Excavations in Corneşti-Iarcuri in the Romanian Banat

Within the scope of the archaeological sub-project of the LOEWE focal point “Prehistoric Conflict Research – Bronze Age hillforts between the Taunus and Carpathian Mountains”, a first extensive excavation was carried out in June/July 2016 at the Bronze Age fortification of Corneşti Iarcuri (14th to 11th century BC) in the Romanian Banat.

The enclosure comprises an area of 17 km2 and includes four circular ramparts of more than 33 km total length – hence representing the largest prehistoric soil monument in Europe and, in the light of these dimensions, posing a major challenge to its systematical archaeological investigation. So far, the purpose and function of this mighty stronghold are not yet fully understood. The LOEWE excavations in Corneşti deal exclusively with the history and construction of the ramparts while the contemporaneous DFG-Projekt complements the research by analyzing the internal structure and chronology of the settlement.
Picture 1: Corneşti LOEWE excavation 2016  

Both projects are carried out in collaborative partnership with the Muzeul Banatului in Timişoara with Dr. Alexandru Szentmiklosi. The team presently consists of five Romanian technicians, seven to ten labourers from the village and four students of the University of Bucarest, coordinated by Hélène Blitte and Andrei Bălărie.

Adding to its characteristic topography, two small streams intersect the vast fortress including its circular ramparts. The LOEWE excavations in 2016 focused on the fortification of the second, still relatively high wall where it crosses one of the valleys in the west and is largely covered by colluvial deposits. The section lies close to a drainage ditch in the southern part of the floodplain (marked by an asterix in the image) where the rampart is completely concealed by colluvium. We anticipated water-logged preservation of wood used in rampart construction and organic remains for archaeobotanical studies.
  Picture 2: Corneşti Ring II
In the course of the excavations, it has been possible to uncover the remnants of the rampart by removing the colluvium on both sides. It has become apparent that the Bronze Age fortification is built on top of an ancient colluvium in 1.5 m depth. According to previous geoarchaeological investigations in other parts of the valley, it dates to the Copper Age when the landscape was subjected to increasing population pressure, intensified land use and erosion, starting from the 5th century BC.
Picture 3: Corneşti Ring II excavation  

The analysis of the rampart is in progress and indicates the presence of wood structures. Further construction details will be revealed by the ongoing removal of the colluvial deposits. Moreover, soil samples will be extracted from each layer and processed for archaeobotanical analysis. Up to now, no evidence of wet preservation has been found. However, a trench at the western side of the wall is currently being excavated where sediments are moist and the preservation of organic materials seems likely.

Picture 4: Corneşti Ring II interior Wall  
(Authors and Photographs Hélène Blitte and Rüdiger Krause 17.07.2016)