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The Roman Fortress known as Malva Castrum or Racari Castrum

near Bradesti, Oltenia district, Romania



The Latin word castrum was used by the ancient Romans to mean any building or plot of land reserved to or constructed for use as a military defensive position. As the word appears in both Oscan and Umbrian (dialects of Italic) as well as in Latin, it probably descended from Indo-European to Italic. The term Roman Camp is commonly used for a castrum.

Malva means the land near the hills, where the hills would be in Romanian Podisul Getic, the main part of the Oltenia hills.

The area now known as Oltenia was once called Dacia Malvensis.

In 2006 there were two main areas being investigated, the Porta Sinistra (left gate) in the north of the site, and the Porta Dextra (right gate) in the south of the castrum.

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The main gate of the castrum is called the Porta Praetorian, which means "Headquarters gate". It is related to the term Praetorian Guard.



The Praetorian Guard (in Latin: praetoriani) consisted of a special force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. Before being used by the emperors, a Roman general's bodyguard, also styled the praetorian guard, was employed, dating at least to the Scipio family — around 275 BC.

Photo and text: Wikipedia


Praetorian Gate
A typical Praetorian Gate from another Roman Castrum or Fortress or Camp.

Camps were the responsibility of engineering units to which specialists of many types belonged, officered by architecti, "chief engineers", who requisitioned manual labor from the soldiers at large as required. They could throw up a camp under enemy attack in as little as a few hours. Judging from the names, they probably used a repertory of camp plans, selecting the one appropriate to the length of time a legion would spend in it: tertia castra, quarta castra, etc., "a camp of three days", "four days", etc.

More permanent camps were castra stativa, "standing camps." The least permanent of these were castra aestiva or aestivalia, "summer camps", in which the soldiers were housed sub pellibus or sub tentoriis, "under tents". Summer was the campaign season. For the winter the soldiers retired to castra hiberna containing barracks of more solid materials, public buildings and stone walls.

The camp allowed the Romans to keep a rested and supplied army in the field. Neither Celtic nor the Germanic armies had this capability: they found it necessary to disperse after only a few days; meanwhile, their open camps invited attack when they were least prepared.

Photo and text:Wikipedia


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These signs have been put up to inform the public that the area is an archaeological site, and that the digs are part of an official dig sanctioned by the authorities. The signs were suggested by Dr Gheorghe, the leader of the Alexis Project team, to help to provide identification and protection of the site.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2007




In 2007 the digs were made along a line from north to south, from the Porta Sinistra in the north to the Porta Dextra to the south, to the main gate of the castrum, the Porta Praetorian. This line is a few metres back from the second street of the castrum, which is between Porta Sinistra and Porta Dextra, a street named Via Cumana. The main street is Via Principalis, between the main gate of the castrum (Porta Praetoria) and the back gate of the castrum to the west, the Porta Auctorial, or the Author's Gate.

The two streets meet in the middle of the castrum, where the main buildings such as the Commander's room, the Weapons room, the rooms for storing food and so on were.

Thus these digs, from north to south, along the Via Cumana, are passing through the walls of the buildings of the middle of the castrum.

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This shows the digs starting from the middle of the castrum, looking to the north to the Porta Sinistra, where Dorel Bondoc's team works. The digs pass through the main buildings in the middle of the castrum.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2007


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Wall between the Commander's room of the castrum and the room for food storage, looking from the middle of the castrum towards the north.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2007


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This photograph shows how careful the researchers are about each structure found in the castrum. Each dig is done with great care and is studied thoroughly.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2007


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These digs are also from the middle of the castrum, looking to the south, to the Porta Dextra, where Professor Eugen Silviu Teodor, the archaeology expert from Bucharest is overseeing the dig.

Both digs are on the same line, at a small distance back from the second street of the castrum, called Via Cumana, between the two gates: to the north is Porta Sinistra, to the south is Porta Dextra.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2007


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These digs are also from the middle of the castrum, looking to the south, to the Porta Dextra, where Professor Eugen Silviu Teodor, the archaeology expert from Bucharest is overseeing the dig.

