Southern Transylvania Projects:

July 16th - August 19th

1. Invitation
2. The Region
3. The Dacian Wars
4. The Site and Excavation

5. Application Information


Here's an invitation to an amazing excavation: the Dacian Fortress of Tilisca (4th c. BC – 106 AD). Prof. Dr. Lupu conducted an initial excavation between 1959-1965. His objectives were not to excavate the site but to map the main architectural elements. He managed to excavate less than  15% of the site, which proved to be incredibly rich. It is a large fortress (the outer wall is over 1200m long), important tribal and “industrial” center (remember the Costesti and Blidariu fortresses? - check out the "Daco-Roman Tour"). During 2004-2005, we cleaned up a few of Dr. Lupu’s trenches in order to fully expose the main fortified tower. For 2006, we have a green light to start a systematic excavation. We will dig for 5 weeks, from July 16th to August 19th. Our immediate goals are to find the temple area (which has not been identified), to fully excavate the fortified acropolis (only 20-30% has been explored) and to start a systematic mapping of the urban development that took place between the outer and inner fortifications.

Costesti Fortress
The Tilisca excavation will not be a normal, open dig. It is meant for people with a passion for archaeology. We will dig a multitude of narrow trenches through the most promising areas of the fortress, therefore it will be quite technical.

Blidariu Fortress

One other aspect is that Tilisca will not be a fully organized dig (such as Mosna). We camp – free of charge – in the acropolis (it is advisable to bring your own tent) and we make our own food – there are several stores in the village. Once a day or every couple of days, we have someone in the village cook us a hot, sturdy meal (“meat and wine”) at $6 a piece. If you wish to be housed in the village, it can be arranged at $150 for 4 weeks – housing only – in the dig house (only 6 spots available) or you can get a full room and board deal (Mosna style - check out to see what it means) at around $200 per week. However, all these options are at your discretion and none of these are part of a package dig deal (arrangements are made on an individual basis). We can also organize several field trips ($175/weekend trip - full room and board, transportation), to explore specific sites.

The only mandatory cost (regardless if you choose to stay a week or the full 5 weeks) is a $250 per person registration fee, local and excavation taxes.
This excavation is meant to be a fun, adventurous, exploration dig, full of surprises!!!

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The village is situated at 26 km West from Sibiu on the district road (D.J.) starting from DN 1 (E 15 A) through Saliste, Tilisca, Poiana, Jina and coming down to Sugag, in Sebes Valley. At an altitude of 580 m, it is flanked by the hills Catanas and Cetate, it is situated on the valley of the river Saliste (Cernavoda), affluent of Cibin. The population is of 1,324 inhabitants, together with the belonging village Rod - of 1,894 inhabitants, 1,842 of them, Romanians.

Village of Tilisca - view from the Dacian fortress
Short History

The region was inhabited since neolithic times. On Catanas hill existed a powerful Dacian castle, indicating the administrative center of a union of tribes, outpost of the castles from Orastie Mountains. Here the Dacians fought the Romans in their second battle (105 - 106), when the castle is conquered and partially destroyed. After the south - eastern part of Transylvania was subdued by Hungarian royal domination, Tilisca becomes part of Amlas Dukedom, that, in the times of Mircea cel Batran (Mircea the Old) (1386 - 1418) and of his descendants, will be in Wallachia's possession. At the end of the fifteenth century, it is part of the Chair of Saliste, belonging to the Chair of Sibiu and the Saxon University.

Gradually the village develops and consolidates itself economically. In the years preceding the Second World War, in Tilisca were living 588 families, summing up 2216 inhabitants, among which 126 shepherds, 340 handicraftsmen, 18 merchants.

Cultural - Tourist Objectives

The Dacian Castle - Raised on Catanas hill (4th-3rd century before Christ – early 2nd century after Christ). In Burebista and Decebal times, it was fortified and included in the system of fortifications flanking the castles in Orastie Mountains.

Feudal Castle - Built in the thirteenth century. Some frail traces are preserved from the ancient towers and walls.

The Orthodox Church with the patrons St. Archangels Mihail and Gavril - Historic monument, built in 1782 in three - conical plane, with pronaos, lateral naos, apses and altar. It has exterior frescos painted in 1793. It was restored in 1903.

