Highway to … Hello, Early Bronze Age

Having completed our field season, we have a bit more time on our hands to process all of the wonderful experiences and data we collected in the field. Today I want to recount my visit to a new Early Bronze Age settlement just north of Alba Iulia. The site was found during survey for the construction of the new highway (A10) through Alba. The project archaeologists have been working tirelessly to excavate the large settlement prior to the construction of the new highway. Here is a brief overview of our visit to the site where excavations are ongoing.


Panoramic view of the excavation block at Alba Iulia-Paraul Iovului. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

I toured the site with Horia Ciugudean and Vasile Palaghie – who are running the fieldwork. The site is located near a spring and stream that flows into the Mures River, likely providing year-round access to freshwater. The site is located on a terrace above the Mures River, near its confluence with the Ampoi. A recent article Horia Ciugudean and I published highlights the importance of this area for controlling trade and exchange within the Bronze Age.


Getting a site tour. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

The excavation has revealed a wide range of pits and structures that have ceramics associated with the Livezile and Soimus cultures – which would provide an estimated date of 2700-2400 BC. The site does have some redeposited Cotofeni (Copper Age) ceramics that likely come from a site higher up the slope.


Archaeologists at work at the site, excavating structures and pit complexes. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

The site does not appear to have later occupation materials at this location, but work is ongoing. The lack of later material means that the Early Bronze Age deposits are in surprisingly great shape. Based on this site, we are likely to get a great view of the Early Bronze Age community that lived here.

The site included an interesting pattern of inhumation burials in pits within the settlement.


Previously excavated pit that contained a human burial. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

Much to Jess’s joy, the skeletons are very well preserved.


A photograph of the in-progress excavation of a skeleton in a pit at the site. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

In addition to touring the site, I got a tour of the material culture that was coming out of the site.


Discussing the chronological and cultural affiliations of the ceramics. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

The site also contains a wide range of artifacts, including decorated and undecorated ceramics and animal bone.


Artifacts from the site drying after being washed. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

Jess and Emilie were analyzing the skeletal material that came from this site on this same day, and I used the opportunity to take some samples of animal bone for radiocarbon dating and isotopic analysis that can be compared with the human remains.


Animal bone samples from the settlment. (© MARBAL Project 2017)

We look forward to hearing more about the site as excavations continue over the coming months, and to start learning more about the burials and samples we took for further study!


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