University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Rapoltu Mare: The Crossroad of Roman Dacia – Dwight Wu


By: Sarah Linn

August 31, 2015

Every year, the Penn Museum provides support to Penn undergraduates and graduate students as they deepen their understanding of the human experience outside the Museum’s walls. Follow these blog posts from our intrepid young scholars as they report on the sights and sites that they encounter throughout their travels in the field.


 

My name is Dwight Wu and I am a Ph.D. student in the Ancient History program at the University of Pennsylvania. Thanks to a generous grant from the Penn Museum, I will be working with a team organized by Archaeotek on an excavation and survey project at Rapoltu Mare, Romania. In this post, I would like to share with you some of the things I have found regarding the surroundings of our site, as part of my preparation for the dig.

Rapoltu Mare is a small village on the banks of the Mureş River. The nearest Roman site is Petris, a small waypoint identified on the Peutinger Table.

Post 1 Map 1
The location of Petris according to omnesviae.org, a Roman route planner that maps the Peutinger Table onto Google Earth. (Photo credit: René Voorburg)

The location of Petris itself, however, is not securely supported by inscriptional evidence. Petris is identified with the modern village of Uroi based on the distance recorded on the Peutinger Table or Tabula Peutingeriana, namely XIII millia passuum or roughly 20 km from Adaqua (modern Călan), and VIIII millia passuum or 14 km from Germisara. Since Adaquas and Germisara are both known points, the logical thing to do is to draw a line and measure out a point that agrees with the Peutinger Table’s descriptions.

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The distance between Adaquas and Germisara on the Peutinger Table. (Photo credit: René Voorburg)

Other than the Peutinger Table, all that could be said about Uroi is that there is a Roman presence in the form of building foundations, possibly villae rusticae, or rural estates, and objects datable to the Roman period – such as tiles, ceramic fragments, and a sarcophagus with coins among other items. Without inscriptions that identify Uroi as Petris, however, one could only take this identification so far. Nevertheless, the settlement at Uroi was likely important enough for it to be treated as a waypoint on the imperial road, as it is associated with the andesite quarry at Magura Uroiului, a protruding precipice north of Uroi and overlooking the Mureş River. It is the region’s most important construction resource, used by Dacians to build fortresses in the Oraştie mountains and by Romans for monumental projects at Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa.

While Rapoltu Mare has yet to be systematically excavated, materials datable to the Roman period have been found at a plateau called “La vie,” located to the southwest of Magura Uroiului. The results of the trial excavation – aside from tiles, bricks, and cattle bones – include a foundation wall that has now been identified as a villa, making this the third villa rustica, or rural estate, found in the environs of Uroi. The current theory is that Uroi and its surrounding settlements – including Rapoltu Mare and Simeria – formed a productive and convenient location where investments in property were also taking place. This summer, the aim of our project is to further excavate the rural estate, and survey the plateau with GPR (ground penetrating radar) to map out the scale of human habitation under the top soil.

While at Rapoltu Mare, I hope to visit other Roman and Dacian sites, such as Germizera at modern-day Cigmău and Vetel-Micia, both military vici, or civilian settlements, that grew around Roman garrisons, flanking the Uroi-Rapolt region to the west and east. Most interesting would be to visit the fortresses in the Orastie mountains, including Sarmizegetusa Regia, the sacred place of the Dacians.


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