Colin Quinn

An article co-authored by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Colin Quinn was recently published online and will be part of the December issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The politics of placing the dead in Bronze Age Transylvania” was written with his colleagues Horia Ciugudean of Romania’s Muzeul National al Unirii (National Museum of the Union) and Jess Beck of Vassar College. The paper is the product of fieldwork, started in 2011, related to the ongoing Bronze Age Transylvania Survey Project, a collaboration between Hamilton and the Muzeul National al Unirii in Alba Iulia, Romania.

According to Quinn, “The project’s goal is to document how people interacted with each other and the environment during the Bronze Age in Transylvania - a phase of dramatic social transformation in Europe that gave rise to the first hierarchical societies with permanent social inequalities. The study tracks changes in where people chose to bury their dead during the Bronze Age in Transylvania, a major source of metal during this period.”

Using archival records, satellite imagery, and field surveys, the researchers recorded the sites and then analyzed them using digital analytical techniques, particularly GIS analyses of the Transylvanian landscape.

“We identified a stark contrast in how Early Bronze Age (2700-2000 BCE) and Middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 BCE) communities treated and placed their dead,” Quinn said.

“During the Early Bronze Age, communities built tombs in high mountain mining landscapes. In the Middle Bronze Age, people began to bury their dead in the same parts of the landscape where they were living.” He noted that the “shift suggests that while Early Bronze Age communities used cemeteries to mark territory and secure access to metal, the dead played a different role in Middle Bronze Age communities.”

The researchers will build on this regional analysis with additional fieldwork, including excavations at the Early Bronze Age cemetery at Râmet, where Hamilton students conducted fieldwork in 2018. Quinn said he hopes that when it is safe to travel, students will again be able to participate in this fieldwork.

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