My Introduction to Romanian Food

A more area-based post this time, featuring the best thing in the world next to anthropology: food!

While here, I’ve had the opportunity to work on the MARBAL Project and also eat a lot. One of our nights was spent eating burek, a stuffed filo dough dish:

Burke brânză (with salty sheep’s cheese), burek carne (with ground meat), and burek cu spanac (with spinach)

We all shared a beef burek, a cheese one, and a spinach and cheese burek. They were all good! I think we agreed the cheese one was the best though, can’t go wrong with cheese.

Food number two that I tried was langos. Langos, fried dough topped with sour cream and sheep cheese, quickly became a huge favorite of mine. I had it three times and regret nothing.

Langos cu smântână si brânză (fried dough with sour cream and cheese)

The final night we were there, Jess, Colin, and I had kürtőskalács. Kürtőskalács is spit-cake that is made from yeast dough coated with sugar and butter before being cooked. It is sold at a stand in the center of the Cetatea Alba Carolina, which is normally easy to find because of the groups of excited children clustering around it!

Kürtőskalács, a sweet yeasted dough that is roasted on a spit.

I got a really cool picture of it cooking! Once it’s cooked it can be coated with various toppings. We had ours with cinnamon. 

Roasting the kürtőskalács

Later on I had a stew called pomona porcului that made my night. It had sausage and cubes of pork with polenta in the center. The polenta was great! We had seasoned mushrooms to share which were some of the best mushrooms I’ve ever had.

Pomona Porcului – Pork and polenta stew

It was the perfect end to the field season and helped me get through the overnight train to Budapest!

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Baby Teeth in Bioarchaeology

Have you ever stared at a young person’s teeth to estimate how old they are? Well you should!

Deciduous dentition from Early Bronze Age archaeological site in Romania (© MARBAL Project 2017).

Teeth are important for determining ages of individuals, especially when there is more than one individual in a burial. We’re currently working on a commingled grave which contains adults and sub-adults which has given me some exposure to deciduous and developing teeth. Deciduous, or baby teeth, are temporary teeth that are replaced by permanent teeth as an individual ages. The presence of these teeth in a burial allows for a precise age estimate, since tooth development occurs at specific ages. In this case, some teeth were in the process of erupting. These teeth can be seen still in the crypt, or hollow areas of the jaw where the teeth develop before eventually erupting.

Emilie analyzing deciduous dentition (© MARBAL @2017).

Permanent teeth are different from deciduous teeth in that once they erupt, they are present for the remainder of an individuals life unless removed (such as in cases of infection or injury). The roots of permanent teeth are thicker and more uniform in shape than their baby precursors. The crowns on baby teeth are also more rounded and bulbous than the defined crowns of permanent teeth. The differences between types of teeth are particularly important in commingled burials. There are several questions to ask: “Are there children in this grave? Only children, or children and adults? What are the specific ages of the individuals? How many children and adults if both are present?” Only one way to find out the answers to these questions!

Deciduous (baby) teeth, from Early Bronze Age archaeological site (© MARBAL 2017).

Roses in Romania

Alba Iulia is a beautiful city! After traveling for two and a half days we arrived in Romania, greeted by Dr. Ciugudean and many blooming roses.

Roses in the Alaba Iulia Cetate

After arriving, the bioarchaeology fun began. Our second day in the lab, we performed an inventory of the skeletal remains from three Bronze Age sites that are housed at the museum. Inventory, while not the most exciting activity, was essential for finding out which burials were preserved and which bones were present for each provenance. All of the labels associated with the bones were recorded and some bags were given different labels so that they could be located more easily. Thankfully there should be no need to do this again…

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After we finished the inventory, we started analysis for two of the individuals. This included gently cleaning the bones with materials that would not scratch them, like toothpicks and toothbrushes. Many of the bones had to be cleaned in order for the features to be visible, which is needed for identification and further analysis. I mostly worked on cleaning the bones while Jess recorded the information so that it could be accessible and organized.


We also scored tooth wear in order to  estimate age for one of the individuals.

Occlusal view, maxillary tooth wear

It’s been a great first few days here in Romania, surely with more to follow!