Life by the Imperial Roads: Identity and Wealth on the Roman Frontier
Roman Villa and Settlement Excavation and Survey

          The Roman conquest of Dacia, the last Imperial expansion in Europe, began in 87AD with the relatively disastrous campaigns led by Domitian and ended with Trajan’s Dacian Wars of 101/2 and 106AD. The plethora of wealth and resources the Roman Empire harnessed in Dacia (especially in Transylvania) contributed significantly to the “solvability” of the imperial economy until the Aurelian Retreat of 270AD, the funding of the construction of Trajan’s Forum in Rome being a very concrete illustration of the potential of the new province.

 

          The mechanisms of Roman occupation of Dacia are very complex and not well understood. The Dacian aristocracy and upper classes were in continuous contact with the Roman world well prior to the final fall of the Dacian Kingdoms. These interactions took many forms, ranging from raids and limited warfare, to intensive and extensive trade, to use of Roman techniques, technologies and craftsmen.

 

          With the defeat and “suicide” of the last Dacian King, Decebalus, in 106, the structures of the local social system collapsed in parts or in whole. The new Roman presence generated a dynamic and continuous process of creolization in the new province, redefining the concepts and practices of identity, wealth and class representation along Roman traditions, in theory.

 

          However, the realities in the field are quite more subtle. First of all, the local population was still present, controlling if not the resources proper, the various technical aspects of harvesting them. Second, the new Roman population was a very diverse aggregate of ethnic groups from across the Empire, the heavy Syrian presence in Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana and the many auxiliary garrisons along the various Transylvanian limes illustrating emphatically this aspect. Third, the Dacian Province presented de facto a frontier environment, constantly under pressure from foreign incursions from Germanic tribes from the north and west and the free Dacians and the Sarmatians/Scythian riders from the east.

 

          This liminal environment generated very dynamic vectors of creolization and associated practices of identity construction. The Roman “civilizing” social constructs, based on an urbanized way of life implementing processes of alienation through technical and technological dependencies, was constantly threatened by external and internal pressures. The very rapid process of urbanization of the Dacian Provinces forced a lot of dynamic negotiation and practical creolization in the definition, construction and display of social identity and status.

 

          This particular excavation will attempt to address these aspects of identity perception, presentation and representation. Our site is situated half way between Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana and Apulum, the two most important cities of the Dacian Provinces, very close to the largest gold deposits in Europe in the Apuseni Mountains, and on the main Imperial road in Dacia. Our ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey from 2015 and 2016 has revealed a rural villa of “palatial” size, unique in the Dacian Provinces, covering ca. 1.2ha of built space. Our test excavations have unearthed a rich environment, with 2 story buildings, painted walls, potential colonnades, several buildings outside the villa complex itself and a plethora of artifacts. We have started in 2014 the systematic excavation of the gate complex as well as surveying the region around the villa itself, and in 2016 the intensive excavation of the villa’s main building, with spectacular results. In 2020, we will continue both vectors of research and expand our exploration of the villa's internal arrangements.

 

          Combined with a series of lectures covering Daco-Roman history and archaeology, material culture analysis, geophysical and geochemical survey techniques, and associated hands-on laboratory and field training, this extraordinary environment and its associated monuments, with extraordinary surrounding natural landscapes and beautiful Transylvanian churches and castles, guarantees all students and volunteers with an incredible archaeological and cultural experience.

 

          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 per GPR sustem for each 5-day intensive workshop. Participants can combine the GPR Applications Workshop and our Roman Excavation, see our Geophysical Exploration and Roman Field Excavation program, to take advantage of lower fees and a more complete archaeological and survey training.

LOGISTICS

 

Location: Rapoltu Mare, Hunedoara County, Transylvania, Romania

 

Dates: June 7 - August 1, 2020

  • Session 1: June 7 - July 4, 2020

  • Session 2:  July 4 - August 1, 2020

 

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$ 1695 per session (4 weeks mandatory)

 

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

WHAT'S UP?
LAST EVENT

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 $200 over the combined costs of the individual programs.

2020

CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 ADVISORY UPDATE

The latest update from our Romanian scientific partners indicates that field and museum work will resume, in Romania, by June 1. However, due to the severe mismanagement of the health crisis in the US, the travel restrictions a lot of other countries (including Romania) have set in place in regards to US citizens and/or people traveling from the US will not be lifted at the end of the Romanian state of emergency, on May 15. This aspect of the problem should be resolved by early to mid-June.

As a result, considering that most of the students and staff are coming from the US, the first session (June 7 - July 4, 2020) of our programs is not sustainable any longer, therefore, we are forced to cancel it. The second session (July 5 - August 1, 2020) is still active and we are working on the premise that we will be in the field and lab on July 5 to run the second session as planned. In this context, we will run the session with a much smaller crew, so we can enforce additional prophylactic measures (including housing, meals, work) effectively.

Please keep in mind that the Budapest arrival (and pick up for the osteology and bioarchaeology participants) is no longer an option, due to the unstable political situation in Hungary. The osteology and bioarchaeology pick up has been moved to Cluj Napoca. The GPR/Roman Villa Excavation pick up remains in Simeria, with a potential pick up option in Sibiu.

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