WAC 6 Session: Old Wine in New Bottles: Working on Old
Excavations Using Modern Methods
International Institute of Anthropology
Official website at http://www.ucd.ie/wac-6/index.html
Original idea: Cristian Schuster

Organiser 1: Mr. Prof. Dr. Cristian Francisc Schuster
Institution:  Institute of Archaeology " V. Parvan", 11 H. Coanda St, Bucharest,  Romania
Representing: Romania
Organiser 2:  Mrs. Dr. Lolita Nikolova
Institution: International Institute of Anthropology, 29 S State St #206, Salt Lake City, Utah 8411, USA
Representing: Bulgaria & United States of America
Additional Organisers:  Ms. Raluca KOGALNICEANU - Accademia di Romania in Roma - Piazza Jose de San
Martin 1 - Roma 00197 - ITALY, representing ROMANIA; e-mail:
raluca.kogalniceanu@gmail.com,  Mr. Alexandru
MORINTZ, Institute of Archaeology "V. Parvan", 11 H. Coanda St, Bucharest, ROMANIA, representing ROMANIA - e-


Our session is addressing mainly to the archaeological schools inside which, especially during the communist
period, the archaeological investigations were not given the entire financial and logistical support required by a
normal archaeological research. Thus, many of the excavations did not allow the gathering of detailed
information and, mostly, did not beneficiated of an adequate valorization. Unfortunately, part of the information
and of the materials was lost because of various causes or is defective. In addition, the old observations usually
cannot be verified on the field any more, and those old conclusions are disputable nowadays because,
sometimes in the past, they were presented in an altered manner due to political motifs. The purpose of this
session is to put forward old unexploited or only partially exploited field researches. The means
suggested are the gathering of all available information (field notes, sketches, general plans, etc.), their
registration and ordering. What we aim is to establish, as a result of discussions, those methods best
suited in accordance with the quality and quantity of data. Different experiences would help the establishment of
some common strategies for dealing with the uncertainty of data coming from old excavations and
for their putting forward in the present with the use of modern methods.

Session Format: 15-20 minute papers each followed by discussion
Session Part of Theme: Independent
Session Comments: We would need only a video-projector

From Bucharest, to the South, along the Danube: Testing Old

Cristian Schuster (Romania)

Bucharest and the surrounding area towards the south, down to the Danube bank, represent the central area of
the Romanian province of Muntenia. Here, the hydrographic network has Argeş, as its main axis, with its
tributaries Dâmboviţa, Colentina, Sabar, Câlniştea and also a few lakes, situated mainly in the Danube

It is the abundant flora and fauna in the area that favored the settlement of various human communities from
early prehistory. The immediate proximity of the river banks were covered by dense forests, to the east by the
steppe and there were more forests to the west. This image became clearer and clearer following new
geological, soil formation, pollen analysis and anthropological research.        

Part of the archaeological remains in the above mentioned area caught the archaeological eye during the ’20s of
the last century. This was triggered by the development of a Romanian school of archaeology but also by large
modernization projects in Bucharest and its surroundings, requiring archaeological investigations. The
excavations taking place in some of the city sites or around it, lead to the definition of specific manifestations of
the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Age: the Dudeşti, Glina and Tei cultures. The same way, investigations
along the Danube helped outlining other cultures such as Boian and Gumelniţa.        

Although extremely valuable this research and the one taking place during the communist regime, were tributary
to the limited methodology of the time, to the limits imposed by the authorities and to a variety of other negative
specific factors. After the so-called Revolution in 1989 and following the attempt of the Romanian archaeology to
catch up with the new methods of in the field of research, the archaeological investigations reached a new level,
showing the real discrepancy between the results and the scientific requirements of the modern excavations
versus the earlier ones, and more important, the necessity of the re-interpretation and updating of the earlier
archaeological attempts.      

Just recently (approximately 10 years ago) new archaeological methods have begun to be implemented with
more strength, leading to important new conclusive results, some of them in contradiction with the ones from
the earlier digs (see the sites of Bucharest – Militari Câmpul Boja, Mogoşeşti, Mironeşti, Popeşti, Căscioarele,
Radovanu, Sultana, etc). Unfortunately, because of  anthropic changes, in another series of sites excavated
between the World Wars or post World War II , such as Glina, Tei, Cernica, Dudeşti, test excavations can no
longer take place. Thus, the only means of fully understanding and interpreting the earlier digs is to turn to the
original finds and records. In many cases the archaeological materials are lost, the plans and fields notes are
incomplete or missing. Therefore, the activity of the archaeologist and his team becomes a sort of a detective

Old Excavations in New Perspectives: Vinegar or Honey?  

