The Agrij-Almașu Archaeological Survey (AAAS) is an innovative project designed to elucidate settlement patterns and to present a model of the organization of procurement and consumption of regionally available and extra-regional resources and goods, diachronically, in an area of northwestern Romania. The region, defined by two adjacent river valleys, was chosen because of its unique settlement history, with artifacts dating as far back as the Upper Paleolithic period and nearly continuous occupation from the Neolithic period to the present. Moreover, the western and northern limits of this region represented a real cultural boundary for nearly two centuries, during the Roman occupation of Dacia. The AAAS is carried out by a team of scholars from regional museums, the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, and the Transylvania Alive Association for Cultural Heritage.
Background. The Agrij-Almașu region has received considerable attention since the 1970s, when archaeology developed as a discipline in Romania. Interest in the region is primarily due to the high concentration of Roman sites, including a military/civilian center (Porolissum), four small forts, as well as scores of watch towers along a roughly 45 km stretch of the limes (i.e., border of the Roman Empire). Indeed the military function of the region during the brief Roman period (106-271 CE) is well known. The P.I., who served as co-director of the Porolissum Forum Project for a number of years in the 2000s, began to ask questions regarding the lifeways of the military and civilian inhabitants of Porolissum. A review of past research indicated that there are nearly 80 sites in the region characterized as habitation sites that range in date between the Neolithic and Medieval periods. Apart from some brief discussions in the context of pottery or faunal assemblages, however, there have been no efforts to study socio-economic systems. Moreover, there have been no multi-phase studies within the region.
Objectives. At one level, the AAAS will: 1) identify and characterize archaeological sites and site assemblages dating between the Neolithic and early Medieval periods (ca. 5000 BCE to 13th century CE); and 2) identify and characterize natural resources and land types. The socio-economic analysis of the AAAS is limited to a period of about 1800 years, between the Late Bronze Age and the end of the Roman period (ca. 1500 BCE – 271 CE), and is designed to: 1) understand the material needs of the successive cultures, qualitatively and quantitatively, including ecological, agricultural, and manufactured resources and goods; 2) investigate the manner in which each population managed and exploited their catchment zones in order to satisfy the bulk of their material requirements; this includes the organization of labor and the manner of distribution; and, 3) demonstrate the extent to which the inhabitants of the Agrij-Almașu region relied upon areas beyond their catchment zones and how transactions were carried out. Phase One of the AAAS is planned for 2016-19.