The Kingdom Of Spain Promotes Romanian Archeological Treasures Abroad – OpEd


The Kingdom of Spain and Romanian Government have preserved a strong bilateral cooperation in the areas of culture, political coordination in the European Union and partnership between the Muzeul Național de Istorie a României in Romania and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Spain.

Madrid established its diplomatic relations with Romania on June 23rd, 1881, when the Kingdom of Spain opened a legation in Bucharest with Juan Pedro de Aladro as chargé d’affaires. This reunion was a reflection of the two countries’ growing mutual interest and the excellent personal relationship between their sovereigns, King Alfonso XII and Romania’s King Carol I.  

In 2021, both governments published a masterpiece on Romanian Archaeological Research, the masterful product of Romanian archaeologists that have placed at the zenith of International attention the cultural riches of Romania and its role in towards further shaping Europe’s ancient archaeological map and cultural intricacies.  

The volume entitled: “ARCHAEOLOGICAL TREASURES OF ROMANIA – DACIAN AND ROMAN ROOTS” was published to commemorate the 140th anniversary of bilateral relations between Spain and Romania. 

In their research essay focused on Romanian archaeology and the Basarabi culture period Dr. Dragoș Măndescu and Dr Corina Borș write: 

“When did history begin in the lands of the Lower Danube and the Carpathians, in what is now Romania? Archaeologists and historians would typically say that it began in the late Bronze and early Iron Age, when significant changes in metallurgy marked the generic division between these two periods. And when exactly did that occur? In the aforementioned regions, this chronological milestone was reached in the eighth–seventh centuries BC (in other words, around 700 BC).  When attempting to reconstruct the distant past, experts rely on archaeological and historical sources, both equally rare and never complete or exhaustive, retaining only bits of material vestiges or fragmented accounts which contain clues that can help them to outline and understand the reality that existed over 2,500 years ago. One important fact, which can be considered a turning point, is that a “notable phenomenon” ended around that date: votive caches of bronze objects (so-called “bronze hoards”) began to be replaced by metal objects (bronze but also, increasingly, iron) among the grave goods in inhumation tombs. In addition, pottery ceased to be produced in the “decorative styles” typical of different archaeological cultures as hand-built vessels gradually gave way to wheel-thrown objects. The first written references to this region, at the intersection of great civilizations of antiquity, also appeared around this time, mentioning local peoples of Thracian origin, ancestors of the Getae and Dacians, as well as foreigners: Cimmerians, Scythians, Illyrians, Greeks, etc.” 

Dr. Măndescu and Dr. Corina Borș continue with their fact-based arguments: “In the centuries immediately preceding the appearance of the first written sources on what is now Romania, the analysis of archaeological evidence (pottery, metal, stone, bone and, very rarely, organic matter) points to a degree of cultural (but not ethnic) unity. Thus, the middle of Iron Age I (or middle Hallstatt), between the ninth and seventh centuries BC, is characterized by the Basarabi archaeological culture, vestiges of which have been found in a very large geographical area that includes the Middle and Lower Danube as well as the mountainous region of the Carpathians, defined by a pottery style with distinctive forms and decorative patterns. Numerous discoveries attributed to the Basarabi culture have been dated to the dawn of protohistory, just before the appearance of the first written references to the ancient peoples who inhabited the Carpathians and the Middle and Lower Danube—in other words, from the latter half of the ninth century BC (and perhaps even earlier) to the first half of the seventh century BC. This culture is primarily distinguished by a unique style of pottery decoration, but also by a series of metal objects (bronze fashion accessories and harness pieces, iron tools and weapons). These material vestiges mark the transition, which was gradual in this area, from prehistory to protohistory, when the first written sources appeared across the European continent. During that period, typological and chorological studies of different types of artefacts, particularly metal objects, reveal influences from the east (north of the Black Sea, Asia Minor and even further afield) and the south (primarily the western Balkans) that converged in what appears to be a single local context, given the wide area of distribution of this pottery style. The unity of this material culture, presumed for the period from 900 to 650 BC, became increasingly clear towards the end of Iron Age I (sixth–fifth centuries) and, of course, throughout the latter half of the first millennium BC.

The Basarabi culture, a name which experts conventionally apply to cultural-historical phenomena in a vast geographical area, has unique features in much of the northern Balkans and the Carpathian Danubian area, encompassing the regions of Srem, Vojvodina, Banat, Oltenia, Transylvania, Wallachia (Great Romanian Plain), southern Moldavia, central Bessarabia and northern Bulgaria. Sporadically, at a later date the pottery attributed to the Basarabi culture spread from its place of origin northeast to the Middle Dnieper and even as far as the River Vorskla; west to southern Styria and Carynthia; and south to southeast Bulgaria, beyond the Balkan Mountains. 

This phenomenon clearly illustrates a growing openness to intercultural exchanges, contacts and influences as well as significant mobility across large areas, specific to the peoples of this era.

The Basarabi culture was defined more than half a century ago, based on funerary finds in the Middle Danube, and its importance has become increasingly apparent in recent decades thanks to fieldwork and laboratory studies of specific types of archaeological materials, shedding light on the cultural and historical phenomena of the Carpathian-Danubian region in the first half of the first millennium BC. However, large-scale archaeological excavations have not always been feasible, and their extensive publication is laborious, so we do not yet have a general picture of this important Hallstattian culture. 

Nevertheless, several generations of researchers have compiled an impressive volume of new quantitative and qualitative data that are essential to understanding the Basarabi culture, offering new perspectives on fundamental aspects such as its funerary rituals or typological and technological repertoire and, most importantly, fine-tuning its relative and absolute chronology thanks to the new possibilities of carbon dating. Although Basarabi-type finds currently include more than 550 confirmed and potential sites, not all of them have been researched and published with equal thoroughness. Even so, in the last three decades, fieldwork (modern surveys and excavations) in a series of archaeological zones has provided more detailed information on increasingly larger areas and habitat elements.” 

The research of Dr. Dragoș Măndescu and Dr Corina Borș on the Basarabi Culture, is the fulcrum of Romanian Archaeological wealth and the Kingdom of Spain has proved to be indispensable in sharing with the world the culture of Romania and historical heritage of this region of Europe. 

On the 143rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Spain and Romania are united by strong cultural, political, economic, educational cooperation.  In addition to shared membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Madrid and Bucharest have excellent bilateral relations in trade and commerce: Spanish investment companies in Romania and the presence of a substantial Romanian community living in Spain.  Romanian community has made a valuable contribution to the Spanish economy, and its members are a shining example of adaptation and success thanks to their hard work and willingness to become a part of the Spanish society, also the warm welcome provided by the Spanish people to the Romanian diaspora, has been admirable.  

Peter Tase

Peter Tase is a freelance writer and journalist of International Relations, Latin American and Southern Caucasus current affairs. He is the author of America's first book published on the historical and archeological treasures of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (Republic of Azerbaijan); has authored and published four books on the Foreign Policy and current economic – political events of the Government of Azerbaijan. Tase has written about International Relations for Eurasia Review Journal since June 2012.

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