Adult Osteology Research Laboratory Workshop - Medieval Crisis Populations in Transylvania

Location: Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania

June 2, 2019 to June 29, 2019

Application Deadline: 
Friday, March 15, 2019

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Flyer: PDF icon adult_osteology_workshop_2019.pdf

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Archaeological Techniques and Research Center (Canada); Haaz Rezso Muzeum (Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania); University of South Florida (USA)

Project Director:

Dr. Jonathan Bethard (University of South Florida); Dr. Andre Gonciar Archaeological Techniques and Research Center, Canada); Dr. Zsolt Nyaradi (Haaz Rezso Muzeum, Romania)

Project Description

          As the 15th century ends, the battle for Europe begins! The southeastern European frontier collapses in front of the Ottoman Turks. The heroes (and their legend) that held back the East have died: Vlad Dracula the Impaler, prince of Wallachia, was assasinated in 1476; Holy Stephan the Great, prince of Moldavia, died in 1504; Skanderberg (Iskender Bey), lord of Albania, was killed in 1468. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the united European defeat at the great Battle of Mohacs in 1526 opened the way for the Ottoman expansion into Europe. By 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent has conquered southeastern Europe, the Kingdom of Hungary collapsed and the Ottoman troops were battering the walls of Vienna for over a century.

          This program is an intensive, in-depth, hands on laboratory workshop, focusing on research skill acquisition. The aim of this project is to evaluate to what extent and how these major political events impacted physically local populations. For that purpose, we will analyze the human remains from four different medieval cemeteries from central Transylvania. This summer’s workshop is designed to conduct an exhaustive osteological survey of the adult population from at least one of the four target sites as well as to select bones to be brought back for stable isotope analysis. Students will receive intensive 2h lecture daily on theory and method in osteology prior to working on the bones, followed by hands on laboratory sessions. They will be taught how to determine age, sex, stature, identify pathologies, and take standard measurements and 3D scans. Participants will be introduced to various osteological conservation problems aiming at properly evaluate bone quality for various analyses. This survey of bioarchaeological theory and method, coupled with hands on data gathering, is aimed at providing the students the analytical tools needed for the interpretation of the data they collect and its presentation in conference settings.

Period(s) of Occupation: Middle Ages

Intensive, in-depth osteological analysis of the human remains from our Lost Church of Valeni medieval cemetery, our current active excavation site, in Transylvania (Romania).

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4 weeks

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 
Basic knowledge of human anatomy and morphology preferred but not required.

Room and Board Arrangements

         Students and volunteers will be housed in Odorheiu Secuiesc, a small and beautiful city, rich in history and culture. It is cosmopolitan town, situated in central Transylvania, on the historical divide between the Szekely Country to the East into the Carpathians Mountains and the more Romanian and Saxon Transylvania to the South and West into the lowlands. Students and volunteers will be housed in double or triple occupancy rooms within 45min walking distance from downtown Odorheiu Secuiesc (or a 10min cab ride) and 15min away from several supermarkets/mall.

          Breakfast and dinner will be served Mon-Fri in the hotel restaurant. Participants will sample a variety of amazing home cooked Romanian and Szekler traditional meals. Students and volunteers are responsible for their own lunches in the field. Beware that Romanian cuisine is meat oriented, but we will do our best accommodate vegetarian dietary requirements. There are plenty of small stores, supermarkets, farmer markets, where you can purchase fresh cheese, various meat products, garden vegetables, bread, drinks, and anything else you might need. 

         Odorheiu Secuiesc provides all the ammenities of a small European city, which includes hospitals an international bus station, train station, and all the stores you might need.

$2495 per 4 week session (additional USF tuition fees apply, if registering for credit)

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
University of South Florida
Number of credits offered 6 undergraduate academic credits (not mandatory)
Contact University of South Florida - Education Abroad for details.


Contact Information
Dr. Jonathan Bethard or Dr. Andre Gonciar
University of South Florida
Recommended Bibliography: 

Bass, W.M. 1995. Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. 4th Ed. Missouri Archaeological Society Inc.

Byers, N. 1997. The relationship between stress markers and adult skeletal size. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 24(Suppl.): 85-86.

Demjén, A., A. Sófalvi, & Zs. Nyárádi. 2008. Cercetarea bisericilor medievale în scaunul Odorhei (jud. Harghita). Arhaologia Medievală 7:79-97.

Houghton, P., B.F. Leach, D.G. Sutton. 1975. The estimation of stature of prehistoric Polynesians in New Zealand. Journal of Polynesian Society, 84:325-336.

Hrdlička, A. 1939. Practical Anthropometry. AMS Press, New York, 231pp.

Mays, S. 1998. The Archaeology of Human Bones. Rootledge, New York.

White, T.D. 2000. Human Osteology. Academic Press, New York.

White, T.D., & P.A. Folkens. 2005. The Human Bone Manual. Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego.