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

Archaeological Excavation Report

Pecica | County: Arad | Site: Şanţul Mare | Excavation Year: 2007

Excavation Year   2007
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   or. Pecica
Site  Şanţul Mare
Site Sector
Site name   
Persons involved and Institutions
Last nameFirst nameroleInstitution
Barker Alexander Missouri University, USA
Draşovean Florin Muzeul Banatului, Timişoara
O’Shea John Michigan University, USA
Pascu Hurezan George Complexul Muzeal Arad
Sherwood Sarah Michigan University, USA
Szentmiklosi Alexandru Muzeul Banatului, Timişoara
National Arch. Record Site Code 11593.01
Report Obiectivele cercetării:
- adâncirea săpăturii până la steril în suprafeţele excavate în campania precedentă;
- continuarea sondării vecinătăţilor sitului prin carote.
Situl arheologic Pecica Şanţul-Mare este situat la 9 km V de Pecica şi 600 m N de albia actuală a Mureşului.
În campania 2007 a fost continuată cercetarea suprafeţei deschise în campania precedentă (10 × 10 m).
Abstract other lang.
Abstract   During the summer of 2007 a collaborative team of archaeologists from Romania and the United States continued 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 primary goal of the 2007 season was to continue the layer by layer excavation of a 10 by 10 m block beneath the previously excavated Dacian levels on the site, with a particular interest in identifying Bronze Age houses and thermal features. A limited examination of the larger site area was also initiated in the form of magnetometer survey in selected areas within the Bronze Age settlement but beyond the enclosing ditch. Work at the site began on May 31st and was completed on July 28th.
Excavations during the 2007 season were highly productive. Working from the base of Layer B, which was completely exposed during the 2006 season, the 10 m block was excavated in a series of natural levels to expose a series of discrete Late Bronze Age occupation layers, and exposing a major Bronze Age architectural surface. This surface presented an unexpectedly thick and extensive prepared platform on which one or more structures had been built. The excavations yielded dense deposits of carbonized plant material, animal bone and metallurgical debris. Concurrent with the site excavations a program of remote sensing, initially magnetometery survey, was initiated in collaboration with researchers from the Universitatea de Vest din Timişoara. These survey efforts are linked to the detailed topographic map of the site produced in 2006 and will provide an important view of the larger settlement area.
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 Muzeul Banatului Timişoara, the Muzeul Judeţean Arad, and the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Michigan (USA) entered into a contract to facilitate new archaeological research at the site. Following a brief planning visit in 2004, a major, multi-year field investigation was begun in 2005 with funding from the National Science Foundation (USA). The principal investigators for the research are Dr. Peter Huegel (Arad), Dr. Florin Draşovean (Timişoara) and Dr. John O’Shea (University of Michigan). Additionally, Mr. Pascu Hurezan (Arad), Dr. Alexandru Szentmiklosi (Timişoara), and Dr. Alexander Barker (University of Missouri) were involved in the day to day management of the excavations and Dr. Sarah Sherwood, (University of Tennessee) oversaw site geoarchaeology and micromorphology. Dr. Petru Urdea, Universitatea de Vest din Timişoara (geophysics and remote sensing) also participated in the research consortium. Work during the 2007 field season was begun on May 31st and was completed on July 28th.
The research campaign in 2007 saw the continuation of layer by layer excavation at the site. The specific goal of the 2007 season was to complete the excavation of the final Bronze Age occupation levels of the site and begin the examination of core Bronze Age deposits at the site (Layer C on the master stratigraphic section. In addition, and in accordance with the contract, work in 2007 continued the program of offsite geological testing, and the development of a regional GIS site database.
Work at the site in 2007 began with the removal of backfilled sediment and the reestablishment of the 10 x 10 m grid that was begun in 2006. The excavation zone covers an area of 12 x 12 m, which includes the 10 x 10 m excavation block and an unexcavated belt around the excavation area to protect the site profiles. Following the procedure established in 2006, the excavation block was divided into a series of 2 x 2 m squares for the purposes of data recording and flotation sampling. As the depth of excavation increased, it was necessary to provide ladder access to the excavation, and a novel crane assembly was developed by the technicians at the Muzeul Judeţean Arad to enable excavated sediments to be removed for screening or flotation.
Excavation continued on a layer by layer basis, working systematically across the site surface, beginning with the exposed profile in Trench 1. Each successive easterly row of squares was completed before the next tier was opened. Excavation was conducted with small hand tools, with the total volume of deposit removed recorded. Within each 2 x 2 m square, 10 percent of the soil removed was dry sieved through screens with a mesh size of 65 cm. Additionally, two 10 l samples from each square level were collected for flotation. Flotation samples were processed in the field laboratory using a Flote-tech automatic flotation system. All significant finds were mapped in three dimensions with the Sokkia total station, as were the starting and ending elevations of each unit, and the perimeters, tops, and bases of all features. Throughout the period of excavation, daily three dimensional maps of the excavation were constructed, as were layer photo mosaics. A series of thirteen 'micro-morphology’ samples were also collected over the course of the block excavation. These samples, when analyzed, will provide important information on the creation and composition of the site’s micro-stratigraphy.
Materials recovered during excavation and screening were bagged separately by square and were returned to the field laboratory each evening. Materials were washed and sorted, with faunal remains being separated from artifacts. Artifacts were counted and weighed in general categories (ceramics, stone, metal, slag, shell, daub) with diagnostic artifacts being removed for further description, photography and analysis. Preliminary analysis of the animal bone and diagnostics ceramics was undertaken on a systematic sample of the excavations units during the course of the 2007 season. The remainder were packaged and stored for future analysis. Flotation samples were separated into light and heavy fractions (floating and non-floating) during the flotation process. The light fraction samples were transported to the University of Michigan for detailed analysis of micro-faunal and plant remains.
