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Archaeological Excavations in Romania, 1983 - 2012.
Preliminary Archaeological Reports

Archaeological Excavation Report

Pecica | County: Arad | Site: Şanţul Mare | Excavation Year: 2005

Excavation Year   2005
Bronze Age;
Late Migrations Period (7th - 11th cent.);
Early Medieval
Bronze Age;
La Tène;
Migrations Period;
Early Medieval Period
Site Category
Religious, Ritual and Funerary
Site Types
Fortified settlement;
Map it   Find it on the Romanian map
County / District  Arad
Locality   Pecica
Commune   Pecica
Site  Şanţul Mare
Site Sector
Site name   
Persons involved and Institutions
Last nameFirst nameroleInstitution
Barker Alexander Milwaukee Public Museum
Draşovean Florin Muzeul Banatului, Timişoara
O’Shea John Site director University of Michigan, USA
Pascu Hurezan George Complexul Muzeal Arad
Szentmiklosi Alexandru Muzeul Banatului, Timişoara
National Arch. Record Site Code 11593.01
Report În cursul verii 2005 o echipă de arheologi din Statele Unite şi din România au colaborat în iniţierea de noi investigaţii arheologice în situl de la Pecica Şanţul Mare. Cercetarea s-a concentrat pe schimbările sociale şi economice, intervenite pe parcursul epocii bronzului în Bazinul Carpatic şi dincolo de acesta. Obiectivele specifice pentru campania 2005 au fost: stabilirea caracterului stratigrafiei intacte de epoca bronzului la Pecica, cu un accent special asupra posibilelor variaţii prezente în arealul sitului; iniţierea procesului de creare a unei cronologii bazate pe datări cu radiocarbon pentru epoca bronzului din zonă. În plus, excavaţiile din prima campanie sunt văzute ca şi preliminare pentru iniţierea săpăturilor ample care vor urma.
Excavaţiile din campania 2005 au deosebit de productive. Profile lungi de 12–15 m, au relevat, în două puncte diferite ale tell-ului, o stratigrafie intactă de epoca bronzului de peste trei metri grosime şi au produs dovezi pentru continuarea acesteia cu încă 2,5–3 m mai jos. Aceste săpături stratigrafice au produs serie iniţială de 14 datări cu radiocarbon. Acestea s-au grupat strâns în perioada 1900–1500 a.Chr. Săpăturile au scos la iveală material vegetal, oase de animale şi reziduri metalurgice. În paralel cu săpăturile s-a derulat un program de culegere de mostre pedologice din arealul sitului şi din împrejurimi. Carotele extrase au confirmat caracterul profund stratificat al tell-ului dar au produs semnificative materiale de epoca bronzului în arealul din afara sitului precum şi în şanţul înconjurător al sitului. Campania 2005 a produs, de asemenea, o hartă mai exactă a tell-ului de la Pecica şi a zonei înconjurătoare. Aceasta include poziţionarea excavaţiilor neautorizate de pe suprafaţa tell-ului, iniţierea unei baze de date GIS regionale a siturilor arheologice, bazată pe imaginile satelitare disponibile la ora actuală.
Abstract other lang.
Abstract   During the summer of 2005 a team of archaeologists from Romania and the United States initiated new archaeological investigations at the site of Pecica, "Şanţul Mare”. The research is focused on social and economic changes that occur during the course of the Bronze Age within the Carpathian Basin and beyond. The specific goals of the 2005 season were 1) to establish the character of intact Bronze Age deposits at Pecica, with a particular emphasis on variation that may be present across the area of the site; and 2) to initiate the process of creating a radiocarbon based chronology for the regional Bronze Age. In addition, the excavation of the first season was seen as preparatory for the initiation of large scaled area excavations that are to follow.
Excavations during the 2005 season were highly productive. Profiles of 12-15 meters in length in two separate portions of the tell exposed intact Bronze Age deposits of more than three meters depth, and provided evidence for similar deposits continuing downward another 2.5-3 meters beyond what was exposed. These stratigraphic excavations yielded an initial series of 14 radiocarbon dates. The dates are tightly clustered in the range 1900 to 1500 BC. The excavations also yielded dense deposits of carbonized plant material, animal bone and metallurgical debris. Concurrent with the site excavations was a program of soil auger sampling on the site and in its environs. The coring program confirmed the deeply stratified character of deposits on tell, but also revealed extensive deposits of Bronze Age materials in a number of area outside the tell and in the encircling ditch. The 2005 season also saw the creation of a more detailed topographic map of the Pecica tell and surrounding area, including the documentation of looters pits on the tell surface, and the initiation of a regional GIS database of regional archaeological sites, based on currently available satellite imagery.
