The Black Church Cemetery: Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of a medieval urban skeletal assemblage (Braşov, Romania)

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Daniela Marcu Istrate
Annamaria Diana


The aim of this paper is three-fold: 1) to present results of the archaeological excavations conducted in the area surrounding the Black Church in Braşov (Transylvania, Romania); 2) to show the outcome of the analysis of a small human skeletal sample, and 3) to stress the importance of biocultural interpretations of burial sites for a better understanding of the process of urbanization in southern Transylvania.

During the Middle Ages Braşov, founded in the 12th century by Central European colonists, was a flourishing multi-cultural and multi-ethnic urban community located in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains (Transylvania, Romania), and a busy crossroad for travellers, merchants and diplomats from Romania, other European countries and the Middle East. Between 2012 and 2013 a team of archaeologists conducted rescue excavations in the area surrounding the Black Church, unearthing a stratigraphically challenging complex of structures formed by centuries of uninterrupted human habitat, and over 1,400 graves in the medieval cemetery annexed to the church. The observation and interpretation of burial practices, grave goods and funerary topography, integrated with the demographic and pathological profile of human skeletal remains from 170 burials have shed new light on the life and death of the members of this middle-class population. In fact, bio-social and bio-cultural patterns were identified through the integration of multi-disciplinary sources of evidence.

The team involved in the post-excavation processing of archaeological materials from the Black Church cemetery is keen to promote further investigations of the herein presented archaeological site, of inestimable value for the reconstitution of the development of urban life in medieval and modern Eastern Europe, and to divulgate the lesser-known, albeit not less interesting, Romanian cultural heritage to the international scholarship and the general public.


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Marcu Istrate, D., & Diana, A. (2017). The Black Church Cemetery: Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of a medieval urban skeletal assemblage (Braşov, Romania). Studies in Digital Heritage, 1(2), 364–379.
Special Issue "Cultural Heritage and New Technologies 2016"
Author Biographies

Daniela Marcu Istrate, Institutul de Archeologie ‘V. Pârvan’, Bucharest, Romania

PhD, Senior Archaeologist

Annamaria Diana, The University of Edinburgh Alumni

PhD Freelance Human osteoarchaeologist


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