Both digs are on the same line, at a small distance back from the second street of the castrum, called Via Cumana, between the two gates: to the north is Porta Sinistra, to the south is Porta Dextra.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2007


Prof. Teodor

Professor Eugen Silviu Teodor - coordonator ştiinţific
Muzeul Naţional de Istorie a României, Bucureşti
poziţia actuală: cercetător ştiinţific II; şef secţie Informatică

Photo: http://www.mnir.ro/cercetare/santiere/racari/colectiv/team_frame.htm


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The Malva Roman castrum is located at Bradesti, Racarii de Jos (Lower Racarii), about 6 - 7 km from Filiaşi near the road to Craiova (to the south east), south of the European road Filiaşi-Craiova, to the right of the road to Bralostita.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


The following text is adapted from that written by Dr Dorel Bondoc from Oltenia Museum (Craiova), on his website:

http://www.mnir.ro/cercetare/santiere/racari/UK/Rac_basicUK.htm

Dorel Bondoc
Dr Dorel Bondoc
Muzeul Olteniei, Craiova
poziţia actuală: muzeograf

Photo: http://www.mnir.ro/cercetare/santiere/racari/colectiv/team_frame.htm

The site comprises a Roman fortress, which functioned, in four distinct periods, from the time of the Dacian-Roman wars (101-106 AD) until almost the official abandonment of the Trajanic province (271). Garrison of a Moor cavalry auxiliary unit, the fortress measured, during its foremost development period, 170 x 145 m between the defense walls, and approximately 250 x 180 m between the defense ditches. A cvasi-urban settlement developed around the fortress, with initial dimensions estimated between 8 and 10 ha (actually three times bigger), partially superimposed by the railway station and the neighboring railway lines, by the international road and Răcarii de Jos village (under the jurisdiction of Brădeşti commune).

The military objective had, as main purpose, the surveillance of an important ford at the Jiu River, controlling the access ways towards the south (Danube), north (Orăştie Mountains) and west (Drobeta being the main Roman bridgehead in Dacia).

Several teams undertook archaeological researches in the fortress, even since the end of the XIXth century, although over short periods of time, without initiatating restoration works.

The research started once again in 2003, under the coordination of PhD Eugen Silviu Teodor, from the Romanian National History Museum (Bucharest), in collaboration with PhD Dorel Bondoc, from Oltenia Museum (Craiova). Although under-financed, the recent research managed for the first time to determine the four distinct phases of the fortification’s relatively short existence: a small campaign fort; a large timber and earth fort; then with the same design, a stone fort was built, with three defense ditches on the most exposed (eastern) side, representing the climax of the military occupation at Răcari (at the beginning of the 3rd century)

Finally, after the damages made by the Carpians (the eastern Carpathian relatives of the defeated Dacians) in 247, the stone fortress had been reconfigured, being reduced to about one sixth of its former size, probably due to the reduction of the garrison (this was about 250 AD, in the time of "military anarchy"). The garrison probably had the purpose of assuring the security of the retreat road (a secondary one, of course) for the troops from south-eastern Transylvania, on their way to Drobeta.




Castrum Plan


Plan of the Castrum, ca 1900.

Pamfil Polonic, Excavations at Răcari - Roman Castrum, ca. 1900

Photo: http://www.cimec.ro/ProiecteEuropene/Arena/Arena_eng/arhive.htm


Castrum Plan


This version of the map shows where the recent excavations have been made.



Photo: http://www.cimec.ro/ProiecteEuropene/Arena/Arena_eng/arhive.htm

Photo adapted by Adrian Gheorghe, 2007


Castrum Plan





Map created by Dr Dorel Bondoc of the excavations during May to August 2003 at the Castrum.

This map also shows the previous exploratory trenches of 1991 and 1992, in a light green colour, as well as the area dug up at the end of the 19th Century, in blue.

Photo adapted from:

http://www.mnir.ro/cercetare/santiere/racari/2003/F05.htm


Castrum Plan


Plans of parts of the Castrum, ca 1900.

Pamfil Polonic, Excavations at Răcari - Roman Castrum, ca. 1900

Photo: http://www.cimec.ro/ProiecteEuropene/Arena/Arena_eng/arhive.htm


Castrum Plan


Northern Gate, or Porta Sinistra of the Castrum, ca 1900.

