Horia Ion Ciugudean

Full name and title: Dr. Horia Ion Ciugudean 

Current position: Senior researcher
Institution: Muzeul National al Unirii Alba Iulia, Romania
EAA member since: 1994

TEA: Why do you do archaeology/How did you decide to get into it?

H. Ciugudean: Archaeology has been a passion of mine since I was twelve. It was 1966 when I found Late Neolithic pottery in the earthworks involved in preparing for the construction of a block of flats on the outskirts of my hometown of Aiud (a small city in southwest Transylvania). Even today, when I close my eyes, I can still clearly see the dark earth of the trench full of the sherds that became the first exhibits of my childhood collection. Over the years, I have often tried to find an explanation as to why I was so attracted by those ceramics. It has only been lately that I have come to the conclusion that part of the explanation lies in two books I read in my early childhood. The first and most important of these was Aku-Aku: The secret of Easter Island by Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl’s gifted descriptions of archaeological research conducted far away in the mysterious islands of the Pacific Ocean simply fascinated me. The second book was Gods, Graves and Scholars: A History of Archaeology by C. W. Ceram, who visualized archaeology as a wonderful combination of high adventure, romance, history and scholarship. Trips with my parents to the Apuseni Mountains must represent the rest of the reason for my love for archaeology, as their magnificent gorges and deep caves became my favourite landscape. This is also the area in which I have held most of my excavations.

TEA: What is the most important and relevant part of your work? 

H. Ciugudean: I began researching the prehistoric barrows in the Apuseni Mountains in 1978. This pursuit has defined me as an archaeologist and has enabled a comprehensive understanding of the beginning of the Bronze Age in Transylvania. The golden hair rings found in 1985 in the tumulus at Ampoiţa became a benchmark for the Early Bronze Age in the Balkan-Carpathian region, cited by relevant scholars such as Margarita Primas and Joseph Maran.

TEA: What is the biggest issue facing European archaeology? 

H. Ciugudean: One of the biggest issues is the way in which certain ideologies or theories are overlaid on archaeological evidence. For example, the topic of warfare as represented by weapons and warriors is seen as one of the most relevant features of the European Bronze Age, although travelling and traders might be equally relevant from the archaeological side. I think that the violence of our present time has been somehow ‘imposed’ on the frontpage of European Bronze Age research. Some of the main themes of political correctness are also artificially promoted in archaeological debates and I believe that a considerable number of archaeologists from the eastern countries became the ‘yes-men’ of this movement, including some of the most influential figures of European scholarship in order to get personal advantages: grants, public visibility, and academic promotion in their native countries.

TEA: What archaeology literature are you reading right now?

H. Ciugudean: The Bronze Age Lives, a book with the updated versions of the lectures delivered in Munich by Anthony Harding in 2015, when he was Gastprofessor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

TEA: Describe your workspace in five words or less

H. Ciugudean: Books, cats, a wooden desk and Pink Floyd.

TEA: What is the one piece of gear that you can’t live without in the field?

H. Ciugudean: Definitely, my straw hat! Due to the increasingly hot summers in the central area of Transylvania—part of the climate changes I have personally experienced in the last 25-30 years—I have had to made efforts to protect myself in order to be able to maintain long hours in the field.

TEA: What is your funniest archaeology story?

H. Ciugudean: Well, back in the ‘70s, I took part in a field survey of the Late Bronze Age hillfort at Teleac. I accompanied two senior archaeologists in order to plan the future excavations at this important site. After an exhausting day, we stopped in the late afternoon on top of a mound in the northern corner of the hillfort, a location we had chosen for its wonderful view over the Mureş Valley framed by the Carpathians in the background. Right smack dab in the middle of an animated debate about the best placement for the excavation trenches (you have to remember that there was no possibility of doing geophysics or aerial survey at that time), my older colleague from Cluj started to scratch, immediately followed by my colleague from Alba Iulia. Shortly thereafter I followed suit. When we took off our trousers, we discovered an army of red fleas marching tenaciously towards our most intimate parts! Imagine the scene! Luckily, the only witnesses to our original strip tease performances were the several foxes who made their home on the pinnacle on which we had been sitting. You have to remember that The Full Monty was not released until 1997! We had to take a long soak in the cold river in order to prevent a second infestation, laughing at ourselves and our misadventure the whole time.

TEA: If you could go back in time, would you go? Where and when?

H. Ciugudean: Yes, definitely! I would love to live in Oxford during the Victorian Era, and have a five o’clock tea in the Ashmolean Museum with Arthur Evans.

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Image courtesy of H. Ciugudean

Image courtesy of H. Ciugudean

Image courtesy of H. Ciugudean

Image courtesy of H. Ciugudean