Ossuary Excavation and Commingled Remains Osteology Research Workshop – Lost Churches Project (Transylvania, Romania)

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please be sure to reach out to the project contact to find out the status of their upcoming season. Many projects have cancelled fieldwork for 2020 and the information below may not reflect that.

Location: Odorheiu Secuiesc, RO

Season: June 6, 2021 to July 31, 2021

Session Dates: Session 1: June 6 - July 3, 2021; Session 2: July 4 - July 31, 2021

Application Deadline: January 31, 2021

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School, Volunteer

RPA Certified:

Archaeological Techniques and Research Center (Canada); Haaz Rezso Muzeum (Transylvania, Romania); Western Carolina University (USA); University of South Florida (USA)

Project Director:
Dr. Katie Zejdlik (Western Carolina University); Dr. Andre Gonciar (Bio/Archaeological Techniques and Research Center); Dr. Zsolt Nyaradi (Haaz Rezso Muzeum)

Project Description:

          Participants enrolled in this workshop will have a unique opportunity to gain both field and laboratory experience working with commingled human remains. Excavations at the Lost Church of Valeni in summer 2017 revealed an almost intact, stone built, medieval ossuary with excellent preservation.

          Students will spend 3 days (weather permitting) per week in the field learning excavation techniques for highly commingled contexts as well as honing their osteological knowledge. Two days of the week will be spent in laboratory analysis of an additional medieval ossuary. This will provide intensive training in excavation, processing, and analysis of commingled human assemblages.

          Participants will have the unique opportunity to work with not one, but two medieval commingled collections. Lab days will also feature lectures on site history, working with commingled assemblages, calculating MNIs and alternative measures, and data collection. Students will process skeletal remains, analyze taphonomic and pathological characteristics, estimate biological sex and age, and collect landmark data on the collections.

          Due to the intensive hands-on nature of the excavation and laboratory analysis, team size is limited to 8 participants to ensure an optimal learning experience.

          Our participants will be required to formulate a small research project, in groups of 4, using the materials from the commingled burial. Students will create a research design, including the formulation of a research question, collection of suitable data, analysis, and presentations as part of the Eight International Osteology and Bioarchaeology Student Colloquium in Odorheiu Secuiesc.

          Participation to this workshop requires previous experience in human morphology, anatomy, and/or practical human osteology, such as our Adult Osteology Research Workshop or equivalent.

Period(s) of Occupation: Middle Ages

Laboratory analysis and excavation of an extremely well preserved medieval church ossuary in Central Transylvania, Romania. Team size: 3-5 participants.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4 weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: Basic knowledge of human anatomy and morphology 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). A bus will be rented to take us into the field and back daily. 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 /ab/field. Beware that Romanian cuisine is meat oriented, but we do our best to 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 amenities of a small European city, which includes hospitals an international bus station, train station, and all the stores you might need. Cost: $2495 for the 4 week program (additional USF tuition fees apply, if registering for credit). Because of the COVID-19 situation, we are implementing a series of prophylactic measures intended to reduce the risk of infection to a minimum, and keep our participants, staff and hosts safe (see ).

Academic Credit:
3-6 undergraduate/graduate academic credits (not mandatory) offered by University of South Florida. Contact University of South Florida (Education Abroad) for details.

Contact Information:

Dr. Katie Zejdlik or Dr. Andre Gonciar

Western Carolina University


North Carolina


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