- Project Leader: Professor Ian Haynes, Professor Alexandru Diaconescu (University of Cluj, Romania), Prof Dr Alfred Schäfer (Roman Germany Museum, Cologne)
- Sponsors: AHRC Major Award; Volkswagen Stiftung; Tissen Stiftung; Birkbeck College, University of London; Ministry of Culture, Romania
This project examines a sanctuary complex in the heart of the Roman city of colonia Aurelia Apulensis, Dacia. The colonia was itself part of the largest Roman conurbation north of the Danube, Apulum.
The site was first discovered by Prof Alexandru Diaconescu in 1989. Geophysical survey and six years of excavation by the Apulum Project (from 1998-2003) have illuminated three key themes of broader interest to scholars. These are:
- the way in which the cult site illuminates the use and definition of sacred space
- the scale and character of pottery production in and around the site
- the way the sanctuary functioned within the wider Apulum townscape
Post-excavation analysis, now largely complete has revealed a fascinating picture of cult practice in C2nd and C3rd AD Dacia. The Liber Pater cult shows remarkably little trace of the patterns of local syncretistic engagement with indigenous cults that characterise temple sites in most provinces.
Evidence from the site, from terracottas to larger statuary and from cult pits to altars overwhelmingly reveals clear parallels with religious sites in the Western Empire.
There is no discernable trace of pre-Roman Dacian cult practice. Nevertheless, some broader Danubian trends, such as reverence for the Danubian riders and the Thracian hero, are discernable.
Almost three quarters of a million sherds have been recovered from pottery production contexts in the immediate vicinity of the cult rooms. These reflect the site’s importance as a centre of light industry. While much of the production activity dates from before the sanctuary was built, it is clear that pottery production remained an important activity in the immediate area even after the cult site was established.
Study of the production process and products has enabled the team to develop a typology for pottery in Roman Dacia.
Extensive geophysical survey work has finally illuminated the urban topography of this major Roman town. The Colonia itself appears to have been about 1.5 km from N-S and 0.5 km from E-W. The sanctuary was a key feature of the NW quarter of the site, in an area which, according to analysis by Prof Dr Alfred Schäfer following geophysical survey by Dr Kris Lockyear (UCL) appears to have contained both a theatre and a major bath complex.
The final project report will be published as a major Journal of Roman Archaeology monograph in 2008.
- ‘Alba Iulia, jud.Alba [Apulum]. Punct: Sanctuarul Liber Pater’ in Cronica Cercetãrilor Arheologice din România campania 2004. Bucuresti 2005. 47-49 (with Dr Alexandru Diaconescu, Dr Alfred Schäfer and Doru Bogdan)
- ‘Alba Iulia, jud. Alba [Apulum]’ in Angelescu, M. V., (et al.) 2002 Cronica Cercetãrilor Arheologice din România, Ministerul culturii ºi cultelor serviciul arheologie, Bucharest 323 (with Dr Alexandru Diaconescu and Dr Alfred Schäfer)
- ‘The Apulum Project. Summary report of the 1998 and 1999 seasons’, in Altekamp, S., and Schäfer, A., (eds) 2001 The Impact of Rome on Settlement in the Northwestern and Danube Provinces, BAR Int ser. 921, Oxford 115-128 (with Alexandru Diaconescu and Alfred Schäfer)
- As well as the downloadable PDF project summary first published in Current World Archaeology