Pamfil Polonic, Excavations at Răcari - Roman Castrum, ca. 1900

Photo: http://www.cimec.ro/ProiecteEuropene/Arena/Arena_eng/arhive.htm


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One of the Alexis Project team, Alexandru, at the new dig at the Porta Dextra, the right gate of Malva castrum, to the south of the site.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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Bricks uncovered by the excavations at the Porta Dextra, the right gate of Malva castrum.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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Roman pottery at the Porta Dextra.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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Part of an iron chain link found at the Porta Dextra.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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Medium size pottery found at the Porta Dextra.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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A new dig at Malva at the right gate, the Porta Dextra, on the south wall of the roman castrum, started on the day the photograph was taken by specialists from Oltenia Museum.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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Two of the Alexis Project team, Alexandru and Alina, at the new dig at the Porta Dextra, the right gate of Malva castrum.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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The right gate of Malva castrum, the Porta Dextra, at the south end of the Via Cumana street, where you can see the ruins of one wall of the Roman castrum.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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Standing at the main gate of Malva castrum, Porta Praetoria, at the east side of the castrum and looking to south, where, at about 50 metres distance there are new digs at the right gate of the castrum, Porta Dextra.

Porta Praetoria means the front, chief gate, on the opposite side from the enemy, from which the legions marched.

Opposite to this was the Porta Decumana (in later times the Porta Quaestoria), the back gate.

The Porta Principalis Dextra, and the Porta Principalis Sinistra were situated on the two sides (right and left) of the camp.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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These are the bases of two pots found at Malva.

The one on the left has been cut off the wheel with a cord, you can see the typical marks of the cord. The potter puts the cord on the base, rotates the wheel, waits till the end comes around, then grasps the two ends and tightens, producing this curved, almost circular pattern as the cord cuts through the clay.

The pot on the right has been cut from the wheel, then left to dry a little bit, so that it is firm, but not dry and hard, often called "green ware" by english speaking potters.

Then the pot was put upside down on the wheel, and with a tool like a curved knife, the base was "turned". However, the potter has done this badly and inexpertly. It may have been done by an apprentice, or someone learning the craft of pottery.



Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


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These are jug handles found at Malva. The handles are made by taking a piece of clay, holding it in one hand, and stroking it with the other hand, moistened with "slip" or a mixture of clay and water, like "longitudinal throwing" of pottery.

Good potters can turn out large numbers of good looking and functional handles in a short time.

They are then attached to the pot using slip if necessary on "green ware", or onto the just made pot, probably without slip, when the potter is skilled enough to do it without distorting the thrown pot.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


malvamalva

These are unknown pottery objects found at Malva.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006




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Map of the area, showing the Malva castrum, and also the Cemetery associated with the castrum, discovered by Dr Gheorghe on 01.05.2005

The Cemetery is about 500 m from Porta Praetoria of the Roman Malva Castrum, to south-east from the castrum, in an agricultural field.

There are many stone pieces, so far about 10 big ones have been discovered. One of them seems to be a "stela funerara" - a stone for a tomb.

The site was thoroughly explored, but there is no other place like this.

To the south is a field covered by water, very much lower, to the east and the north there are a lot of buildings, including the railway station from Racarii de Jos, the train railway and so on.

It is believed that there is a big probability that the Cemetery or Necropola is there.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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The castrum was discovered in 1879, and many archaeological digs have been made there. The first was started in 1879-1878, then again in 1928-1929, and recently digs were made in 2003-2004 by specialists from the Historical Museum of Oltenia (archeologist Dorel Bondoc) under the Director of the National Historical Museum of Romania, Professor Eugen Silviu Teodor.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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The most recent dig at Malva started in 2002 under the direction of Professor Eugen Silviu Teodor from the National Museum of History of Romania, and Dr Dorel Bondoc from Oltenia Museum.

The photograph here is from the summer season in 2005.

The local team consisted of about ten men from Racarii de Jos, which is a village near the site.

The men are digging on the left and the right of the Porta Praetoria, the Eastern main gate of the Castrum.

They were able to find a few pieces from the ancient wall of the castrum, a lot of bricks from the buildings inside, and a few pottery pieces, all very broken by the course of time.

The man in the white shirt is Professor Eugen Silviu Teodor. The digging was very slow, with no very important results to this point.