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Sarmizegetuza Regia

During Trajan's reign one of the most important Roman successes was the victory over the Dacians. The first important confrontation between the Romans and the Dacians took place in the year 87 and was initiated by Domitian. The praetorian prefect Cornelius Fuscus led five or six legions across the Danube on a bridge of ships and advanced towards Banat (in Romania). The Romans were surprised by a Dacian attack at Tapae (near the village of Bucova, in Romania). Legion V Alaude was crushed and Cornelius Fuscus was killed. The victorious general was originally known as Diurpaneus (see Manea, p.109), but after this victory he was called Decebalus (“the brave one”, a Romanian “Braveheart”).

In the year 88, the Romans resumed the offensive. The Roman troops were now led by the general Tettius Iulianus. The battle took place again at Tapae but this time the Romans defeated the Dacians. For fear of falling into a trap, Iulianus abandoned his plans of conquering Sarmizegetuza and, at the same time, Decebalus asked for peace. At first, Domitian refused this request , but after he was defeated in a war in Pannonia against the Marcomanni (a Germanic tribe), the emperor was obliged to accept the peace.

Because the Dacians represented an obstacle against Roman expansion in the east, in the year 101 the emperor Trajan decided to begin a new campaign against them. The first war began on 25 March 101 and the Roman troops, consisting of four principal legions (X Gemina , XI Claudia , II Traiana Fortis, and XXX Ulpia Victrix), defeated the Dacians. Although the Dacians had been defeated, the emperor postponed the final siege for the conquering of Sarmizegetuza because his armies needed reorganization. Trajan imposed on the Dacians very hard peace conditions: Decebalus had to renounce claim to some regions of his kingdom, including Banat, Tara Hategului, Oltenia, and Muntenia in the area south-west of Transylvania. He had also to surrender all the Roman deserters and all his war machines. At Rome, Trajan was received as a winner and he took the name of Dacicus, a title that appears on his coinage of this period. At the beginning of the year 103 A.D., there were minted coins with the inscription: IMP NERVA TRAIANVS AVG GER DACICVS.

However, during the years 103-105, Decebalus did not respect the peace conditions imposed by Trajan and the emperor then decided to destroy completely the Dacian kingdom and to conquer Sarmizegetuza. The siege for the conquering of Sarmizegetuza took place in the summer of the year 106. The Roman armies headed towards this fortress: the first part passed through Valea Cernei, Hateg, and Valea Streiului and destroyed the Dacian fortresses at Costesti, Blidaru, and Piatra Rosie; the second part climbed the Valea Jiului, passed through the Sureanu Mountains and arrived at Banita; the third part, led probably by Trajan, left from Drobeta and passed through Sucidava, Romula (now Resca, in Romania), and Valea Oltului and arrived at Tilisca before going then to Capalna; the rest of the troops left from Moesia Inferior and passed through Bran, Bratocea, and Oituz and destroying the Dacian fortresses between Cumidava (now Rasnov, in Romania) and Angustia (now Bretcu, in Romania). At the battle for the conquest of Sarmizegetuza the following legions participated: II Adiutrix, IV Flavia Felix, and a special detachment from Legio VI Ferrata (which until this war had been stationed in Judaea).

Blidariu Fortifications

The first assault was repelled by the Dacians. The Romans attacked again with their war machines and, at the same time, after a while they built a platform to more easily attack the fortress. Then they destroyed the water pipes of Sarmizegetuza and obliged the defenders to retire before they set fire to their city. The Romans finally succeeded in entering the Dacian sacred enclosure, hailed Trajan as emperor and then destroyed the whole fortress. Legion IV Flavia Felix was stationed there to guard what remained of Sarmizegetuza. After the end of the siege, Bicilis, a confidant of Decebalus, betrayed his king and the Romans discovered the Dacian treasure which , according to Jerome Carcopino (p.73), consisted of 165,000 kilograms of pure gold and 331,000 kilograms of silver in the bed of the Sergetia River (Cassius Dio 68.14).

Legend has it that after Decebalus' defeat, his daughter Meda, with a handful of the Dacian elite soldiers, sought refuge in the Tilisca fortress where they were finally found by the Romans. After a siege, the Romans took Tilisca and burned it down. The Dacians fought to the last able body and Meda died with sword in hand, a warrior princess, worthy of her father.