The great settlement of Pecica ,,Şanţul Mare” is among the most important archaeological sites in the European Bronze Age. The site occupies a strategic location astride the river Mureş between the ore producing region of the Western Carpathian Mountains and the metal using societies of the Carpathian Basin and beyond. Similarly its deeply layered Bronze Age deposits have served as a chronological standard for the entire Bronze Age in Eastern Europe. In November of 2003, the Museum of Banat in Timişoara, the Arad County Museum, and the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Michigan (USA) entered into a contract de collaboration to facilitate new archaeological research at the site. Following a brief planning visit in 2004, major field investigations were begun in 2005 with funding from the National Science Foundation (USA). The principle investigators for the research are Dr. John O’Shea (University of Michigan) and Dr. Florin Draşovean (Timişoara). Additionally, Mr. Pascu Hurezan (Arad), Mr. Alexandru Szentmiklosi (Timişoara) and Dr. Alexander Barker (Milwaukee Public Museum) were involved in the day to day management of the excavations.
The research campaign in 2005 was designed as a pilot season, and was used both to establish the character of the Bronze Age archaeological deposits and to provide the necessary preparation for the larger area excavations, which are expected to begin in 2006. The specific goals of the 2005 season were 1) to establish the character of intact Bronze Age deposits at Pecica, with a particular emphasis on variation that may be present across the site; and 2) to initiate the creation of a radiocarbon based chronology for the regional Bronze Age. In addition to these specific goals, and in accordance with the cooperation agreement, work in 2005 also included a program of off site coring, topographic mapping, and initial development of a regional GIS site database.
The planning of new excavations at Pecica required that attention be paid both to the extensive prior (and sometimes undocumented) excavation of the site and to the valuable intact Dacian and Mediaeval layers that survive on the site and overlay the Bronze Age deposits that are of interest to the present research. As such, a strategy which permitted the most direct access to intact Bronze Age deposits while minimizing the disturbance of later occupation material was needed. Fortunately, the most extensive and best documented excavations at the site, those of Crişan in the 1960’s, were directed primarily at the Dacian levels of the site. It was reasoned that by relocating Crişan’s former excavation units, we would be able to reach Bronze Age deposits beneath the backfill of these earlier units. As such, a significant portion of the 2005 fieldwork was directed at locating and confirming the location of two of Crişan’s major excavation areas. Once the former units were confidently located, the clearing of long stratigraphic profiles was begun. Initially this clearing extended to the approximate base of the Crişan units. Beyond this point, the trench area was excavated downward in a one meter wide block, creating a single long stratigraphic exposure in each excavation area.
Trench 1 was located over the area of Crişan’s Trench S-III, and extended into his blocks B and A. Within the area of Trench 1 (figure 3 upper) a series of four contiguous 2 m squares were excavated following natural levels. These layer excavations began immediately below the level of Crişan’s excavation block and exposed the contact between the base of the Dacian age deposits and the top of the Bronze Age layers. These tests were conducted to help coordinate excavation and data recording approaches among the Romanian and American excavators and to test the feasibility of differing sampling programs. For excavation within these units, standard samples were collected for flotation and carbon dating. All excavated material was recorded volumetrically and a 10% sample of this was fine screened. These units were excavated to a depth of 2-2.5m below modern ground surface, and were subsequently backfilled to protect the underlying deposits.
The main area of Trench 1 was excavated to a depth of 3-3.5m below the modern ground surface. Within the area of stratigraphic excavation, major layer changes were recorded and mapped, and features were documented. Samples for radiocarbon and archaeomagnetic dating, and micro-morphology samples were collected, as were representative samples of cultural material and animal bone.
Trench 2 was excavated in a fashion similar to the stratigraphic portion of Trench 1. There was the added complication, however, of Crişan’s deep soundings that were excavated deeply through Bronze Age levels in this portion of the site. Once the location of Crişan’s Trench S-II was identified, it was cleared of backfill and extended to its full length towards the south end of the site. The stepped portions of the trench were then identified, with the initial deeper segment being cleared of backfill, and with the area of the final deep sounding being identified. Backfill was removed from the upper portion of this deep sounding, but was not taken to its full depth due to concern over safety and possible wall collapse. Radiocarbon and archaeomagnetic samples were collected from Trench 2, as were a second sequence of micro-morphology samples and a sequence of flotation samples. Representative samples of cultural material and animal bone were also collected.
