Cornesti-Iarcuri-A Bronze Age Town in the Romanian Banat?

By Szentmiklosi, Alexandru; Heeb, Bernhard S. et al. | Antiquity, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Cornesti-Iarcuri-A Bronze Age Town in the Romanian Banat?


Szentmiklosi, Alexandru, Heeb, Bernhard S., Heeb, Julia, Harding, Anthony, Krause, Rudiger, Becker, Helmut, Antiquity


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Introduction

In the expansive plains of the Banat in western Romania, between the cities of Arad and Timisoara, lies the multiple enclosure of Iarcuri, in the immediate vicinity of the modern village of Cornesti (Figure 1). The site, which encompasses four enclosing rings of ramparts, and has an area of about 1722ha, is at present the largest known prehistoric settlement in Europe. The dimensions can only really be grasped when looking at the site flora the air (Figure 2).

Already in the nineteenth century, Cornesti-Iarcuri (then known by the Hungarian name Zsadany, Romanian Jadani, German Schadain, as shown on Austrian military maps) was part of the archaeological discourse, mainly due to its immense size (Pech 1877; Milleker 1899). When Austrian settlers mapped the marshy expanses of the Banat, parts of the two inner enclosures appeared on a 'Mercy Map' (map series created between 1723 and 1725 by Count Claude Florimund de Mercy, commander of the Banat 1716-1730) (Heeb et al. 2008: 182, Abb. 4). More detailed maps of the site, including the third enclosure, were created by the military in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The outermost enclosure was only discovered in 1973 on aerial photographs, as it is hardly visible on the ground. It was published for the first time in 1989 (Rada et al. 1989). A recent description of the site was provided by D. Micle and colleagues from the West University of Timisoara (Micle et al. 2006), who also undertook initial survey work and considered the site's situation in its local context.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The innermost, almost circular, rampart (hereafter Enclosure I) has a diameter of 1km (east-west) and is flanked to the north and south by two valleys (Figure 3). The second enclosure (Enclosure II) is more oval in nature and has a diameter (north-south) of about 2.2km, encompassing Enclosure I, the two valleys, as well the southern terraces and plateau. The third rampart (Enclosure III) is also oval in shape with a diameter (north- south) of 2.8km. The total area of over 1700ha is that of the outermost ring (Enclosure IV), which measures 5.5km east-west and c. 3.9km north-south, with a perimeter length of almost 16km (Micle et al. 2006: 286-90; Heeb et al. 2008: 185).

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

I. Miloia and M. Moga carried out the first excavations on the site in 1932 and 1939 respectively (Medelet 1993). The records for the excavations of the 1930s survive only in fragmentary form. Trenches opened in 1939 (A and B) cut across the rampart of Enclosure II. The available section drawing shows parallel rows of vertical wooden posts filled with soil (Heeb et al. 2008:183). They were probably joined up with wattle, and the structure shows signs of burning. Plans for further excavations were thwarted by the outbreak of World War II.

In autumn 2007 excavation and survey work was resumed by a team from Romania, Germany and Britain, when a small test trench was excavated in the southern half of Enclosure li (Trench 1). In 2008 Enclosure I was investigated in order to understand the method of construction and possible date by excavating a long narrow trench through the rampart (Trench 2), using students and staff from the universities of Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Arad, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Wurzburg and Exeter, and the Timisoara Museum. In parallel with the excavation, high resolution magnetic prospection (by Becker Archaeological Prospection) and a field-walking survey were carried out.

The experience of 2007 and 2008 showed that small-scale excavations are ineffective due to the immense scale of the site, and larger-scale excavations, especially those cutting the ramparts, have major consequences for time and funding. Trying to locate smaller features without prior geophysical survey is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Systematic research is, however, crucial as intensive agriculture is endangering the entire site. …

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