Archaeologists find Bronze Age burial mound in Romania’s Apuseni Mountains
Romanian, American and Irish archaeologists have made a spectacular discovery during this year's archaeological campaign at a burial mound from the early Bronze Age in Râmeț, in the Romanian Apuseni Mountains.
Preliminary results from this year's archaeological research campaign, as well as laboratory analyses conducted on samples from the previous year's findings, were presented in a press conference by the team of Romanian and American specialists at the National Museum of the Union (MNU) in Alba Iulia. The discovery provides evidence of distinctive funeral rituals that involved partial or total excarnation - or defleshing, a mortuary procedure - of the deceased individual, along with the binding of limbs during burial.
Archaeologist Horia Ciugudean explained that a dismembered skeleton was found in an inhumation grave, with the bones of the hands and feet tightly bound in an anatomically unnatural position. “Additionally, the lower jaw is displaced, and this is not due to the burial process; it was intentionally repositioned in relation to the skull. Some of the skeleton's bones are also missing, so it is not a complete skeleton. This fact could be attributed to the practice of excarnation, a known practice among certain primitive populations and tribes in Africa or the Americas, where bodies were exposed in open spaces on specific platforms, and birds cleaned the flesh from the bones. Subsequently, a selective burial of the bones was conducted,” explained the archaeologist, cited by G4Media.
Ciugudean noted that the fact that the long bones of the hands and feet are tightly bound but articulated indicates intentional binding, reminiscent of the flexed position in which individuals from these communities were usually buried in the third millennium BC.
The burial belongs to a community that constructed the burial mound (a tumulus covering a grave) at the beginning of the Bronze Age. “In terms of dating, based on radiocarbon dates obtained through analysis in US laboratories, we can say that this burial falls between 2800 and 2500 BC, which places it in the first half of the third millennium. However, the position of this burial within the tumulus, being towards the periphery rather than centrally located, might offer surprises in terms of its carbon dating. There could be a later burial period within this tumulus, later than the time the tumulus was raised and the first burials were placed. This might be evidenced by the graves found within the tumulus, which date to the second millennium BC,” Ciugudean stated.
Another discovery from this year is a deposit of ceramic vessels of various sizes found in different areas of the funerary mound. These vessels do not directly belong to specific graves but likely represent offerings, possibly containing certain food products meant for the journey to the afterlife. Cremation graves have also been discovered, which can be attributed to the communities of the Wietenberg culture, a Middle Bronze Age archeological culture in central Romania, spanning from approximately 1900 to 1500 BC.
According to researchers, the Râmeț tumulus has two main usage periods. The first is directly linked to a pastoral community that lived and buried their deceased in this area around the middle of the third millennium BC. The second stage involves the reuse of the tumulus in the first half of the second millennium BC by communities belonging to the Wietenberg culture, who recognized the older funerary monument, nearly a millennium older, and re-sanctified it through cremation burials and pits containing offerings.
Archaeological research at Râmeț began in 2019 as a partnership between MNU Alba Iulia and Hamilton College in the United States, later joined by University College Dublin in Ireland. In previous years, the campaigns focused on the western and southern parts of mound 1, and this year, the eastern part. Last year, Horia Ciugudean mentioned that there could be hundreds of such funerary mounds within the Râmeț commune area, and thousands or even tens of thousands in the Apuseni region.
(Photo source: Arheologie MNU Alba Iulia on Facebook)