Aerial photograph of the site of Corneşti

Geophysical survey plan of the interior of the innermost ring at Corneşti (courtesy Helmut Becker)

Excavation and survey at the large Bronze Age fortified site of Corneşti, Romanian Banat

Professor Anthony Harding

(joint project with the Museum of the Banat, Timişoara, the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin, the University of Frankfurt am Main, and the Römisch-Germanische Kommission)

The enormous site of Corneşti, around 18 km north of Timişoara in western Romania, has been known for many years. Consisting of four concentric rings of ditch and rampart, it measures 5.5 x 3.9 km at its largest extent, the perimeter of the outermost circuit measuring some 16 km with an internal area of over 1700 ha. Small-scale excavation took place in the 1930s on the inner defensive circuit, but recent work only began in 2007 with a trench cutting the defences of the innermost circuit, and then small areas in the interior. From 2008 to 2013 geophysical prospection has been carried out by Helmut Becker. Pottery and radiocarbon both indicate a date in the Late Bronze Age, around 1200 BC, though there is also an Eneolithic site in the southern part of Enclosure 2.

Up to 2011, funding came mainly from the Thyssen Foundation, with assistance from Frankfurt, Berlin and the British Academy. Funding has now been obtained from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to continue work until 2014.

Since 2010, Exeter students have assisted the with the geophysics, fieldwalking, and excavation. At present, Harding is involved in discussions about the future direction of fieldwork, which will focus on completing fieldwalking and geophysics in the interior of the innermost enclosure, and extending outwards to the second and third enclosures. Fieldwork will take place in 2014 and, it is hoped, for several seasons after that.

The interpretation of the site is complicated, in view of its enormous size. Attention continues to focus on its role locally and regionally, and to consider its place more widely in Bronze Age Europe. A first analysis was published in Antiquity in 2011.