Agrij-Almașu Archaeological Survey – summer 2015. Preliminary results of the Geophysical survey and pilot excavations on Vranița Hill, Bozna village (com. Treznea)
The collaboration between Eric De Sena (Transylvania Alive), Daniel Deac (Salaj County Museum of History and Art), Felix Marcu (National Museum of Transylvanian History, Cluj-Napoca), and George Cupcea (University Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca) at the archaeological site on Vranița Hill in Bozna village (comuna Treznea) has yielded very good results. Following a walkover survey in February 2015 by De Sena and Deac, an area of ca. 1.2 hectares was surveyed by magnetometry by Marcu and Cupcea in July 2015. Three small trenches were excavated in July-August 2015 under a permit issued to Marcu.
Background: In his survey of archaeological sites in northwestern Romania, Karolyi Torma (1863) reported that he observed standing architecture on Vranița Hill, which, in his opinion, was the remains of a small Roman fortress or watchtower. Torma also reported to have found Roman pottery and coins at the site. Small-scale fieldwork in the 1960's established the presence of a Gava culture settlement, Hallstatt period (10th-7th century BC). In 1988, Prof. Valentin Vasiliev led a campaign to explore the entire Vranița Hill, excavating 15 trenches in select areas of the 4.2 hectare plateau. Vasiliev’s team revealed evidence of a modest fortified settlement pertaining to the Gava culture.
Summary of 2015 Pilot Project on Vranița Hill: Aware of the archaeological background of the Vranița Hill in Bozna, Deac and De Sena conducted a walkover survey in February 2015. While evidence of the Hallstatt period settlement has been ascertained, we sought evidence on the ground surface of a Roman structure. There are clear patterns of ridges and mounds on the plateau of Vranița Hill; however, of the archaeological material seen on the surface, none pertained to the Roman period. We decided the site warranted a geophysical survey.
During the week of July 13, with Transylvania Alive field school students, Lauren Hampson and Olivia Seymous, we conducted a walkover survey of the 4 hectare plateau and assisted Felix Marcu and George Cupcea with a magnetometry survey of ca. 1.2 hectares – an area where we believe Torma stated was the location of Roman remains. The magnetometry survey suggested a number of features below ground surface, including several rectilinear features.
Marcu applied for a permit to excavate, and during the week of July 27, we investigated two small areas of interest. The excavation team consisted of De Sena and Deac with Horatiu Cocis as a trench supervisor; in addition to Hampson and Seymour, we were joined by former Porolissum Forum Project participants Valerie Charbonneau, Lauran Earl, Dara Keller, Annie Lane, and Sean Troyer, as well as four students from Zalau’s Liceu A.P.I., Tudor Ghic, Andrea Iacob, Paul Pacurar, and Mytza Serban. Cora Brumaru and Kate Lowes joined the team on July 29.
Trenches 1A and 1B, each measuring 5x2 meters with a 1 meter balk in between, are situated in the east-central area of the surveyed area. This area was selected based upon magnetometry results, which indicated an L-shaped feature. Trench 2 is situated at the top of a slope at the eastern corner of the surveyed area, where a distinctive ridge protrudes perpendicularly from the slope and magnetometry indicated a moderately high signal. As of the writing of this (August 20), we still need to complete the excavation of trench 2.
Trench 1A was excavated to an average depth of 30 cm. Below the topsoil was a layer of dense dark brown clay with little artifactual material. At the SW end of the trench, the excavation team revealed fragments of a Gava style ceramic vessel (likely biconical) with a fine, black exterior and a reddish brown interior. A layer of fragmented gray clay on top of the same yellowish clay in Trench 1B may represent part of a collapsed daub wall.
Trench 1B revealed very few artifacts, but the excavation team revealed a section of floor of a hut. The floor, measuring roughly 4x3 meters, is composed of a yellowish clay mixed with crushed shell (the primary stone in the area is a limestone formed when Transylvania was beneath the Tethys Sea during the Mesozoic period, ca. 250-80 million years ago. The limestone contains an abundance of fossilized shells). A single posthole was identified. The floor is set into a layer of yellowish clay with abundant organic material.
Trench 2, not fully excavated as of August 20, is intended to investigate a small section of a low ridge that surrounds much of the site as well as a mound that extends some 6 meters from the ridge. After topsoil, the excavation team revealed a layer of small limestone rocks. Below this was a thin sandy layer, decomposed limestone and a deep layer of dark brown clay. Hallstatt period ceramics were unearthed in all layers, so far.
Thus, the excavations are adding to our knowledge of the Gava culture settlement, but revealed no trace of a Roman occupation. At the same time, the team continued to survey the area around the plateau, covering a total of 23 hectares. Two Roman watchtowers were identified on an adjacent hill in the town of Agrij, while fragments of Roman brick and fragments of what appear to be Roman coarseware pottery were found on the surface of the slope of Vranița Hill, some 500 meters downslope.
We are very grateful to Mayor Stanciu and his staff at the Comuna of Treznea for permission to excavate on Vranița Hill and for their friendship. We are also thankful to Dan Culic for making the drawings of plans and sections of the trenches.
We will update this section as we complete the excavations and document the trenches and artifacts.