Adina Boroneanţ
Institute of Archaeology “Vasile Pârvan”
Bucharest, Romania,

The Iron Gates of the Danube has been for decades one of the most discussed areas in what the Mesolithic-
Neolithic transition is concerned. Various hypothesis and models have been proposed, all having as a starting
point the relatively scarce data published in the 1960s and 1970s and interpretations of the local archaeologists.
On the Romanian banks at least, little data from the initial excavations has been published other than selective
typologies for chipped stone, bone/antler, and occasionally pottery. New excavations in all these sites but one
(Schela Cladovei, on the Romanian bank of the Danube), are impossible, as they were covered by the Danube
waters. Turning to the earlier excavations is, in most cases, the only solution, for the re-interpretation of the
local Mesolithic and Neolithic. The present papers proposes to deal with the difficult attempt of cataloguing the
remaining set of earlier records (transcription of field notes, recovering and digitalizing excavation plans,
recovering and replacing find labels, digitalizing and re-interpreting old photographs) with the aim of
reconstructing old stratigraphies, correcting possible honest interpretation errors, suggesting tests and
analysis that based on the existing finds from a particular site, could offer new relevant information. The article
also focuses on the time-consuming and laborious work such an attempt requires. Based on the still existing
archaeological finds, the well catalogued site archive and modern techniques, the old wine in new bottles could
turn to be vinegar or honey.  

The Neolithic Necropolis from Sultana, South Romania
Done Şerbănescu and Alexandra Comşa (Romania)
The Sultana village is located in the south-eastern part of Romania, about 15 km north of the Danube, on the
western bank of the Mostiştea Lake. The Neolithic necropolis which is the topic of our paper had been
discovered in 1974. Its investigation was started then and continued, with some interruptions, so that, until 2007,
253 inhumation burials had been unearthed, out of which, the large majority of skeletons were placed in a flexed
position, on their left side, with their head towards the east, with some deviations. Their right arm was slightly
flexed and its hand was near the femur of the right leg, while the left arm was severely flexed and its hand was
brought with its palm beneath the skull.  The funerary pits had an oval shape, while their depth varied between
0,80 m and 2,20 m. The funerary inventory found inside the burials comprised tools, seldom bone idols and

The Adornments are diverse and represented by:
1.        Strings of bead of various types, made of marine shells, snails, clay or marble;
2.        Bracelets made of marine shells -  
Glicimerys sp. or Spondylus gaederopus;
3.        Finger rings made of bone or marine shells;
4.        Belts made of beads;
5.        Pandants made of marine shells, stone or clay.

The analysis of the funerary inventories had pointed out the existence of the social hierarchy.
As concerns the necropolis assignment, out of cultural and chronological viewpoint, some difficulties had been
encountered, because, in the burials studied by now, no clay pottery had been found, which could be used for a
precise assignment. Yet, the composition of the funerary inventory had allowed the assignment of the necropolis
in the early evolution stages of the Boian culture, namely, in the Bolintineanu and Giuleşti phases, which were
dated back in the first half of the 5th millennium B.C.

This is the largest Boian necropolis investigated by now. It provided a significant anthropological material,
making possible the determination of the specific features of the bearers of the mentioned culture. The studies
carried out had established that the infantile mortality reached 18,52 %, while the death during the juvenile age
was rare (4%). The frequency of the deceased individuals at the adult age reached a high percentage for women,
due to the inadequate care and hygiene after parturition (9%), getting its peak at the mature age (60%). The
average duration of life was relatively short, of 31 years and  5 months for the entire skeleton series, while for
the sample which got over the age of 20, the average duration of life reached 37 years and 9 months. The
average height for men belonged to the supermedium category (169,2 cm) and medium for the women, yet at its
upper limits (156,1 cm).

Anthropologically speaking, two main types had been distinguished:
·        Protoeuropoid, with high or supermedium stature, with massive skeleton, with a
dolichocranian or mesocranian skull and rounded occipital. Their facial massif was wide and short, with
chameconch orbit, chamerhin or mesorhin nose and developed canine fossae;
·        Mediteranoid, characterized by a medium or small stature, with gracile skeleton,
dolichocranian or seldom mesocranian skull, with a medium height, and rounded occipital. The high, narrow
facial massif, with mesochonch orbits a long nose and short mandible. This type comprised the
Palaeomediterranoid and classical Mediterranoid variants, like the Danubian and Pontic variants.

The presentation will focus on the evolution of the methodology of the investigation of the necropolis.

Cernavodă Area. A Proposal for the Reconstruction of the Prehistoric

Alexandru S. Morintz (Romania)


This presentation approaches the reconstruction of prehistoric landscape of the Cernavodă area, which has
suffered substantial changes since the second half of the 19th century: the Cernavodă - Constanţa Railroad
(1860), the bridge over the Danube (1895), and the Danube - Black Sea Channel. Our attempt is to recover the
topographic situation of the area from a moment anterior to the great human interventions and for that we will
use maps and military plans from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. We will also add
geographic, geologic and climatic data mentioned for the end of the 19th century.

