Expedition Romania

Archaeological expedition Romania 2023 

In cooperation with the Museum in Botoșani (Muzeul Județean Botoșani) and the Museum of Jeseníky region (VMJ), the staff of the Department of Archaeology of the Silesian Museum (SZM) started the excavation of a burial mound in Flămânzi, Romania. The burial mound (kughan or also tumulus) is a typical burial structure in steppe and forest environments from the end of the Eneolithic to the Middle Ages.

Flămânzi is located in Romanian Moldova, in the Botoșani county (județ) in the northeast of the country. Geographically, it is the edge of a large steppe that stretches from Mongolia across Central Asia to the Pannonian Basin. The steppe in this area is very fertile, which unfortunately does not suit the local burial mounds, which are being destroyed more and more each year by the advancing mechanisation in agriculture, especially deep ploughing.

The archaeologists of the Silesian Museum already had experience with the excavation of a mound last year (2022), when they were invited by the Museum in Botoșani to excavate a mound in the village of Dragușeni (Movila de la Saivane, Tumul 1 - shortly Dragușeni 1), located about 50 km north of Flămânzi. The mound was about 20 m in diameter and was almost unrecognisable before the excavation began due to ploughing. A central grave was discovered. It took the form of a pit covered with wooden beams. At the bottom of the pit lay the skeletal remains of an elderly man (60-70 years old). The skeleton was lying on a textile mat in a slightly stooped position, turned on its right side with its legs folded under its body. The head and lower torso were covered with ochre dye. At the bottom of the pit were found the remains of postholes, for the posts that originally held the structure of the roof of the grave. Apart from a lump of ochre, small pieces of silicite (flint) and a ceramic shard, no grave goods were attached. However, the nature of the burial clearly indicated the dating of the grave to the Early Bronze Age ( circa late 4th millennium BC), i.e. the Yamnaya archaeological culture (also known by the older name 'Ochre grave culture'). The chronological classification was subsequently confirmed by radiocarbon dating.

This year, a full cooperation between our museums was established, in which colleagues from the Museum of Jeseníky region were also invited. The expedition took place in early October and focused on the almost indistinct mound Ciurari 1 near the village of Flămânzi, close to the regional capital Botoșani. Before the actual start of the excavation, magnetometry measurements were carried out by colleagues from Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany. This measurement revealed that the mound has an impressive diameter of 35 m. On the very first day of excavation, the entire team was surprised to discover a massive stone circle more than 2 m wide that encircled the entire outer edge of the mound. Such a construction is a rather unusual feature in this area. After two weeks of work, several burials had already been intercepted, including the central grave, but this is hidden beneath the main profile and will be investigated next year. Three of the four graves investigated again belong to the Yamnaya culture. In addition to textile mattresses, the remains of a ceramic vessel were uncovered in one grave. The fourth grave, which was located behind the line of the stone circle, can be preliminarily assigned to the Younger Iron Age on the basis of the grave goods. The mound at Flămânzi represents a unique ritual complex, which includes not only a final resting place but also a cult site, as evidenced by the fragments of animal bones that are the remains of a funeral feast or the pits behind the line of the stone circle, the function of which remains so far unknown. However, all of the excavated objects were sampled for natural science analysis, which can reveal much more information and help us to unravel the mystery of this place.

The mound was conserved at the end of this year's campaign and it is hoped that we will continue the excavation together next year.