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Troesmis 1: Die Forschungen von 2010–2014

Troesmis 1: Die Forschungen von 2010–2014

Edited by Cristina-Georgeta Alexandrescu, Christian Gugl, and Barbara Kainrath. Pp. 554. Mega Verlag, Cluj-Napoca, Romania 2016. €69. ISBN 978-606-543-749-4 (cloth).

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Troesmis is an originally Geto-Dacian site in Moesia Inferior occupied by the Romans in the second century C.E. and home to the legio V Macedonica. The attention given by scholars to sites like this, intermittent due to wars and cuts in funding, results in a scattered archaeological record. Archaeologists of the Roman frontier in central and eastern Europe often face the difficulty of tracking down previous excavation reports and other scholarly work on a given site in various and difficult-to-access locations such as local and regional museum publications, museum archives, or research institution archives. The editors and authors of Troesmis 1 have, thankfully, done that legwork for us. The team of researchers, hailing from Romania, Austria, and Germany, begin their ambitious tome with an historiography of research and excavation at Troesmis beginning with Désiré More in the 1860s up to their own campaigns of 2010–2014, collecting sources from Romanian, Austrian, and French archives. This first volume is the culmination of earlier endeavors, and its tenacious adherence to systematization makes it a standard for future research and excavations at Troesmis and in the region.

The volume contains 17 sections covering introductory material, geographical and scholarly contexts, overview of excavations, east and west fortifications, the Roman imperial settlement, the finds from the surface survey, the settlement and hinterland, Troesmis and the lex municipalis, a report on mortar and rock samples from the site, summaries in German, Romanian, English, plus back matter consisting of an abbreviation key, bibliography, photograph credits, and an author list. The initials of the author appear at the beginning of each section, which gives credit to the work and also lets the reader know whom to contact on a given topic.

The authors set their goals immediately for the project and the book. For the project, the goal was the exposure of the largest possible settlement area; for the book, it was to place their findings from the campaign into the historiography of research since the 19th century (11). To this end, the first sections orient the reader in the geographical, topographical, and historiographical contexts of Troesmis. Following the motto “vom Großen ins Kleine,” each section begins with an overview of the results before dissecting the research areas (12). For the architectural aspects, there is an overview of the topography and research status; for the material finds, an overview of the finds spectrum. The overview of past research is especially helpful because research on the site has been sparse, inconsistent, and dominated by epigraphy. Many of the reports are unpublished, and those that do exist are scattered among various journals and archives. Collecting these reports was an archaeological accomplishment in itself.

Although there were prehistoric finds in some of the eroded areas of the site, and Troesmis itself was occupied as early as the Hellenistic period, the focus of this volume is on the Late Antique and post-Antique periods since surface surveys during the 2010–2014 campaign did not reveal much beyond the later, topmost, layers. The campaign began with air and satellite photography using the online platforms TerraServer, Google Earth, Microsoft Bing Maps, QGIS, and also topographical maps and other photographs supplied by the Agenției Naționale de Cadastru și Publicitate lmobiliara (ANCPI) in Bucharest. Of particular interest is the use of aerial laser scanning (ALS), which makes it possible to discern minute details, such as the course of a Roman waterpipe, and also creates many of the clear colorful images that are contained in this book.

On the ground, a team of archaeologists was able to georeference structures and individual objects and use computer-aided design (CAD) to organize structural data. In five years, they covered approximately 105 ha. Geomagnetic and ground radar afforded more detail in the 2014 season. Standard field survey had been done in the past, but now the finds can be placed within a measured and georeferenced map. Field survey, geophysical prospection, geomagnetic radar, and ground radar were used to securely record all aboveground structures. Modern prospection and documentation methods set the stage for future excavations which, the authors state, will be needed to even begin to describe settlement development (12). The book goes into detail about how the methods were applied, including diagrams of the line walking and images of the equipment.

A Microsoft Access database was used to classify and organize all finds, while select pottery finds were sent to Vienna for microscopic photography. Macro- and microphotography were used for rock and mortar samples (515). Though there is more that needs to be done, the process is now systematized. In many of the images and in the text itself, the results are organized by campaign year, which is helpful for returning to  and analyzing the raw data.

The vast area of ground covered has been conceptualized in five zones: the castrum, the canabae, the east fortification, west fortification, and the necropolis. In 2011, the castrum and canabae were located, and then were clarified the following year. The east and west fortifications are the most readily visible remains at Troesmis, but both have been heavily damaged by erosion, agriculture, and the construction of power lines. On the east fortification, the focus of analysis lies in comparing the existing evidence with Baudry’s documents from 1865. These comparisons allow archaeologists to establish just how much destruction has occurred over the last century, “clarifying details and posing new questions” (118). For example, of Baudry’s 11 documented towers of the east fortification, survey found only four. Still discernible, however, are three churches, which Baudry dated to the sixth century C.E. based on style, though their phases can only be surmised. Also discernible are a principium and an extramural amphitheater. The brief history of amphitheaters, especially with respect to military camps, given in chapter 10 is an indicator of the comprehensiveness of the book (445–48). General consensus is that the final building program for the east fortification was in the late fifth to early sixth century, and a further study of the fortification, the principium, and the Early Christian church buildings in the context of the Late Antique provinces on the Danube is planned for volume 2.

Much less work has been done on the west fortification. The east corner is the best preserved but the north side has eroded away and the south side has fallen into the Danube. Whereas modern prospection results were compared with Baudry’s documents in the east fortification, the survey of the west fortification is compared to Coliu’s 1939 survey, which found brick stamps of legio V Macedonica and one of legio I Italica in the fortification and a water canal on the west side. The evidence of both fortifications indicates that the east fortification was a Tetrarchic legionary camp and the west fortification was a sixth-century civic settlement.

The east and west fortifications are unique features to Troesmis, but the highest density of finds was in the vicinity of the 16–24 ha legionary fort built for the legio V Macedonica. The size is analogous, state the authors, to the forts of the legio XI Claudia and legio I Italica at Durostorum and Novae, respectively, but the uncertainty in the estimation is due to its southern side having been eroded away. The team favors the smaller size, which would make it the smallest castrum in the region, despite the legio V Macedonica’s fort at Potaissa being 24.8 ha. Nevertheless, the diagrams of legionary fort proportions and areas from other sites in the area are part of what makes this volume useful beyond just Troesmis (187). Previous excavations and modern prospection have located walls, a possible bath complex, and enough structures to allow the researchers to discern the cardo and decumanus. The extension of the latter into the canabae informs hypotheses concerning some of the extramural features. The authors also expand the scope of their research beyond the site by attempting to discern the regional road network based on the locations of tumuli in the necropolis, drawing parallels with nearby Noviodunum (468).

Some of the labeled maps have so much information on them that it is often difficult to find specific details, but that is merely a minor impediment to the great usefulness of this volume. Better to have the reader spend a little time hunting for information than to have that information omitted. Much still needs to be done at Troesmis, and this book both provides a foundation and raises questions that one hopes can be answered by future excavations and research. Troesmis I is a fine example of an archaeological monograph that pays increased attention to the hinterlands of frontier sites.

Daniel S. Weiss
McIntire Department of Art
University of Virginia

Book Review of Troesmis 1: Die Forschungen von 2010–2014, edited by Cristina-Georgeta Alexandrescu, Christian Gugl, and Barbara Kainrath

Reviewed by Daniel S. Weiss

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 123, No. 1 (January 2019)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1231.weiss

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