With the completion of the 2005 excavation season, both excavation areas were closed to protect the standing and underlying deposits. The primary stratigraphic profiles and bases of each trench were covered with heavy gauge plastic and the trench was then backfilled with loose soil.
In addition to excavation, the 2005 season also included a pilot program of soil coring, which resulted in the collection of ten deep cores, distributed on the tell and in the immediate environs offsite. Cores were collected using an AMS standard soil auger with a closed 8.2 cm bucket. As configured the corer permitted sampling to a depth of six meteres. Samples from each observed soil stratigraphic unit were collected and processed to determine both sediment characteristics and the nature of cultural materials present within the layers.
Fieldwork conducted during the summer of 2005 was extremely successful, both in terms of achieving the research goals described above and for demonstrating the ability of the collaborative team to function affectively and efficiently.
Aim 1: Establish character of site deposits and intra-site variation
Excavation within the two test trenches confirmed the strategy of excavating beneath the earlier test units created by Crişan in the 1960’s. We were able to identify the previously excavated units successful, and document intact and well preserve Bronze Age deposits beneath the earlier excavation units. Two stratigraphic trenches were excavated to a depth of 2.5-3 meters; the final depth was determined by our estimation of the maximum depth safe for excavation. Trench 1, on the northern surface of the tell, was excavated to just over 3m; cores removed from the southern end of this trench indicated a minimum of 2.5m of stratified cultural deposits below the base of excavations. Trench 2, in the southwestern portion of tell, was excavated to a depth of approximately 2.5 meters; the western face was drawn, photographed and sampled. Similar stratigraphic sequences and occupational horizons were identified in both trenches, and radiometric dates suggest significant temporal overlap. Preliminary analysis suggests that the observed patterns of change are similar in both trenches. Both trenches exhibited finely layered strata similar to those described by Roska and Crişan. More than fifty radiocarbon samples were collected from the excavation units and trenches (see below), along with two archaeomagnetic dating series, forty micromorphological samples, fifty flotation samples, twenty other special samples (e.g. metallurgical samples), and nearly 200 separately recorded lots of cultural material.
Several points are worth noting in the site’s upper profiles. In Trench 1, traces of Crişan’s Dacian 1 and 2 layers were observed and occurred immediately above densely layered Bronze Age deposits. While most of the upper Dacian layer had been completely removed in the 1960’s, traces of the lower Dacian deposits were encountered in places where the exploratory trench moved beyond the limits of Crişan’s excavations. This lower Dacian layer was remarkable for its homogeneity and its relative lack of cultural debris. Both of these factors suggest that this layer (labeled level B on the Trench 1 profile) may represent a preconstruction fill and leveling of the site surface prior to the major construction of the Dacian age settlement. The absence of very late Bronze Age dates (see below) may similarly reflect this surface modification at the beginning of the Dacian occupation.
While the excavations of the pilot season were necessarily focused on stratigraphic concerns, rather than the social questions we ultimately hope to address, preliminary analysis of the materials recovered during the 2005 season provides tantalizing insights into the character of the Late Bronze Age occupation of the site. These results also suggest significant contrasts in site structure and economic organization when compared with the Late Bronze Age settlements of the Lower Mureş. Among the structural contrasts was the observation of dense concentrations of ovens and kilns at Pecica, suggestive of a more intensive focus on metallurgical production. Other aspects of site architecture and construction indicate the existence of larger and possibly multistoried houses.
A preliminary analysis of recovered fauna suggests a striking difference in the role of wild foods, both hunted and fished, with these resources playing a much less important role at the core Pecica settlement than at the lower Mureş settlements. The pilot results from 2005 also hint at potential economic differentiation within the settlement, with a much higher concentration of sheep/goat remains in the area of Trench 1, and a more generalized representation of cattle and wild animal remains near Trench 2, along with a substantially greater representation of horse remains. While these results must all be viewed as exceedingly preliminary, the presence of such economic specialization at the site fits well with the expectation of increased social complexity in the later Bronze Age occupation of the site.
While the analysis of recovered botanical material is only just begun, it is clear that the preservation of carbonized remains at the site is excellent. The value of the Flote-tech automatic flotation system was immediately apparent, as it allowed for the rapid and controlled collection of carbonized plant materials. One small pit encountered in Trench 1 produced several liters of carbonized grain! The flotation system was also efficient at recovering samples of very small sized cultural materials. Metallurgical debris, primarily slag, was recovered in abundance in the ,,heavy’’ fraction produced by the flotation system.