In the background can be seen the railway station of Racarii de Jos on the left, and on the right, up in the hills may be seen some strange trees from Bradesti, which do not normally grow in this area, but were planted there.

It was a very warm day, in the middle of summer, but there were some heavy falls of rain which interrupted the digging from time to time.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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This is the dig on the left side of the Porta Praetoria, looking to the north.

The work was very hard because of the warm conditions, with no clouds, and because of the age of most of the diggers, which was between 15 to 18 years of age - they are not used to hard work in such conditions!

There were no important finds here, only bricks and stones from the ancient wall of the castrum, as well as a few animal bones and some broken pottery which may be seen behind the boy resting on the wall of the excavation.


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Here is a close up of the layer with artefacts, which extends horizontally along the face of the excavation.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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The bottle in the picture is used by the diggers to spray the artefacts with water in order to identify them more easily. Sometimes water is also used on the ground to make it easier to dig.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


malva There are several problems with this castrum:
No one knows by whom it was built. A few inscriptions on some bricks show "NM", which means "Numerus Maurorum", a Roman auxilliary building unit. They were a unit of Black (Moorish) Roman soldiers from North Africa, used throughout the Roman Empire for this sort of project. They built castrums and forts in Britain for example.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


malva No one knows when it was built. The best estimate is somewhere between 105-106 AD to 200 AD.

No one knows the real name of the castrum. Some specialists said "Malva", but a few of them said that "Malva" means "Dacia Malvensis" (Dacia from the border of the river - Danube). Another specialist called the castrum "Admutrium" - Admutrium is a Dacian city name.

The 1900 plan of the castrum gives the name as "Amutrium" (or Amvtrivm) with a question mark.

It is also known as "Racari Castrum" because of the nearby village of Racarii de Jos.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


malva
The castrum is very big, the entire site occupies 9 Hectares, but the castrum itself is about 100m x 100 m. There is no sign of the Roman legion who occupied the castrum. A small piece of tomb stone has an inscription "(S)...URA", which an expert said is an oriental name.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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The castrum is very badly protected by the authorities and even the expert digs do not protect the site. They are interested only in results about the castrum, not to value it like other sites. In any case, there is not much money to dig, and thus not many men to do it.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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Around the castrum there are many agricultural lands in private property, no one can help us, there is no inscription or sign there about an archaeological site, even though the castrum is the biggest in Oltenia.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe


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In the castrum and around it there are still many pieces of Roman artefacts, not protected. A few important pieces were put in museums at Craiova and Bucuresti, but none in Filiaşi museum.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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Some metal artefacts found at the Malva site.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


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Funerary stone, or stela funerara with a sketch superimposed of the possible original design.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005


From the map at the top of the page, it can be seen that the necropolis or cemetary is abut 500 m from the Porta Praetoria of the Roman's Malva Castrum or castrum, to the south east from the castrum, in what is now an agricultural field.

There are about ten large stones in the area visible at the moment.

This is a great discovery, because the Malva's necropola (cemetery) was looked for since 100 years ago, but no one till today had found it.

thrown pottery thrown pottery thrown pottery thrown pottery
Wheel thrown pottery shards from Malva.

Left to right: Lips and a base, walls, handles, bases. Note that some bases have been left with the imprint of the cord used to cut the pot from the wheel, others have been roughly "turned" upside down in the "green state" to clean them up a little.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005




bricks bricks bricks bricks
Bricks from Malva castrum. From left to right, plain, with dog paw prints, goat footprints, and bird claw prints

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005




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Pieces of stone from the wall at Malva.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005




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Animal bones from Malva.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2005




It is presumed that a large part of the castrum has not been discovered yet. A few Roman pieces have been collected as shown in the photos on this page.





Recent additions, changes and updates to the Alexis site

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This site is to publicise the history and culture of Romania, and displays information from the Alexis Project Association

Alexis Project Filiasi/Romania
RC J/263/230/2007 CIF 21464151
Email: alexis_project@yahoo.com




If you have any photographs or information which would be useful for this site please contact Don Hitchcock


This page last modified Monday, 24th January, 2011 02:17am


Webmaster: Don Hitchcock

Email: don@donsmaps.com


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