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




  • Because of the continuing high demand for our 4-week long combined Geophysics (GPR) Exploration and Roman Field Excavation program and the fact that both existing June and July sessions are full, we have set up an additional third session in August, running from August 1-28, 2021.

  • 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.


​​April 15, 2021: The Promise Of International Travel: April EU Travel Restrictions, Covid-19 Test Requirements, Quarantine By Country

Greece to Lift Self-Isolation Requirement for All EU & Five Non-EU Countries (including the USA).

And: Belgium Health Minister: International Travel Ban Should Be Lifted on April 18:

April 12, 2021: As previously reported, international air travel appears to be safe in terms of Covid-19.


March 24, 2021: The White House plans to lift the entry ban for EU travelers around mid-March, which has also been suggested by Secretary A. Blinken during his latest visit to Brussels. Reciprocity agreements would result in the EU opening its borders to US travelers shortly afterwards. 


March 18, 2021: The US has been removed from the Romanian high risk countries in terms of Covid-19

At the present time, the infection rate in the US is considered a low risk according to Romania's standards. In practical terms, this means that if the infection rate in the US continues to drop (as expected), once Romania lifts its state of alert, US residents can enter Romania without quarantine (although vaccination seems to be the surer - all things considered - way in). Even though the US infection rate has not dropped yet to a point where it is considered safe by EU standards, since Romania is not part of Schengen, it has active borders, therefore has more latitude in implementing EU restrictions.

March 17, 2021: Good News: The EU is moving forward towards opening the borders for the summer to internal and international travel to vaccinated travelers:

March 9, 2021:

Covid-19 Vaccine: For residents in eligible states, you can also book an appointment (based on your own state’s eligibility requirements) through . Kroger has been approved as a site for vaccination distribution in many/most states. It seems it’s easiest to go to that link at midnight and then type quickly to get the appointment.


March 7, 2021:

Individuals who are not currently eligible Covid-19 vaccine can call your local Walmart, CVS, and pharmacies and ask to be placed on their Waste Protocol lists. Once the vaccines come out of frozen storage, they need to be used that day or else they will be thrown away. If more vaccine is available than appointments for eligible patients, distribution locations will call their lists to ensure the vaccine does not go to waste.


March 2, 2021:


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

February 18, 2021:


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

February 16, 2021:


February 2, 2021:



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 ( ) 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 ( ). 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 ( ). 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.

  • Facebook App Icon

© 2001/2011 - 2021 ArchaeoTek - Canada