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

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