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Adult Osteology Research Laboratory Workshop - Medieval Crisis Populations (Transylvania, Romania)

Location: Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania

June 4, 2017 to July 1, 2017

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Flyer: PDF icon adult_osteology_workshop_2017.pdf

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Archaeological Techniques and Research Center (Canada); Haaz Rezso Muzeum (Romania)

Project Director:

Dr. Jonathan Bethard (University of South Florida); Dr. Zsolt Nyaradi (Haaz Rezso Muzeum)

Project Description

          Transylvania, Romania, has been in a perpetual state of religious and political upheaval for centuries as outsiders have tried to force their identities on the people of the area.  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.

          Despite being cut off from the rest of Europe, the people of Transylvania have a culture, which is deeply rooted into their historic landscape. The on-going excavation of a medieval church from the village of Patakfalva (Valeni) in Transylvania, Romania and the cemetery associated with it, have resulted in the excavation of over 200 individuals to date. Through time, the church moved from servicing the three- village area to the immediate area of Patakfalva. The unexpected discovery of a pre-Christian cemetery underneath the church has extended the use of the funerary landscape back to late Migration Period.

          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 adult human remains from our highly complex medieval cemetery of Valeni. This summer’s workshop is designed to conduct an exhaustive osteological survey of the adult population from the above target site 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.

          Although a basic knowledge of human anatomy and morphology is useful, this laboratory workshop session is intended for both inexperienced and advanced students. The workshop comprises daily intensive lectures on human anatomy (including determination of sex, age, stature and ancestry), biomechanics and pathology, bone quizzes, group discussions, laboratory work, bone restoration and analysis, leading to individual and group research projects and presentations in a conference setting. Daily mandatory readings will accompany the specifics each lab day. This osteology research workshop is highly recommended for the participants interested in our more advanced projects, respectively the Juvenile Osteology Research Workshop.

          Students and participants are strongly encouraged to expand their skills and experience in the field, by applying for a 4 week (July 1, 2016) session of the Medieval Cemetery Funerary Excavation immediately following the Adult Osteology Research Workshop.

Period(s) of Occupation: Middle Ages

Intensive hands-on osteology laboratory workshop focusing on the analysis of very well preserved medieval human remains from a lost church cemetery, in the heart of 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. Participants will be housed in double or triple occupancy rooms within 45min walking distance from downtown Odorheiu Secuiesc (or a 10min cab ride) and about 15min from several super markets/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. Beware that Romanian cuisine is generally meat oriented, but we can 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.

$2395 for the full 4 week program

Academic Credit

Number of credits offered: none


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

Bethard, Jonathan D. 2013. Isotopes. In Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology, edited by Elizabeth A.

DiGangi and Megan K. Moore, pp. 425-447. New York, Elsevier Academic Press.

Christensen, Angi M., Nicholas V. Passalacqua, and Eric J. Bartelink. 2014. Forensic Anthropology Current Methods and Practice. New York: Elsevier Academic Press.

Cook, Della Collins and Mary Lucas Powell. 2006. The Evolution of American Paleopathology. In Bioarchaeology: The Contextual Analysis of Human Remains, edited by Jane E. Buikstra and Lane A. Beck, pp. 281-322. New York, Elsevier Academic Press.

DeWitte, Sharon N. 2015. Bioarchaeology and Ethics of Research Using Human Skeletal Remains. History Compass 13(1):10-19.

Garvin, Heather. 2012. Adult Sex Determination: Methods and Application. In A Companion to Forensic Anthropology, edited by Dennis Dirkmaat, pp. 239-247. Boston, Wiley-Blackwell.



Garvin, Heather, Nicholas V. Passalacqua, Natalie M. Uhl, Desina R. Gipson, Rebecca S. Overbury, and Luis L. Cabo. 2012. Developments in Forensic Anthropology: Age-at-Death Estimation. In A Companion to Forensic Anthropology, edited by Dennis Dirkmaat, pp. 202-223. Boston, Wiley-Blackwell.

Kaestle, Frederika A. and K. Ann Horsburgh. 2002. Ancient DNA in Anthropology: Methods Applications and Ethics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 45:92-130.

Knudson, Kelly J. and Christopher M. Stojanowski. 2008. New Direction in Bioarchaeology: Recent Contributions to the Study of Human Social Identity. Journal of Archaeological Research 16:397-432.

Krogman, Anne M. and Steven Symes. 2013. Investigation of Skeletal Trauma. In Research Methods in Human Skeletal Biology, edited by Elizabeth A. DiGangi and Megan K. Moore, pp. 219-239. New York, Elsevier Academic Press.

Larsen, Clark Spencer and Phillip L. Walker. 2005. The Ethics of Bioarchaeology. In Biological Anthropology and Ethics: From Repatriation to Genetic Identity, edited by Trudy R. Turner, pp.111-119. Albany, University of New York Press.

Larsen, Clark. 2002 Bioarchaeology: The Lives and Lifestyles of Past People. Journal of Archaeological Research 10(2):119-166.

Milner, George G. and Jesper L. Boldsen. 2012. Skeletal Age Estimation: Where We Are and Where We Should Go. In A Companion to Forensic Anthropology, edited by Dennis Dirkmaat, pp. 224-238. Boston, Wiley-Blackwell.

Nawrocki, Stephan P. 1995. Taphonomic Processes in Historic Cemeteries. In: Bodies of Evidence: Reconstructing History through Skeletal Analysis. Anne L. Grauer, ed. New York: Wiley-Liss.

Schaefer, Maureen, Sue Black, and Louise Scheuer. 2009 Juvenile Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. New York: Elsevier Academic Press.

Stodder, Ann Lucy. 2008. Taphonomy and the Nature of Archaeological Assemblages. In: Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton, second edition, edited by Anne. M. Katzenberg and Shelley R. Saunders, pp. 71-114. New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

White, Tim D., Pieter A. Folkens. 2005. The Human Bone Manual. New York: Elsevier Academic Press.

Zejdlik, Katie. 2015. An Investigation of Late Woodland and Mississippian Biological Relationships Using Odontometric and Dental Non-metric Trait Analyses. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University.