Corroborating all this information with archaeological records we are offering a proposal of the landscape in
prehistoric times by creating a 3D model for each prehistoric site (settlements and cemeteries).

Cernavoda – Columbia D. The Analysis of Human Remains:
Methods and Materials

Claire Marie Rennie (France)


Cernavoda is a Late Neolithic site, based on the banks of the Danube River, in Southeast Romania. During the
excavations in the 1950’s approximately 500 human skeletons were excavated in varying stages of
completeness. So far, roughly 1/5 of the material has been examined. In general the bones are in bad condition,
due, in part to excavation methods, as well as to curatorial, and previous anthropological methods.
Bones often get lost and skeletons get mixed either during or after the excavation. These and other misleading
evidence can confuse matters further.

The human remains were initially examined in the 1950’s with the focus of identifying racial attributes. The
current analysis of the remains focuses more on the reconstruction of lifestyle using the bones as the primary
resource. Modern methods of ageing and sexing are used to analyse the demography of the site, with special
emphasis on the causes of trauma. Trauma can be triggered by violence, disease, occupation and terrain.
Combining the different analyses, the lifestyle of this particular community can be reconstructed.

Cernavoda – Columbia D. How Far Can We Go with the Recovery of
Funerary Data?

Raluca Kogalniceanu (Romania)


The Hamangia cemetery from Cernavoda is an archaeological site of great importance for the Neolithic period
of Eurasia. It was excavated between 1953-1962 but still not published in a monographic manner. Since two
years we have been managing to trace most of the information related to this cemetery (field notes, plans,
artifacts, bones and anthropological determination). We are tying now to reconstruct the whole using these
scattered parts. But it’s a long and laborious process.

We will present several cases of graves, for which we had different combinations of the above mentioned
pieces of information. Based on these cases, we will try to see how far can we go with the reconstruction of the
whole, what more can be done and what has been lost forever.

Addressing the Conundrum of the Tărtăria Tablets

Marco Merlini (Italy)

A turning point for archaeologists and prehistorians interested in the origins of writing and the role of
in the complexity of the ancient society was the disputed discovery of the inscribed Tărtăria tablets,
which happened in 1961 in Transylvania. The Romanian finds are dubiously dated archaeological artifacts four
for reasons: the rumors on the find circumstances; the gossip about radiocarbon-dating; their vague
stratigraphy inside the pit where they were found; and the uncertain location of the pit inside the stratigraphy
drawn by the archaeologist in charge. If some scholars are utilizing the tablets as a “deus ex machina” to
resolve the crucial issue of the chronology of European prehistory and its synchronization with Near Eastern
civilizations, others arrive to question the authenticity of them.

We will introduce new data on this hot issue establishing carbon-14 date of the bones associated with the
tablets, presenting the chemical and mineralogical analysis of the tablets, reinvestigating the conditions of the
discovery, solving the enigma of the supposed cultic sacrifice and cannibalistic ritual that happened at Tărtăria,
and elucidating the out of the ordinary identity of the corpse. The reexamination of the topic by the means of up-
to-date archaeological methods brings new and unexpected arguments for the stratigraphy of the tablets,
makes possible a revision of plan and profile of the excavation, and documents the presence of an incipient
script of magic-religious literacy in Neo-Eneolithic times in Southeastern Europe: the ‘Danube script’.

How to communicate with past

Lolita Nikolova ( Bulgaria/USA)

The essential presentation of J Barrett at 13th EAA Meeting in Zadar (2007) has been turning the dialogue about
archaeology in the frames of the general understanding of culture. In my opinion, this actual methodology is of
primary importance not only for understanding of the archaeological culture, but generally to give a
contemporaneous answer to the question How the archaeologists communicate with past including Digging the
past. The excavations belong to the social biography of certain individuals and they extremely depend of the
social personality of the diggers.

My presentation will continue the idea of Barrett about culture pointing to the fact that culture regulates
emotions, but also the Ego. Shortly – more culture results in less Egotism which is the most important for the
successful communication of the archaeologists with the past. Archaeology needs external personalities and
group oriented individuals dedicated to professionalism and sharing of information. Straight criticism of the old
excavations could results in a new layer of misleading interpretation based on absence of self-awareness and
existed egotism.

I will discuss how the technology, theoretical archaeology, social psychology and Internet develop the
opportunity for more successful archaeologists’ communication with Past, respectively digging and interpreting
the Past, and the balance between the criticism and tolerance when the focus is on the old excavations.

The case study in this presentation will be my own excavations at Dubene-Sarovka (1992-2000), Karlovo,
Bulgaria, which will be analyzed in the context of my own enculturation, understanding and response to the most
recent social practices in the professional archaeology.
The Sixth World Archaeological Congress, Dublin, Ireland, 29th
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