Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology’s 2024 Transylvanian Laboratory Project

This listing expired on July 6, 2024. Please contact for any updated information.

Location: Baia Mare, Romania

Season: July 6, 2024 to August 3, 2024

Session Dates: 6 July 2024 - 3 August 2024

Application Deadline: June 30, 2024

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology

Project Director:
Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology, PI Priscilla Mollard (University of Massachusetts Amherst, Central Connecticut State University), co-PI Crystal Miller (Macquerie University)

Project Description:

Maramureș County was the metallurgical epicenter of Transylvania for almost 3,000 years. During the medieval period, Rivulus Dominarum was one of the most important Transylvanian mining towns in the Kingdom of Hungary, enjoying special privileges and social freedoms denied non-mining towns. With its long and continuous history of gold mining, the town represents an incredible opportunity to study the impact of mining and its biosocial consequences at the community level.

The analysis of the Piaţa Cetăţii skeletal collection, which Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology students will play an instrumental part in formulating, is just one aspect of what promises to be a lengthy list of future research projects in Rivulus Dominarum, now known by the name Baia Mare. Very few bioarchaeological studies of mining exist, and fewer still that consider the biosocial role that mining played in mortality, community health, and social identity both inside and outside of the mines. Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology places the embodiment of mining and its biosocial consequences within the larger community at the epicenter of our project. For this reason, mining will be studied as it would have been experienced by the individuals represented by the Piaţa Cetăţii skeletal collection: as a phenomenon that would have impacted the biological and social lives of all the inhabitants of the mining town, in one form or another. These impacts would have included not only injury or death in the mines, but also illnesses contracted through contaminated drinking water, congenital disorders resulting from maternal exposure to heavy metals, or injuries sustained through domestic abuse in mining households. Each of these biological consequences would have created social ramifications that would have reverberated throughout the entire community of Rivulus Dominarum.

Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology students will create biological profiles of the Piaţa Cetăţii skeletal collection. These estimates of sex and age-at-death, along with inventories of paleopathology and skeletal trauma endured by each individual, will shed light on who was experiencing the biological consequences of mining and what the social ramifications of those consequences were within the larger community of 14th-17th century Rivulus Dominarum.

Students will receive graduate-level training in Bioarchaeological, Forensic, and Archaeological theory and methods, including new and innovative multidisciplinary research frameworks that are rarely taught in other field learning programs. Learning modules will include:

Violence Theory
Black Feminist Archaeology
Queer Theory
Decolonizing Bioarchaeology
Bioarchaeological Storytelling

Osteological Cleaning & Prep
Fragment ID & Siding
Skeletal Recording
Age-at-Death & Sex Estimation
Paleopathology & Skeletal Trauma
Analysis of Commingled Remains

In addition, students will have the opportunity to conduct their own focused research projects and present their findings in a formal academic conference at the Muzeul Județean de Istorie și Arheologie in Baia Mare. These projects can potentially be applied towards Independent Studies at participants’ host universities, or can serve as case studies for theories or methods that students may wish to develop greater expertise in, in advance of their applications to graduate school.

Period(s) of Occupation: Medieval period, 14th - 17th century, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary

Local day trips to museums and sites of interest in Baia Mare are included in the program fee but we also offer an optional 2 night/3 day field trip to Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary (Libearty) and Bran Castle, otherwise known as “Dracula’s Castle”, in Brasov. Depending on time and participant interest, this trip may also include a visit to Salina Turda salt mines and other sites of interest between Baia Mare and Brasov. This optional trip will add 300 USD to the total program fee and will include the journey from Baia Mare to Brasov for our group, and double or triple occupancy lodging in hotels in Brasov for 2 nights. Due to different customizable ticket options, the price will not include admission to either the sanctuary or the castle (around 5 to 10 USD for each), but it will include a private tour of Libearty. Students who do not wish to take the optional trip may stay in Baia Mare and will not be required to pay the additional 300 USD trip supplement.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4 Weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: Academic interest and curiosity are the most important elements of your application. Some prior knowledge of human skeletal morphology would be beneficial but is not necessary or required. Regardless of what you know coming into the program, all students will receive graduate-level training in archaeological and bioarchaeological theory and methods.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Students will be lodged in double or triple occupancy hotel rooms in Baia Mare's Old Center, within easy walking distance (5 to 10 minutes) of the museum. Breakfast will be provided by the hotel but students will be responsible for providing their own meals otherwise. There are pharmacies and markets in the area, as well as some of the best restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs in the city. Dining out is extremely affordable, with sit-down restaurant meals costing between 5 and 10 USD. While Romanian cuisine does tend to be meat-oriented, that trend is changing in Baia Mare. There is a wonderful vegan restaurant and a raw vegan dessert and juice bar within walking distance of the museum! Even in more traditional restaurants, you will find that it is quite easy to accommodate vegetarianism or other dietary restrictions. Meals are typically created by ordering separate components (a protein + vegetables + starches + sauces), so it is entirely possible to customize meals that are specific to your needs and wants. The project's PI is able to easily accommodate allergies to gluten, grain, and nightshades! Program fees for 2024 are 2495 USD for the field school, which will cover the cost of research materials, field and laboratory manuals, lectures delivered by research staff and guest speakers, and four weeks accommodation. Optional (but highly recommended) transfers to/from Cluj Napoca Airport are 100 USD each way, for an additional total cost of 200 USD. Fees do not include roundtrip airfare to/from Cluj or daily meals other than breakfast, as described above. The optional 2-night/3 day field trip to the bear sanctuary and Bran Castle in Brasov will add an additional 300 USD to these fees, which will include lodging and transportation as described above but will not include meals other than those provided by hotels (typically breakfast), or admission prices to either site of interest, which will typically cost about 40 lei or 10 USD each.

Academic Credit:
While Rivulus Dominarum Bioarchaeology’s 2024 Transylvanian Laboratory Project is not able to offer academic credit directly through our program, we encourage students to enroll in Independent Studies or Special Project courses through their home universities. We are happy to supervise you this summer in formulating research questions, identifying what data to collect, and learning how to apply those data to individual research projects. Reach out to your professors and put us in touch with them to make sure that you have an opportunity to earn academic credit for the work you do with us!

Contact Information:

Priscilla Mollard

University of Massachusetts




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