Guest Post: Archaeology meets Technology in Transylvania

College of Charleston Professor Alvaro Ibarra applied for and received one of TLT’s Ungrant awards in Spring 2015. He requested a Bushnell Range Finder with the funds he was awarded from TLT. He used the range finder over the summer in his work with the Brasov Archaelogical Projects in present-day Transylvania. Here, Professor Ibarra explains more about his work in archaeology, how the range finder was used, and how his research will benefit students this semester.


 

Professor Alvaro Ibarra

Professor Alvaro Ibarra

Alvaro Ibarra is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Architectural History at the College of Charleston. He specializes in Greek and Roman art, architecture, and archaeology. His current research revolves around the strategic uses of Roman military installations on the frontier of the Roman Empire in eastern Transylvania.

Part of this current research project includes the examination of various passes in the Carpathian Mountains, vital lines of communication in the ancient world. In particular, accurate measurements of the width of these passes and first-hand experiential analysis of the terrain aids in gauging their tactical efficacy. These conclusions will help clarify the debates surrounding the Roman invasion of Dacia (present-day Transylvania) and Rome’s strategic use of occupation forces. Such a study is timely in the midst of America’s own occupation of foreign territories.

At the College of Charleston, students frequently experience the benefits of having professors pursuing archaeological endeavors. Active projects expose students to the processes of the discipline of archaeology; they are able to better understand how an idea develops and makes its way from the excavation site to their textbooks. Professor Ibarra will be lecturing on his current findings in his course “Imaging Warfare in the Ancient World” (ARTH 290) this fall.


BAP member, Jeremy C. Miller (S&ME Cultural Resources Management, Charleston) measures the width of the exit to the Tornu Rosu Pass near Boita, Sibiu County, Romania.

BAP member, Jeremy C. Miller (S&ME Cultural Resources Management, Charleston) measures the width of the exit to the Tornu Rosu Pass near Boita, Sibiu County, Romania.

Members of Brasov Archaeological Projects are using the Bushnell Range Finder during the 2015 season to accurately measure the width of various mountain passes used by the Roman army in the conquest of Dacia (present-day Transylvania) in the 2nd century CE.

There are three passes of interest this season through the Fagaras Mountains, the southernmost chain of the Carpathians. These entry points gave the Roman army access to the Transylvanian Plateau, the heart of the kingdom of Dacia. Only archaeological remains serve as evidence of Roman presence, and the extent of their use during the emperor Trajan’s campaign of conquest is up for debate. Textual accounts are fragmentary and sometimes contradictory.

Roman Fort of Arutela, Caciulata, Valcea County, Romania, 2nd to 3rd century CE.

Roman Fort of Arutela, Caciulata, Valcea County, Romania, 2nd to 3rd century CE.

Our task entails measuring the average width of the so-called Tornu Rosu Pass, a second unrecorded pass to the immediate east of the Tornu Rosu Pass, and the Bran Pass. These accurate physical measurements will be compared to geo-referenced data on three more entry points in the western Carpathians. The end result will be a quantification of the completed widths alongside analyses of topographical characteristics for each pass. This assessment will reveal patterns to help scholars better understand the decision-making processes of Roman military tacticians, particularly in campaigns involving mountain warfare.

 

The Bushnell Range Finder allows project members to accurately record data without having to risk life and limb in especially treacherous terrain. Strategic points atop heavily forested and craggy mountainsides and across the cliff sides of deep ravines in the unforgiving landscape of the Carpathian Mountains are now easily accessible through a welcome bit of technology.

BAP thanks TLT at the College of Charleston for their contribution to this ongoing investigation.

Alvaro Ibarra

Assistant Professor

Department of Art History