When we were invited to dinner by the mayor a few days ago he asked us to also take part in the most important festivity of the town, the Birth of Mary. Of course we gathered with many other villagers in the church to celebrate this Christian event which marks the beginning of the orthodox ecclesiastical year. Service was then followed by a public meal with more than 150 attendees in the presence of the priests who conducted the ceremony and came to Peştera from as far as Constanța. To most of us who are unfamiliar with orthodox rites and Romanian traditions this day provided a memorable experience of religious and communal life.

The local press covered the event. Find the article here and feel free to look for familiar faces of LoDanS participants in the pictures.

In church

In church

In church

Illuminated by rays of light

 

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A lot has been written about how loess is deposited (for a paper by members of our team on loess and environmental dynamics in Southeastern Europe see this paper). That is why we’d like to refrain from doing so and instead only post a picture taken while excavating today.

Aeolian transport of loess

Aeolian transport of loess

Update:

A cloud of dust as seen from Dealul Guran

A cloud of dust as seen from Dealul Guran

Of course not only the excavation at Dealul Guran made progress so far. Our survey efforts to find new sites also resulted in much new information. We have been out in the field to visit loess outcrops of different kinds in order to detect remains of Paleolithic human occupation, i.e. lithic artifacts. More than 70 of those locations have been prospected, ranging from only small outcrops on recently constructed terraces to enormous quarries. In cases in which lithics have been found we prepared profiles and sondage pits to track the archaeological horizon from which they erode.

Searching for lithics

Searching for lithics

However, in some instances this approach only raised more questions. At two locations single lithic artifacts have neither been found on the ground below the loess outcrop nor embedded in the sediment itself, but “on” the profile. No further artifacts were observed on the surface, but sondages also did not reveal an in situ archaeological horizon. We suspect the already mentioned ground squirrels – popândău – to be responsible for this situation by carrying single lithics along the long tunnels they use to dig, meaning that the site we are looking for is much further away from the profile where we found the artifact.

Near Ţibrin

Near Ţibrinu

Right now we are exploring a location in the vicinity of Peștera which is rich in surface finds. In this case the geological setting of the site and the processes by which the sediment has formed are of particular interest. Since our team so far only consisted of archaeologist we are glad to have a geologist from Germany with us who arrived yesterday to support our work.

Heavily bioturbated loess

Heavily bioturbated loess

Survey locations in our GIS

Survey locations in our GIS

Although the previous post might have suggested that we only came to Romania to feast with the locals, one of our main goals is to further excavate the Lower Paleolithic site of Dealul Guran located on a hillslope near the village. Having excavated an area of 5 m² in 2011 we extended the area to a total of 11 m² this year. During the current campagin several archaeological horizons from the Lower to the Upper Paleolithic yielded more than 500 lithics > 2,5 cm so far which were “shot” using the total station. Beside that the excavation team also filled 400 buckets of sediment to be sieved and analyzed later in the lab. That way also small finds are recorded which is necessary for a thorough analysis of site formation processes and to reconstruct the behaviour of Paleolithic humans at Dealul Guran.

The excavation team not only deals with the problem of having to dig in sometimes very hard sediment, but also has to set up a tarp every day to protect them from the hot sun, and to carry equipment as well as the above mentioned sediment samples up and down the hill. Furthermore having lunch on a steep slope is far from being easy. 😉

The tarp providing shade.

The tarp providing shade.

Radu shooting. Peştera in the background.

Radu shooting. Peştera in the background.

Last week we were invited to dinner by the mayor of Peştera. Valentin Vrabie (watch him and pictures taken in the Comuna Peştera on YouTube), and several other local officials awaited us at an well-laid table in the town hall. We were given a two-course menue together with wine and Pálinka. Afterwards we were asked for a dance that led to a long and cheerful night.

During this entertaining and eventful hours we realized that the people of Peştera are somewhat proud of the fact that they now can date human presence at this very location to at least Marine Isotope Stage 11 (see Iovita et al., in press, Antiquity) which to many proves it to be “the oldest village in the country”. This impression later got confirmed when we found out that a local newspaper covered our project. If you can read Romanian, have a look at the article.

In fact we feel very welcomed here. Not only do we buy milk and eggs from our neighbours, but locals also assist us in various ways. The first day they built a shower for us and recently a helpful resident sharpened our tools.

Sharpening our tools

Sharpening our tools

Thank you Peştera!

Check back for soon to be posted updates on the excavation and the survey!

We actually intended to dedicate this blog post to the scientific results and challenges of our survey. However, having had more than two weeks of sun and hot temperatures, torrential rain and hail devasteted Peştera today – at least for a couple of minutes. That is why we wish to show you how this whole scenario looked like from our laboratory.

A look on what once used to be the road in front of our house

A look on what once used to be the road in front of our house

And it’s raining again right now.

Yesterday was our first day off. Having had sunshine and warm temperatures the days before we decided to drive to the Black Sea coast. Therefore we went to Vama Veche which is located in the Southwest, only 100 m from the Bulgarian border. Although the beach was crowded with people we spent several hours there, swimming, reading, eating pizza, and trying to scare away the far too many clouds.
Since we have also been trained in Quarternary geology we could not ignore a huge loess-paleosol – profile that has been exposed by the Black See and which caused additional excitement.
Have a look at the pictures to get an impression of how our day off was like:

Just us! Participants of the LoDanS 2012 campaign

Just us! Participants of the LoDanS 2012 campaign

Reading Pratchett, Bosinski, and Gaudzinski at the beach

Reading Pratchett, Bosinski, and Gaudzinski at the beach

Mathias excited about the profile in the background?

Mathias excited about the profile in the background?

Looking at samples

Looking at samples

A sample

A sample

Just to make sure, we did not spend more than 20 minutes investigating Quarternary climate sequences, but enjoyed our day at Vama Veche beach

Just to make sure, we did not spend more than 20 minutes investigating Quarternary climate sequences, but really enjoyed our day at Vama Veche beach

Kristin, Mathias & Nina