The Neolithic Sanctuary of Parța / The History of Romania in One Object
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Photo 1: The reconstruction of the Neolithic Sanctuary of Parța
The Timiș River flows through an area with significant archaeological potential around Parța village in Timiș County (western Romania). The archaeological site "Parța tell 1” is renowned for the discovery of archaeological materials, which started in the second half of the 19th century. The numerous collections of archaeological objects from this site have been revealed by the natural erosion caused by the river Timiș, but also by numerous interventions of hydro-improvement and dam resizing works that were carried out along the river in the modern age.
Photo 2 & 3: Aspects from the archeological site Parța tell 1
Photo 4: Professor Lazarovici during the archeological digging at Parța tell 1
The first systematic excavations of this site began in 1931, and in the 1980s Dr. Gheorghe Lazarovici coordinated an intensive project of archaeological research. The excavations reveal a remarkable representation of the historical context, first showing significant cultural aspects of the Middle Neolithic, then five levels belonging to the Banat culture, followed by an Eneolithic habitation of the Tiszapolgar culture, and finally a settlement belonging to the medieval period. Large-scale archaeological research has brought to light a series of archaeological complexes that prove the presence of important architectural structures, confirming even the existence of multi-story dwellings.
Photo 4: The monumental statue discovered in the Neolithic sanctuary of Parța
The Neolithic sanctuary was discovered with the unearthing of a monumental statue, which immediately stood out as an exceptional architectural element, demonstrating the importance of this housing structure which survived in good condition. Research into the sanctuary was completed in 1985, documenting the existence of a large building, approximately 38 feet x 19.6 feet, made up of smaller delimited spaces containing Neolithic artefacts which could reveal the use of various sanctuary rooms. Around the housing site there were functional buildings with complex structures, which were likely related to the cultic nature of the sanctuary.
Photo 5: Blueprint of Parța tell 1 archaeological site
Photo 6: Reconstruction of the sanctuary area
The results of the archaeological investigation revealed the existence of two main superimposed life-stages of the sanctuary, both belonging to the Middle Neolithic period, of which the second showed examples of two restorations.
The initial sanctuary was probably set on fire and later rebuilt in the form of a multi-room building erected around a monumental statue that was made of sandy earth, covered with a layer of clay and chaff. The double statue was strengthened by burning. The rest of the sanctuary was built subsequently. Its structure consists of a large room housing the statue and the rooms for functional activities, revealed by the presence of altarpieces for food preparation, storage of offerings and textile processing.
The long axis of the sanctuary was oriented in the east-west direction. A door and a window were cut on the eastern wall, bordered by two monumental columns. On the west wall, next to a smaller entrance, was a circular orifice of 13.7 inches, bordered by a modelled clay representation of the Moon. At their base there was an opening where a millstone was probably placed.
Photo 7: The circular orifice, bordered by a modelled clay representation of the Moon
Photo 8: The Western part of the sanctuary
Photo 9: The bust of an idol
Photo 10: Example of pottery
The presence of these architectural elements, together with the mobile inventory of the altar rooms, allowed for the formulation of some spectacular hypotheses related to the astronomical orientation and the mythological-ritualistic purpose of this one of a kind prehistoric monument.
Another important aspect is that the carefully documented excavations proved that Sanctuary II was intentionally set on fire and systematically destroyed, probably as a result of a ritual, which ultimately resulted in the preservation of the artefacts stored inside and of architectural elements of spiritual value.
Relatively quickly, the sanctuary, and its discovery, gained notoriety in the international scientific world, despite the inherent intolerance towards a remarkable discovery of a spiritual nature during the bleak 1980s in communist Romania. Out of the preserved elements of the sanctuary historians were able to build a reconstruction, although not to scale, of the site in one of the halls of the Huniade Castle (the oldest monument in Timișoara).
Text and video presentation by archaeologist and curator DAN CIOBOTARU of The National Museum of Banat. A film by ANA TUDOR and ADRIAN TUDOR.
The third season of THE HISTORY OF ROMANIA IN ONE OBJECT, our online program that evokes decisive epochs in Romania's past starting from objects with powerful symbolic and representative value, is developed in partnership with The National Museum of Banat in Timișoara and Timiș County Council.