In addition to the layer by layer excavation of the site units, visible features, primarily deep pits, were excavated as units using natural layers. For larger pits, the feature was bisected so that a profile of the feature fill would be visible after half of the feature had been excavated. Unless the pit was positively determined to be a modern looter’s pit, the sample of soil from each feature was 100% screened, excluding only that sediment collected for flotation sampling. Each feature was mapped and photographed during excavation, and the top, base, perimeter, and internal levels of each were mapped using the total station.
At the completion of the 2007 field season, the excavation surface was covered with plastic sheeting, and backfilled with soil to ensure its protection. All collected materials were inventoried and packed for storage at the Muzeul Judeţean Arad.
In addition to site excavation, the 2007 season saw the initiation of geophysical survey of the larger Pecica site area. The survey is under the direction of Dr. Petru Urdea of Universitatea de Vest din Timişoara. Making use of the detailed site topographic map created in 2006, the Western University team began systematic Magnetometer survey in July. This work will continue in 2008, and will also incorporate resistivity survey.
Fieldwork conducted during the summer of 2007 was extremely successful, both in terms of achieving the research goals set for the year, and for its unexpected discoveries.
The final Bronze Age occupation of the site, represented by Stratigraphic Layer B1-2 and B1-3, was composed primarily of windblown deposits (see report of 2006 campaign). The deposits of Layer C exhibit partially burned deposits embedded within a thick layer of rubble. Micromorphological samples collected in 2006 reveal that there is significant cementing of the deposit due to the carbonate precipitates. This results in the presence of inexplicably hard layers within the deposit which can be misinterpreted during excavation as discrete cultural layers or trampling zones. Several of these 'non-cultural’ layers were noted during the excavation of Layer C across the site. The base of Layer C represents a complex preserved site surface.
The easterly portion of the excavation block represents a thick prepared platform which appears to have served as the foundation for one or more houses or structures, as witnessed by numerous postholes and a number of small pits originating at this surface. Rubble and daub were found immediately above the top of the platform as were burned cultural deposits, all suggesting that the structure had been burned. The platform itself varied in thickness from 20 to more than 50 cm and was comprised of a very hard packed and fired surface, above a less densely packed aggregate of burned earth and cultural debris. It appears that this aggregate was not burned in situ, but had been fired elsewhere and then deposited on a prepared ground surface on the site. In one test square, unit 18N18E, the platform surface was removed, a process that required picks and shovels. The extreme hardness of the upper surface is undoubtedly due to the combination of cultural preparation and firing, and to the natural cementing action of precipitated.
To the southwest of the house platform, a dense layer of architectural rubble was encountered. This rubble layer averaged 20 cm in thickness, and was deposited atop older midden deposits. The rubble seems associated with the Layer C architectural features. To the northwest of the house platform, a unique layer of site midden was preserved. The deposit was characterized by unusually well preserved large animal bones. The surface was very hard and, again, appears to have been cemented by precipitated carbonates in the deposit. To the extreme west of the excavation block, a second heavily burned architectural feature was exposed, which had also been visible in the Trench 1 site profile. This feature could plausibly be the corner of another major structure. Alternatively, it could be the remains of a thermal feature, such as a kiln or smelter. Several of these high temperature features were encountered during the excavation of Layer C. One of these, located in site tier 18 East was extensively sampled for archaeomagnetic dating.
At total of 80 new samples for carbon dating were collected during the 2007 season, of which an initial series of 15 have been submitted for dating. Processing of flotation, micro morphology, and metallurgical slag samples are currently underway. It is possible, however, to summarize the preliminary results of the faunal analysis conducted by Amy Nicodemus during the 2007 field season.
The preliminary analysis encompasses the identification of 3852 bones and bone fragments and an additional 669 shell fragments. These counts reflect recovery from toweling and dry screening, and do not include animal bone and shell recovered from flotation. While a more detailed analysis of the individual feature deposits is underway, the results summarized here characterize the Layer C deposits as a whole. The breakdown of identified bone by taxon and type are presented in the annexes.
Like other Bronze Age sites in the region, domestic mammals comprise the majority of the identifiable fauna in all these levels. When compared against all wild mammals, livestock make up over 80% of the identifiable animal remains. Among domestic animals, sheep/goat predominate, followed by pig. Domestic horse constitutes four percent of the identified domestic specimens. Among wild taxa, red deer are most common followed by roe deer. A number of the other wild mammals are represented in low quantities, and many of these are fur bearing.
The 2007 field season, which saw the initiation of level by level excavations in the core of the Bronze Age deposits, was successful and provides a solid foundation for deeper probing into the core of the Bronze Age occupation. While the pace of excavation was somewhat slower than hoped, it is expected that the pace will quicken now that we have moved into a zone with much clearer stratigraphic layers. A question of particular importance to be pursued during the 2008 season concerns the nature of the large platform, and what it represents in terms of the organization of settlement in the Bronze Age community.
We continue to benefit from an extremely productive collaborative relationship with the Muzeul Judeţean Arad and the Muzeul Banatului Timişoara, and from the skills and experience of our senior collaborators, Dr Florin Draşovean and Dr. Peter Huegel. The daily presence on site of Dr. Szentmiklosi and Mr. Hurezan has been an important factor in the success of the work. Finally, the friendly and cooperative atmosphere that has developed among the Romanian and American student crews, and with the people of the village of Semlac, is particularly appreciated and valued.
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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