Archaeological fieldwork in Romania

In mid-October I had one of those hellish trans-Atlantic journeys that are the stuff of nightmares. I left for the Pittsburgh airport at 230 am, flew to Chicago, spent 9 hours in O’Hare, flew to Dublin, booked it through the terminal during my one hour connection, landed in Budapest at 1000 am the next morning, spent 12 hours at an airport hotel, returned to the airport to catch a shuttle bus at 100 am, and arrived at my final destination 9 hours later. By the end of my trip I felt like a human pinball. It didn’t help that over the course of my solo journey I was tasked with the care and keeping of this behemoth instrument:

travel buddy

So why the crazy travel schedule and hefty equipment? Archaeological fieldwork, of course.

Anca and I mapping between Tombs 1 and 2.

I’m embarking on a new project in the Apuseni mountain region of Romania, bringing together bioarchaeological research on unstudied skeletal collections with the excavation of an Early Bronze Age cemetery. The Early Bronze Age in this part of Romania dates to 2700-2000 BC, and so the new project overlaps with my bioarchaeological research in Spain.

The Apuseni mountains are part of the Western Carpathian range.

The Apuseni mountains are part of the Western Carpathian range.

I journeyed to the field in October in order to (a) meet project collaborator Dr. Horia Ciugudean and get a feel for the Transylvanian archaeological landscape, and (b) work with Colin Quinn, my other collaborator, in order to make a map of the site, which we need in order to apply for an archaeological permit for summer 2017.

The Ramet Monastery

The Ramet Monastery, down in the valley.

Old school barn and haystack down the road from the Ramet Monastery.

Old school barn and haystack down the road from the Ramet Monastery.

The Early Bronze Age cemetery we’re working at is called Râmeț. The site extends along a ridge top just off of the road to the town of Râmeț, identifiable today only as a series of earthen lumps on the surface of the mountain. It has never been excavated before, though portions of some of the tombs have been disturbed as a result of a country trek that also runs along the mountaintop. Because Râmeț is located deep in the mountains, we were only able to head to the field when the weather permitted, and so our hours on site were precious.

On the days when it was sunny, however, the view was absolutely glorious. I spent most of my time looking out over this landscape:

View from the siteI was on total station duty, which means that I was tasked with setting up and levelling a delicate, expensive piece of machinery which is notorious for not wanting to be levelled.


Once the total station was up and running, I would hunker down behind it like a cold and irate gargoyle,

Focusing on the ever patient Anca.

What a fearsome scowl

Witness my fearsome scowl.

as Colin and Anca would stride majestically across the landscape to take topo points.


Stalwart Colin keeping the prism level.

Colin and Horia, as seen through the total station

Colin and Horia, as seen through the total station.

The landscape was beautiful but beset by all kinds of hazards, of the bovine,



Colin grapples with the local landscape

and canine variety.

He lingered, just inches away from the total station legs, wagging his tail...

Fortunately this vicious beast did not knock over the total station.

Colin subdues the vicious beast
He did, however, cause something of a commotion when we realized he was disturbing the pin flags we used to mark our transects.

Me: "Colin, what's the hold-up? Why have you stopped?" Colin: "He's eating the pin flags!"

Me: “Colin, what’s the hold-up? Why have you stopped?”
Colin: “He’s eating the pin flags!”

In the end we spent about five days in the mountains, and mapped in over 2,000 points.

dsc01265Colin has now started to put these together into a topo map in ArcGIS, which we will use to apply for an archaeological permit in the early winter.

Tomb 1Although short, I had a great pilot season, and I’m already looking forward to going back to the Apuseni mountains this summer.

The 2016 crew

The 2016 crew.

Image Credits: Map of Romania found here. Colin Quinn and Anca Dumitru are responsible for at least some of these photos, though I can’t fully remember which ones right now. Thanks are also due to the University of Pittsburgh Center for Comparative Archaeology Research Award for funding my participation in this venture.

This entry was posted in Archaeology, Fieldwork, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Archaeological fieldwork in Romania

  1. Civil engineers use spray paint to avoid any confusion from meddled with flags. I don’t know if you can do that at all your site’s, but it could help in some of .


    • JB says:

      We were mainly working with tall grass and not many permanent landmarks, and we only needed the transect demarcated for the afternoon, so we stuck with the flags. Aside from our enthusiastic dog buddy, we didn’t have a problem.


  2. Pingback: Bone Broke Year in Review 2016 | Bone Broke

  3. Pingback: Osteology Art: Alba Iulia | Bone Broke

  4. Pingback: New Blog: Mortuary Archaeology of the Râmeț Bronze Age Landscape | Bone Broke

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.