View from the trenches: Romania (2014)

15 August 2014

Mariana Ribas Albuquerque recording the location of finds with the totalstation

Institute staff and students have recently completed another season of excavation in Tăşnad, Northwest Romania. 

The excavation of an early Neolithic Körös-settlement in Tăşnad, Romania, led by Ulrike Sommer and Ciprian Astalos, is now in its third year. This year's field season ran from 23 June - 1 August 2014. The aim of the excavation is to investigate the settlement structure of early Neolithic settlements in Southeast and Central Europe.

Dig Diary 2014

All finds are recorded three-dimensionally with a totalstation and are also documented by plans and photogrammetry. The dip and strike of each individual find are documented in order to elucidate their depositional history. These detailed methods of excavation and recording are often only used on Palaeolithic sites but in this case they will help the team to understand where the activity areas of Neolithic settlements were located.

In a later stage of the investigation, the project will also attempt to refit pottery sherds and lithic artefacts, which will illustrate the biographies of individual artefacts and the way refuse was treated.

Grace Arnold excavating a concentration of burnt clay, probably derived from a house wall (Photograph Ulrike Sommer)

Finds have consisted of pottery sherds, ground-stone tools and lithic artefacts made from flint, limnic quarzite and obsidian. Animal bones are rare, this may be due to bad preservation. Bucket flotation is used to recover carbonised plant remains, which will help to clarify the economy and the environment of the site. Burned clay is derived from the walls of houses or from ovens. Impressions in the clay indicate wattle-structures forming the walls. Concentrations of burnt clay may indicate the location of individual houses. The team has also uncovered some silicified daub that is the product of very high temperatures, probably caused by a house burning down.

This season a linear feature was uncovered that may indicate the outline of a Neolithic house. This could probably indicate the lower limit of the occupation layer. A similar feature was discovered in the eastern part of the trench in 2013. Read more»

Context 9, a sharply delimited band of light grey clay running through the Northwest-corner of the occupation layer in trench 1 (Photo Ulrike Sommer)

Students also took part in a short rescue excavation of a pit discovered during building works at a neighbouring hotel. This provided them with a comparative experience with the results of the research excavations conducted by UCL. The finds from the pit (pottery and animal bones) were generally larger and better preserved, as they were not exposed to trampling and were presumably rapidly covered with soil after being deposited in the pit.

One of the sherds recovered bore an anthropomorphic plastic application, commonly called an "adorant" in Romania - meaning a person in a gesture of supplication with raised arms. Unfortunately only half of the figure was preserved.

Bad weather during the season enabled a lot of work to be undertaken labelling and recording finds as well as sorting the archaeobotanical samples.

Other 'Views from the trenches'

Multi-platform core of Carpathian obsidian (Photograph Maxime de Sadeleer)Students labelling finds on a rainy day (Photograph Ulrike Sommer)Starcevo-Körös sherd with plastic application from the rescue excavation at Hotel Alystra, Tăşnad (Photograph Maxime de Sadeleer)