Project description

Scientific context and motivation.

The Danube Delta is a dynamic interface between the geological history – the deltaic morphogenesis and the anthropic diachronic extension. The Danube Delta complex is one of the most important geo-political and cultural entities that can be described as a compound geographical unit which provides an exceptional biodiversity (Ştefănescu 1981; Romanescu 2005). This enabled it to be counted among the UNESCO biosphere reservations, thus presenting the image of a continuously huge developing area with a scientific potential yet unilaterally approached for the time being upon prevailing geographical or biological research directions.

In spite of the fact that this area has been intensely inhabited during the envisaged historical periods, a fact otherwise underlined in the case of several ancient and medieval sources (Giurescu s.a.; Baraschi), only several archaeological sites have been identified up to the present and they are affected by the permanent extension and mobility of the Danube Delta (Bounegru 2009; Guldager Bilde 2006). Among them, the Greek cities of Istros – Histria (Bounegru 2006) and Orgame – Argamum, colonies established by Miletus (Bounegru, Romanescu, Alexianu, Dumitrache, Vasiliniuc 2009), which later continued their development as Roman cities, were located in the lagoonal region on the coast (Panin 1983), while the Roman fortification Halmyris was situated on the Danube Delta’s southern branch and the small bastion was located on the island called “Bisericuta”. Another two Medieval fortresses, Heraclea, probably a Genovese fortress (present day Enisala) and the Ottoman fortification of Vadu (Baraschi 1981), both situated at the western and respectively southern limit of Razelm-Sinoe lagoon were identified (see Annex 1). All these settlements were exposed, in different manners, to the influences exerted by the deltaic morphogenesis and its lagoonal system (see Annex 2). There are still numerous scientific debates regarding the origin and evolution of the Danube Delta (Romanescu, Bounegru 2009). The specific studies on recent evolution at the Danube’s mouths (Antiquity and the Middle Age) can provide essential and significant contributions to the habitat’s dynamic in relation to the deltaic geomorphology (see Annex 3). Therefore, if the existence of the Beibugeac passage is either highlighted or refuted, the location of the famous island of Peuce will be clarified.

Histria. Planul general
From the geomorphologic point of view, it is known that human settlements placed at the littoral level have been strongly influenced by the oscillations of the Planet Ocean (Bondar 2007; Rayn 2003). This is why the old littoral settlements of the Black Sea (10000-20000 years BP) were covered by waters, as consequence of the gradual increase in the Planet Ocean level (Demirbag 1999; Giosan 2006; ). The waters of the Mediterranean Sea burst extremely fast through the Bosporus Strait, in the Black Sea, with an increase of several cm/day. The rapid change in the shoreline determined the massive exodus of the populations from the areas covered by water (Caraivan 1985; Bondar 2007). The Milesian colony of Histria (Höckmann 1997) and Argamum disappeared because of the rise of the sea level and because, in front of the Halmyris Gulf, a barrier beach was built, determining the formation of the Razim-Sinoie lagoon. This study proposes a brief review of the main evolution stages of the deltaic area, according to the most recent discoveries in the field, as well as an emphasis on the new delimitating criteria for the hinterland in the ancient and medieval time. This is the reason for which a cartographic delimitation model for the studied settlements hinterlands was created. This model takes into account the physico-geographical realities of the surrounding field, and mostly that of the Razim-Sinoie lagoon complex. This model can also be applied for other settlements, which may lead to comparisons and to drawing certain conclusions regarding the way harbour settlements were chosen.

The general research perspective that we promote is that of a discipline which intertwines methods and principles pertaining to the previously mentioned subjects, which is called limnoarchaeology. It is a well-known fact that the limnology is a border discipline between geography and biology, made up of two branches. One belongs to geography (physical limnology) in the sense that it studies the depression, its means of formation, the physical-chemical characteristics and the water dynamics, and the other belongs to biology (biological limnology) in the way that it studies the flora and fauna of the still waters (biohydrocenosis). Due to this context, our approach aims to develop a new holistic viewpoint over the human habitat from the neighboring area of the deltaic and lagoonary complex of the Danube Delta, by implying methods specific to the limnological archaeology related to the whole aforementioned sciences and connected subjects. Last but not least it is worth mentioning that, as the Delta is the most dynamic area of Europe where the nature-human interrelationships can be genuinely studied, the forwarded research is meant to provide important interpretative analogies of the past.


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Bondar C. (2007). The Black Sea level variations and the river-sea interactions. Geo-Eco-Marina, 13.43-50.

Bounegru O. (2007). Trafiquants et navigateurs sur le Bas-Danube et dans le Pont Gauche, Wiesbaden.

Bounegru O. (2009). Studies on the Pontic and Aegean Economy, Iasi.

Bounegru O. Romanescu G., Alexianu M., Dumitrache I., Vasiliniuc I. (2009). Hinterland and site catchment studies at Histria on the Black Sea coast, Romania. Project Gallery. Antiquity, 083(322), (on line).

Caraivan G., Şelariu O. (1985). Quaternary environmental changes of the Black Sea. Revue Roumaine de Géologie, Géophysique et Géographie, Géographie, 29:13-19.

Demirbag E., Gokasan E., Oktay F.Y., Simsek M., Yuce H. (1999). The last sea level changes in the Black Sea: evidence from the seismic data. Marine Geology, 157:249-265.

Giosan L., Donnelly J.P., Constantinescu S., Filip F., Ovejanu I., Vespremeanu-Stroe A., Vespremeanu E., Duller G.A.T. (2006), Young Danube delta documents stable Black Sea level since the middle Holocene: Morphodynamic, paleogeographic, and archaeological implications, Geology, 34(9): 757-760. Doi: 10.1130/G22587.1.

Giurescu, C., Ştiri despre populaţia românească din Dobrogea în hărţi medievale şi moderne / Information on the Romanian population of Dobruja in medieval and modern maps, Constanta, the Archaeology Museum, s. a.

Guldager Bilde P., Stolba Vl. (eds.) (2006), Surveying the Greek Chora. Black Sea Region in a Comparative Perspective, Aarhus.

Höckmann O., Müller O., Peschel G., Woehl A. (1997). Histria an der Kuste des Schwarzen Meers. Prospektionsarbeiten im antiken Stadtgebiet. Antike Welt, 28:209-217.

Panin N. (1983). Black Sea coast line changes in the last 10,000 years. A new attempt at identifying the Danube mouths as described by the ancients. Dacia, 27(1-2):175-184.

Romanescu G. (2005). Morpho-hydrographical evolution of the Danube delta Iaşi.

Romanescu G. (2008). The former gulf of Halmyris and the present Razim-Sinoie lagoon. The glory and decline of the port-forteresses on the Black Sea coast. Landscape Evolution&Geoarchaeology, 1:56-58.

Romanescu G., Bounegru O. (2009). The dynamics of the north-western delta littoral of the Black Sea during historical periods (Danube delta). Pontica, 42:519-527.

Ryan W.B.F., Major C.O., Lericolais G., Goldstein S.L. (2003). Catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea, Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 31, 525-543.

Ştefănescu C.M. (1981). La formation et l’évolution du delta du Danube. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.