of Cumidava and locate potential sites within the immediate vicinity through archaeological survey methods, while asking the following research questions:


1. What is the physical extent of the Roman castrum of Cumidava?

2. Is there evidence of a civilian settlement(s) or activities within the vicinity of the fortification?

3. What other sites supported or inhibited operations at Castrum Cumidava?

4. How consistent is the level of disturbance by modern plowing and other agricultural activities to and near Cumidava?

5. Can we create a correlated profile of the survey area? Is there evidence of geological change during the Iron Age? During Roman occupation? Is there evidence of flooding, burning, or other disaster?


          The survey will consist of Phase 1 Shovel Test Pit survey (STP). STP surveys are a rapid, invasive method of archaeological survey often employed by archaeologists in North America. We will conduct Phase I testing on approximately 6.5 square kilometers surrounding the Roman castrum. Participants will refine survey skills and techniques. Each STP will be approximately 0.5 x 0.5 meters-extending to a depth of 1 meter- and participants will dig a test pit at set 30-meter intervals. Students will operate in pairs and move along an assigned transect, or line of travel, each day. Additionally, participants will receive daily safety guidelines and printed maps numbering each assigned transect and the STPs for the day. Students are responsible for documenting stratigraphy, depths, and features in a field notebook, as well as, maintaining daily artifact collections.

          Applicants need no prior archaeological field or lab experience. However, survey work is labor intensive. Applicants must be able to lift a minimum of 40 pounds and be in good physical condition. Participants will be required to walk several kilometers a day and carry necessary provisions, equipment (shovel and hand screen), documentation, and artifact bags. They will conduct artifact analysis and catalog entry for the finds off-site at the field lab. While a trowel is not necessary for Phase I surveys, participants are encouraged to bring a square or pointed trowel, backpack, and hydration system.   


          Additionally, the following lectures and hands-on training will be offered:


  • Basic Romanian Words and Phrases

  • Introduction and Walking Tour of Rasnov and Brasov

  • History of Rome and Dacia

  • Archaeological Methodology

  • Resource Management

  • Archaeology Basic Land Navigation and Map Reading

  • UAS/UAV Applications

  • Satellite and Aerial Imagery Analysis

  • Invasive versus Non-invasive Archaeological Techniques

  • Introduction to Roman Provincial Material Culture

  • Ceramic Analysis

  • Military Landscape Analysis





Location: Rasnov-Cumidava Castrum, Brasov County, Transylvania, Romania


Dates: June 5 - July 2, 2016


Housing: housed in our field house, 2-3 participants per room


Cost: US$685 (4 weeks mandatory) - team size: 6-8 people maximum


Fee includes: registration and field fees, lectures, field and 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.



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:

CDC Situation Report:

CDC Travel Advisory:

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

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