Interdisciplinary (mineralogical-geological-archaeological) study on the tegular material belonging to the legion XIII Gemina from Alburnus Maior (Roșia Montanã) and Apulum (Alba Iulia): possible raw materials sources

Cercetări Arheologice 13, 2006, 413-436

Interdisciplinary (mineralogical-geological-archaeological) study on the tegular material belonging to the legion XIII Gemina from Alburnus Maior (Roșia Montanã) and Apulum (Alba Iulia): possible raw materials sources

Authors: Corina Ionescu Lucreția Ghergari Ovidiu Țentea


brick stamps; samples; mineralogical and petrographical analysis


From a high number of bricks and tiles found at Alburnus Maior (Roşia Montană) and Apulum (Alba Iulia) (Romania), twenty two fragments were studied. The ceramics consists mainly of a matrix with crystalline and/or amorphous fabric, showing different degrees of sinterization and vitrification. In the matrix variable amounts of magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary lithoclasts, various crystalloclasts (quartz, feldspar, mica), and rare ceramoclasts and bioclasts are present. Regarding the grain size, the ceramics is mainly lutitic-siltic-arenitic, with a contribution of arenaceous-sized grains exceeding 15% and reflecting the coarse category for all samples. The composition of the lithoclasts and crystalloclasts indicates that quartz sands were used as temper materials for the ceramics. Quartzite, granite-granodiorite, basalt, andesite/basaltic andesite, gneiss and limestone are ubiquitous lithoclasts. Microscopical observations on the matrix as well as the X-ray diffraction indicate the use of polymictic clays, consisting mainly of illite, kaolinite ± smectite ± calcite ± micas as raw materials. The clays seem to be similar for both, the Roşia Montană and the Alba Iulia artefacts. The firing temperatures were inferred from both, the thermal changes of primary minerals such as the fissuring of quartz, the decomposition of calcite, the contraction holes around some lithoclasts, the change of the anisotropy of clay minerals, and the forming of melt-glass, gehlenite, wollastonite and hematite, and the disappearance of some lines of clay minerals, the presence of hematite, gehlenite and wollastonite lines, the modification of calcite lines in X-Ray diffractograms. Based on the firing temperatures, the ceramic artefacts were classified in three categories: – Type I ceramics, fired at lowest temperature (800-850o C); – Type II ceramics, fired at 850-900o C; – Type III ceramics, fired at 900-950o C. In the Alba Iulia site well-fired ceramics are prevalent (850-950o C), while the Roşia Montană ceramics are mainly fired at lower temperatures (800-900o C). Being based on the mineral composition of the matrix (illite, kaolinite ± smectite ± calcite + mica), we presume that clays with an according composition, outcropping west of Sântimbru, east of Şard and west of Alba Iulia were used as raw materials. The mineralogical and petrographical composition of the crystalloclasts and lithoclasts respectively, in the ceramics both from Roşia Montană and Alba Iulia is similar. Granites and granodiorites are similar to those crossed by the Arieş river, north of Alba Iulia, basalts, basaltic andesites, radiolarites are surely originated from the Mesozoic ophiolitic zone outcropping westwards of Alba Iulia and limestones outcrop westwards of Alba Iulia, together with the ophiolites.These lithoclasts are also found in the alluvial sediments of the Mureş river downstream the confluence with the Ampoiu river. Thus, we presume that the temper was most likely mined from the right bank of the Mureş river, south-east of Alba Iulia. Even today this location provides quartz sands, used for bricks and tiles manufacture.

Download: PDF

How to cite: Corina Ionescu, Lucreția Ghergari, Ovidiu Țentea, Interdisciplinary (mineralogical-geological-archaeological) study on the tegular material belonging to the legion XIII Gemina from Alburnus Maior (Roșia Montanã) and Apulum (Alba Iulia): possible raw materials sources, Cercetări Arheologice, Vol. 13, pag. 413-436, 2006, doi:


  1. Alburnus Maior I – Alburnus Maior I (ed. P. Damian), Bucharest 2003. (in Romanian).
  2. F. Antonelli, S. Cancelliere, L. Lazzarini. Minero-petrographic characterisation of historic bricks in the Arsenale, Venice. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 3, 59-64.
  3. P. Bayliss, D.C. Erd, M.E. Mrose, A.P. Sabina, D.E. Smith. Mineral Powder Diffraction File. Data book. International centre for diffraction data. Swarthmore, PA. 1396 p.
  4. E. Bota, O. Ţentea, V. Voişian. Edificiul public din punctul Tomuş (E1). AlburnusmMaior I, 433-446 = The Public Edifice of „Tomuş” Site (E 1). Alburnus Maior I (english version).
  5. P. Bruhns, R.X. Fischer. Phase reactions in the brick firing process of V-dopped clay. Eur. Journal Mineral., 13, 611-619.
  6. A. Cairo, B. Messiga, M.P. Riccardi. Technological features of the „Cotto Variegato”: a petrological approach. Jour. of Cultural Heritage, 2, 133-142.
  7. G. Cultrone, C. Rodriguez-Navarro, E. Sebastian, O. Cazalla, M.J. De la Torre. Carbonate and silicate phase reactions during ceramic firing. Eur. Journal Mineral., 13, 621-634.
  8. G. Cultrone, E. Sebastián, M.J. De la Torre. Mineralogical and physical behaviour of solid bricks with additives. Construction & Building Materials, 19, 39-48.
  9. P. Duminuco, B. Messiga, M.P. Riccardi. Firing process of natural clays. Some microtextures and related phase comopsitions. Thermochimica Acta, 321, 185-190.
  10. M. Gary, R. Jr. McAfee, C.L. Wolf (Eds.). Glossary of geology. American Geological Institute, Washington D.C., 4 th ed., 857 p.
  11. L. Ghergari, C. Ionescu. Applications of the analytical mineralogical methods in archaeology (Aplicaţii ale metodelor mineralogice de analiză în arheologie). Banatica 15/I, 261-270. Reşiţa. (in Romanian).
  12. L. Ghergari, Gh. Lazarovici, C. Ionescu, T. Tămaş. Geoarchaeological studies on ceramic artefacts from Early Neolithic from Romania: Lunca-Poiana Slatinii, Neamţ county (Studii geoarheologice asupra unor artefacte ceramice din Neoliticul timpuriu din România: Staţiunea de la Lunca–Poiana Slatinii, Jud. Neamţ). Angustia 4, 1-7, Sf. Gheorghe (in Romanian).
  13. L. Ghergari, O. Ţentea, F. Marcu. Mineralogical aspects of the hand-made ceramics from the Roman castrum of Gilău (Aspectele mineralogice ale ceramicii lucrate cu mâna din castrul roman de la Gilău). Apulum, 37/1, 401-416. (in Romanian).
  14. A.F. Gualtieri, P. Venturelli. In situ study of goethite-hematite phase transformation by real time synchroton powdre diffraction. American Mineralogist 84, 895-904.
  15. Inscripţiile Daciei Romane III. Apulum – Instrumentum domesticum (Cl.L. Băluţă), Bucureşti, 1999.
  16. C. Ionescu, L. Ghergari. Modeling and firing technology – reflected in the textural features and mineralogy of the ceramics from Neolithic sites in Transylvania (Romania). Geologica Carpathica 53, Sp. is. (CD).
  17. C. Ionescu, L. Ghergari. Vinča ceramics (Middle Neolithic) in Transylvania: petrographical and geoarchaeological features. In Chatzipetros, A.A. & Pavlides, S.B. (Eds.): The Proceedings of the 5 th International Symposium on Eastern Mediterranean Geology 2, 751-754. Thessaloniki (Greece).
  18. C. Ionescu, L. Ghergari. Small glossary of geological terms used for ancient ceramics (Mic glosar de termeni geologici utilizaţi în studiul ceramicii arheologice). Cercetări Arheologice, 13 (this volum). (in Romanian).
  19. S. Kacim, M. Hajjaji. Firing transformations of a carbonatic clay from the High-Atlas, Morocco. Clay Minerals 38, 361-365.
  20. L. Maritan. Archaeometric study of Etruscan-Padan type pottery from the Veneto region: petrographic, mineralogical and geochemical-physical characterisation. Eur. Journal Mineral., 16, 297-307.
  21. N. Şt. Mihăilescu, I. Grigore. Mineral resources for building materials in Romania (Resurse minerale pentru materiale de construcţii în România). Edit. Tehnică Bucharest, 422 p. (in Romanian).
  22. G. Pârvu, Gh. Mocanu, C. Hibomvschi, A. Grecescu. Useful rocks from Romania (Roci utile din România). Editura Tehnică Bucharest, 408 p. (in Romanian).
  23. G.Jr. Rapp, C.G. Hill. Geoarchaeology. Yale Univ. Press, 274 p.
  24. M.P. Riccardi, B. Messiga, P. Duminuco. An approach to the dynamics of clay firing. Applied Clay Science 15, 393-409.
  25. A.O. Shepard. Ceramics for the archaeologist. Carnegie Institute, 414 p., Washington.
  26. O. Ţentea, Legion XIII Gemina and Alburnus Maior. Apulum, 40, 253-265.
  27. O. Ţentea, About the mineralogical methods in archaeology and their importance in historical writing (Despre utilizarea metodelor mineralogice în arheologie şi relevanţa lor în scrisul istoric). Cum scriem istoria? Apelul la ştiinţe şi dezvoltările metodologice contemporane. Actele simpozionului “Tinerii Istorici”, ediţia a IV-a, Alba Iulia, 28-30 noiembrie 2002 (ed. R. Mârza, Laura Stanciu) Alba Iulia, 115-119. (in Romanian).
  28. O. Ţentea, V. Voişian. Edificiul public din punctul Bisericuţă (E2]. Alburnus Maior I, 447-67 = The Public Edifice of „Bisericuţă” (E 2). Alburnus Maior I (english version).
  29. B. Velde, C.I. Druc. Archaeological ceramic materials. Origin and utilization. Springer-Verlag, 299 p., Berlin.
  30. V. Voişian, O. Ţentea. Alburnus Maior. Carpeni Hill – Bisericuţă (Alburnus Maior. Dealul Carpeni – Bisericuţă). Cronica Cercetărilor Arheologice din România. Campania 2003, Bucharest, 280-282. (in Romanian).
  31. V. Wollmann. Metals and salt mining and stone quarries in Roman Dacia (Mineritul metalifer, extragerea sării şi carierele de piatră în Dacia romană (in Romanian and in German). Bibl. Mvsei Napocensis XIII, 469 p.
  32. *** (1967) Geological Map of Romania, 1:200.000, Bistriţa Sheet, Inst. Geol. Geophys. Bucharest.
  33. *** (1967) Geological Map of Romania, 1:200.000, Turda Sheet, Inst. Geol. Geophys. Bucharest.
  34. *** (1968) Geological Map of Romania, 1:200.000, Orăştie Sheet, Inst. Geol. Geophys. Bucharest.
  35. *** (1968) Geological Map of Romania, 1:200.000, Topliţa Sheet, Inst. Geol. Geophys. Bucharest.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License