Ten soil cores were recorded and sampled from tells surface and surrounding areas to supplement excavated records of stratigraphic units at the site (figure 5). These cores indicate that the fortification ditch contains cultural materials to a depth of 5+ m below ground surface, and that the surrounding fields beyond the site ditch contain Bronze Age cultural deposits to a depth of at least 2.5-3 meters. In the later stages of the research program we hope to sample and date these outlying deposits in order to determine their potential relationship to the main fortified settlement. The finely preserved strata at Pecica present an ideal case for applying micro-morphology sampling. Although the micro-morphology samples collected from the site are still being processed, they will provide an invaluable new source of information for interpreting the site stratigraphy, and contribute both to our understanding of how the site was formed and to the cultural activities occurring at differing points on the site. Detailed topographic maps of the tell surface, including the location and scale of visible looter’s pits, were also constructed during the 2005 campaign. The density of modern looters’ pits is disturbing, and well illustrates the vulnerability of the site and its need for protection. Aim 2: Initiate the creation of a radiocarbon based chronology. Fourteen radiocarbon samples have been analyzed to date, providing a chronometric framework for the later Bronze Age occupation of the site. The full set of dates run with their two sigma range is presented graphically in figure 7. The calibrated dates confirm that the upper 2-3m of extant sub-Dacian deposits at Pecica date to the Middle and Late Bronze Age. Calibrated dates (2-sigma) range from 2190BC-1530BC, with no outliers; a more detailed discussion is now being prepared for publication. When the dates recovered from the two Trenches are compared, it is seen that there is a complete overlap of the dates represented. Deposits spanning the remainder of the Early and Middle Bronze Age are expected, based on earlier excavations at the site and coring conducted in 2005. Unlike the previously excavated Bronze Age settlements of the lower Mureş, abundant wood charcoal for dating was preserved at Pecica. This seems to be a result of both more substantial woods for utilization during the Bronze Age and better preservation conditions on the site. The great quantities of charred grain noted at the site were similarly available for carbon dating. Grain is a particularly useful material for dating since it typically will reflect only a single year’s deposit. As a result of the good preservation of charcoal and its consistent association with major burn events on the site, the likelihood of contamination of the dates via movement within the deposit by rodents or later cultural activity is low. Several observations can be made from this initial sequence of dates. The first, as mentioned previously, is that at the recent end of the scale, the Bronze Age dates terminate relatively abruptly around 1500 BC. Given the character of some of the metal work previously recovered from the site, and the younger Late Bronze Age dates recovered down river at Klarafalva-Hajdova, it is somewhat surprising that younger Bronze Age dates were not recovered from either of the two Trenches at Pecica. While it is possible that these dates are providing a true indication of the end of the Bronze Age occupation, it seems more likely that the uppermost portion of the Bronze Age deposits were truncated by later site construction. If this is the case, we should encountered datable traces of the later layers at the edges of the settlement or possibly in the areas outside the main settlement or possibly also as secondary deposits within the site trench. A second point of note in the dating sequence so far is that the dense and thick site deposits were created over a relatively short period of time. This offers the potential not only for creating a highly refined and detailed sequence of dates, but also suggests that future layer by layer excavations should be able to isolate very narrow slices of time and permit a fine grained assessment of social and economic change across the site. While the results of paleomagnetic dating are not yet in hand, the character of the deposit, particularly the numerous highly fired ovens and house surfaces, promise an excellent context for recovering accurate dates from this valuable complementary source. In addition to providing additional useful dates for the Pecica site, the carefully controlled sample of dates will contribute significantly towards the creation of a master sequence of paleomagnetic change within western Romania which will enable this technique to be confidently applied to other sites within the region. With the successful conclusion of the 2005 campaign, plans are now being made for continued work in 2006. The plan, consistent with the contract of collaboration, will be to initiate level by level area excavation, using the profile faces created during 2005, as the starting point for excavation. It is our intent to begin this process with a 10 x 10 meter block extending eastward from the eastern profile of Trench 1. This will move the excavation into the area of Crişan’s former Block B.
Bibliographic notes
Source   Cronica cercetărilor arheologice din România
Editor   CIMEC
Language   RO

Copyright: the authors of the reports and the National Heritage Institute, CIMEC, 2018.
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