From Inhumation to Cremation

“1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba-Iulia
The Faculty of History and Philology
Department of History, Archaeology and Museology


Identification data of the project


Project Title:  From Inhumation to Cremation in Romanian Neolithic and Eneolithic. New Archaeological Evidence, Burial Practices, and Osteological Approach
Project Code:  PN-II-RU-TE-2012-3-0461
Number of Financial Contract:   53/30.04.2013
Funded by:   Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation (UEFISCDI)
Contractor:  “1 December 1918” University, Alba-Iulia
Project Duration:  2013-2016, 41 months
Contract Value:  678.958,00 lei
Project Director:  Conf. univ. dr. Mihai Gligor



Study of funerary rites and rituals, of the prehistoric humans attitude towards death, is an important part of the archaeological research. In the past decades, the scientists were able to obtain as many information about prehistoric human life by studying his funerary behaviour as they were able to obtain by researching his civilisation vestiges. The older the cultures we study, the less information preserved we have available, and the more difficult it is to interpret. In spite of the high scientific potential of prehistoric Romanian funerary discoveries, the currently available information does not shed enough light on those populations' funerary behaviour. If the human remains from the inhumation or incineration neolithic and eneolithic graves are considered material evidence, the study of mortuary practices implies considering an immaterial component. Recreating these practices and understanding them correctly can be realized mostly by a complex interpretation of the grave goods, but also by interdisciplinary research from areas like funerary archaeology, physical anthropology, human osteoarchaeology, archaeozoology, forensic archaeology, bioarchaeology, archaeological demography. This is what the current project aims to achieve, by researching the most relevant funerary discoveries from a well defined chronological period, most of them novel and made by the archaeologists in the project team.



The project objective is to study the funerary discoveries from neolithic and eneolithic periods from archaeological, osteological, bioarchaeological, archaeozoological perspectives. Analysis of the rite and funerary ritual.

Specific Objectives

The approach of the project at the level of principle will be presented, underlining the following two aspects:

  1. the concrete objectives of the project;
  2. the elements of originality and innovation that the implementation of the objectives bring to the field, related to the state of the art in the field and to the previous projects developed by the project leader.

(1) The main strength of the current project is the impressive osteological and archaeological material discovered recently (2005-2012) in the three funerary sites of exceptional importance in Transylvania, Alba Iulia-Lumea Nouă, Porţ-Corău, and Zalău-Dealul Lupului. The material needs a thorough interdisciplinary research, so that it can be accurately positioned in the larger European context of neolithic and eneolithic funerary sites. Main project objectives: 1. mortuary archaeology: detailed research and analysis of the archaeological context, aspects of funerary spaces topography; funerary rite identification: inhumation-cremation, diachronic analysis of the two rites for the analysed period; realization of a Romanian funerary discoveries repertoire and of a catalog of the graves; establish a typology of the funerary discoveries and funerary 13
practices: necropoles, isolated burials, mass graves, ossuaries, ritual centres, cenotaph graves, identification of defleshing practices, anthropophagy; statistical analysis of the good graves (including identification of the social status), funerary inventory typology, offers problems; analysis of the archaeological material associated with the funerary discoveries; cultural-chronological framing of the funerary discoveries; 2. human osteoarchaeological analysis: sampling, gender determination, age, diet aspects, population health, dentition, attrition, dental micro-wear; buccal micro wear, dental caries, dental attrition, dental status; 3. forensic archaeology: establish causes of death, violence, peri- and post-mortem trauma; 4. archaeozoology analyses: separate animal bones from human ones; analyze fauna remains to obtain relevant data about the animal species domesticated intra-site, estimation of sacrificial ages, diet of neolithic communities, identification of animals hunted for food and raw material.

(2) This is for the first time that an interdisciplinary research is carried out in Romania for late neolithic incineration graves, we are referring to Porţ-Corău şi Zalău-Dealul Lupului. We will be able to separate the human cremation remains from animal cremation remains, and to obtain information about the cremation remains, burning temperature, type of installation used for cremation, place of cremation. A special emphasis will be placed on the incinerated animal bones discovered in the cremation graves, which might be coming from the animals sacrificed during the funerary ceremonies, and which is possible to have served as "funerary feasts". It is also possible that they were burnt at the same time as the deceased or at a later time. A novel approach for a neolithic Romanian archaeological site will be researching advanced paleopathology and bone histology in the Lumea Nouă funerary complex. Application of a few bioarchaeological techniques (carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes) will allow us to reconstruct the life histories of the individuals with insights into diet and migrations. In this way, we will be able to answer the question whether the skeletal remains from Lumea Nouă originate entirely to the local community, or there are alogeneous individuals. The 14C data set that will be obtained from the analyses carried out on a significant number of samples will position itself as an important landmark, in researching absolute chronology of the late neolithic and early eneolithic in Transylvania.

Research Team 

Last Name, First Name

Function in the project employment,

in accordance with the HG 475/2007

Gligor, Mihai Project Director

"1 December 1918" University, Alba Iulia

Department of History, Archaeology, and Museology

Lipot, Stefan   Conservation and Restoration Specialist  "1 December 1918" University, Alba Iulia

Department of History, Archaeology, and Museology

Bintintan, Alina   PhD Student

"1 December 1918" University, Alba Iulia

Department of History, Archaeology, and Museology

Cadan, Alin   Technician  "1 December 1918" University, Alba Iulia

Department of History, Archaeology, and Museology

McLeod, Kirsty   Research Assistant (Forensic Anthropologist)  "1 December 1918" University, Alba Iulia

Department of History, Archaeology, and Museology

Rosu, Mariana   Senior Researcher (Forensic Anthropologist)  National Institute of Legal Medicine "Mina Minovici", Bucharest
Bacuet-Crisan, Sanda   Archaeologist  County Museum of History and Art, Zalau

Mihai Gligor's Curriculum Vitae, the Project Director, was also loaded in the following register:


Project budget in accordance with annex II of the grant agreement


Crt. No.

Name of the chapter of the budget

Total value 2013

Total value 

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Total value 

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Budget Year Stage Type Stage Number Stage Start Date Stage End Date
2013 Unique stage 1 01.05.2013 31.12.2013
2014 Unique stage 2 01.01.2014 31.12.2014
2015 Unique stage 3 01.01.2015 30.12.2015
2016 Unique stage 4 01.01.2016 30.09.2016

Results obtained within the framework of the project

2013 - Annual report

2014 - Annual report

2015 - Annual report

2016 - Annual report

Neolitic and Eneolithic Funerary Discoveries from Romania Database (Mihai Gligor, Alina Bințințan, Mădălin Ordean)

Homines, Funera, Astra (HFA 1-5) Conference Retrospective 2011 - 2015