Defeated, Decebalus retired to the mountains, but he was followed by the Romans and so was obliged to commit suicide. His head and his right arm were brought to Trajan who was at Ranistorum (modern location can not be identified). The Romans reorganized Dacia ( now Romania) as a Roman province and built another center of administration at a distance of 40 km from the old Sarmizegetuza. This center was named Colonia Ulpia Traiana Dacica Augusta Sarmizegetuza. This founding was celebrated at Rome by the minting by Senate order of a sestertius dedicated to the optimus princeps. The ancient city had an area of 32 hectares.

Costesti Fortress


Manea, Mihai, Adrian Pascu and Bogdan Teodorescu. Istoria romanilor. Bucharest,1997.
Cassius Dio, Roman History, books 67-68.
Carcopino, Jerome. Points de vue sur l'ìmpérialisme romain. Paris, 1924.

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The Site

The Dacian fortress of Tilisca is an imposing monument built around the end of the 4th century BC and destroyed by the Romans in 106 AD, hence the abundance of Hallstatt and Latene artifacts. It is situated on a rather steep hill, overlooking from an altitude of 712m the village of Tilisca and the surrounding plateau. Because of its very steep southern slopes, the system of fortifications defends only the North side on the complex. There are two sets of fortified walls: the outer wall is 1260m and the inner Acropolis wall is 730m long. The surface between the walls is divided in at least five large man made terraces used in war time as battle terraces and in peace time as urban zones (“forum”, sacral areas, houses, various shops “factories”, etc.).

Dacian terraces at Tilisca


About 10-15% of  the fortress has been explored from 1959 to 1965 by a team lead by Prof. Dr. Nicolae Lupu (†), General Director of the Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu (Romania). The excavation was meant to identify and map some of the key elements of the castle: the two fortified walls, the Acropolis main tower and the possibility of a second one, the cistern and a few houses in order to date the site (among which the accidental – and amazing – discovery of a mint).

Fortified Dacian tower

However, the initial excavation failed to identify the sacral area (considering the size of the site, we expect to have two or three distinct temples) and the cemetery (although two incineration burials have been found, the excavation has not been extended in order to see if they were part of a burial zone or just isolated tombs). Also, no attempt was made to map the urban development of the site. More than 70% of the Acropolis has not been explored at all, including the highest plateau of the fortress. We intend to remedy those failures of the initial excavations and systematically explore the rest of the site. Our main objective for this season is to identify the sacral area and dig several exploration trenches in the Acropolis.

Costesti Fortress - Sacral area

The Tilisca Hoard

(taken from Phil Davis' site - many thanks)
Dacian coinage as a whole is made of imitations of Greek and Roman coins. The term “monetary” copies  was coined by Maria Chitescu in Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State.  She includes within this term both dies mechanically transferred from actual coins and newly engraved dies that  reproduce accurately, although not always perfectly,  their Republican prototypes, but it seems desirable to more clearly distinguish the two. Examples of both types of die were included in the remarkable hoard of dies found at Tilisca, Romania, in 1961, a unique find in Dacian archaeology. The British Museum catalogue, for example, notes that most of the Tilisca dies were faithful copies, and in some cases dies appear to have been made from actual Roman coins.  Crawford, in “Imitation of Roman Republican Denarii in Dacia”,  has identified an example of this phenomenon, a die match between a coin in the Maccarese hoard (Cr-382/1, illustrated on pl. LXV of Roman Republican Coinage), and one of the Tilisca dies. The Tilisca die would have produced a coin in shallower relief than the Maccarese specimen, from which Crawford concludes that the die was transferred  from a worn original.


Chitescu, M., “Copii si imitatii de denari romani republicani in Dacia”, Memoria Antiquitatis III, 1971.  
Chitescu, M., Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State, Oxford, 1981.
Crawford, M., Coinage & Money under the Roman Republic, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1985.
Crawford, M., “Imitation of Roman Republican denarii in Dacia”, Studii si Cercetari de Numismatica VII, 1980.
Crawford, M., “Republican denarii in Romania: the suppression of piracy and the slave trade”, Journal of Roman Studies LXVII, 1977.
Crawford, M., Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge, 1974

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To apply, E-mail to the following information ASAP:
1. Name
2. Date of birth
3. Current address
4. Contact person while in the field
5. Previous experience and/or motivation

6. Any medical conditions that can conflict with strenuous physical labor
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