Life by Imperial Roads
Roman Provincial Settlement Excavation and Survey

          Situated between the richest gold deposits in Europe, the Dacian Kingdom’s political and religious capital, and Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana, southwestern Transylvania was a highly complex and integrated military, political, and economic region. During the Roman colonial occupation, 102-271AD, our research area around Simeria and Rapolt shows a very dynamic and intensive synthesis of Roman provincial life, where a multitude of processes of colonization and creolization take place side by side. Bordering to the south the Gold Mountains with its extraordinarily well preserved Roman mining town of Alburnus Maior (Rosia Montana), the importance of this area is further enhanced by the immediate proximity of the most navigable waterway in Transylvania, the Mures River, and one of the imperial roads from Sarmizegetusa, administrative capital of the Dacian Provinces, to Apulum (Alba Iulia), capital of Dacia Apulensis Province.

          As such, the region was intensely populated by a great variety of settlements, ranging from small towns (municipia) to villages (vici), to small river harbors and road way stations (manisones and cauponae). Those settlements were usually specialized. For example, our 2012 exploration of the rather large and elaborate vicus a few kilometers up the Mures River from our current project area has revealed a “proto-industrial” ceramic center, with at least three large ceramic manufacturing structures and four smaller ones.

          Another feature that contributed to the variety of Roman provincial life in the region is the multitude of mineral and thermal springs in the area. As a result, the Roman landscape has seen an explosion of baths, such as those at Aquae (Calan) and Germisara (Geoagiu Bai), and of villae rusticae.

          Our project seeks to explore and understand the integration of all these structural provincial elements along the main Roman axes of communication and transport. The area of interest is situated between the modern town of Simeria and the Rapoltu Mare commune. Its value to our “provincial road side” integration study is the immediate proximity of the imperial road and the Mures River, the extremely important gold deposits of the Carpathian Gold Moutains, and the political and military centers of Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana and Apulum. Prior to the Roman conquest of 102AD, it was also the most densely populated region of the Dacian Kingdoms.

          In 2013-2014, we explored a series of Roman structures identified during our 2012-2013 survey, by the imperial road. Our excavations have revealed a well preserved Roman villa, identified two stone quarries and mapped several ancient field configurations. In 2015, we will continue to investigate the importance and impact of the proximity of the main axis of movement, communication and commerce on the Roman provincial rural life, and its evolution through time. We will focus the excavation on the Roman villa rustica and its outbuildings, while continuing our topographic and soil geochemistry survey. This extraordinary environment and its associated monuments, settlements and material culture, combined with spectacular surrounding natural landscapes and beautiful Transylvanian churches and castles, guarantees all students and volunteers with an incredible archaeological and cultural experience.

          During our 2015-2017 campaign, we made a few amazing discoveries. The structures we were excavated turned out to be the main gate complex, a two stories building composed of fresco decorated structures, three types of pavement, columns, a reception hall, double gates and a covered entrance possibly protected by two forward structures. A full GPR survey of the villa revealed a palace size structure, the largest and richest villa rustica ever found in Transylvania.

          In 2018, we will continue the excavation of the villa gate complex while expanding our survey area further along the Roman main road, conducting both geochemical soil survey (qualitative phosphate analysis) and shovel test pit survey (STP).

          We strongly encourage our participants to take advantage of our ground penetrating radar (GPR) field course - Applied Field Geophysics Workshop - to acquire useful and highly marketable technical survey skills. Our GPR teams are very small – maximum 3 participants for each 6-day intensive workshop.



Location: Rapoltu Mare, Hunedoara County, Transylvania, Romania


Dates: June 10 - August 11, 2018

  • Session 1: FULL

  • Session 2:  July 1 - July 21, 2018

  • Session 3: July 22 - August 11, 2018


Housing: guests of Romanian families, 2-3 participants per room, semi private bathrooms available in each house.


Meals: breakfast and dinner is served Mon-Fri; traditional country cuisine; we can accommodate vegetarian diets


Cost: US$1295 per each 3-week session

Fee includes: registration and field fees, lectures, field and laboratory gear, housing and meals 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.

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