11th Edition, 22 June 2024

Roșia Montană

Roșia Montană is a town located in the Apuseni Mountains, in what was called the Auriferous Quadrilateral – a territory in the Metaliferi Mountains rich in precious metal deposits, known and exploited since ancient times.

Nowadays the municipality of Roșia Montană is spread on the slopes of the Roșia valley, a name acquired because of the reddish color of the water, due to its high content of iron oxides. The Roșia Valley is situated at an altitude of about 800 m and combines the dome-shaped ridges of the foothills with high mountain massifs on which traces of long-standing exploitation can still be seen.

The locality has a millennial existence, being known since before the conquest of Dacia. It is mentioned by Herodotus, Pliny, Titus Livius and is one of the oldest localities with a tradition of precious metal mining in Europe.

It was founded by the Romans during the reign of Trajan as a mining town where settlers from Illyria worked. The town was then called Alburnus Maior – the first document to mention this name is an wax tablet dating from 6 February 131.

In the ruins of the former town, archaeologists have discovered dwellings, tombs, mining galleries, mining tools, many inscriptions in Latin and Greek and 50 wax tablets. Many of the archaeological findings can be seen in the Mining Museum in Roșia Montană.

The mountains are covered by forests, pastures and meadows, giving the Apuseni Mountains their specific appearance. A unique feature of the landscape is the presence of countless artificial lakes called “tăuri”. These lakes were originally created for mining purposes – nowadays they are used for recreational purposes. There are more than 105 ponds, lakes or dams (Tăul Țarina, Tăul cel Mare, Tăul Anghel, Tăul Brazi, Tăul Corna, etc.) resulting from mining activity.

Near Roșia Montană there are two unique geological formations, declared monuments of nature: Piatra Corbului and Piatra Despicată. Piatra Corbului is located on Dealul Cârnic at an altitude of about 950 m, and Piatra Despicată is located between Dealul Cârnic and Dealul Cetății.

The image of the village also reflects the spiritual richness of its inhabitants. The multitude of deities worshipped in the archaeologically excavated Roman temples, the historic churches of the five religious denominations that constitute the landscape of the settlement, or the legends and beliefs still alive about the fate of mining in relation to divinity, are witnesses to the cultural richness and ethnic diversity manifested over a significant period of time.

The mining history of Roșia Montană

The development of the Roșia Montană site can be traced from the deepest level, represented by the mining galleries, for exploitation, assistance, ventilation or water evacuation starting from the Roman era, in the depths of four mountain massifs – Cetate, Cârnic, Orlea and Letea. These galleries total 7 km in length, making up the largest and most important mining system known in the Roman world.

This system is extended by vast mining works that take over and amplify the Roman network carried out over successive eras until after 1948: galleries over 80 km long, large mining areas or the underground communication and drainage system directed by the Magistral Gallery of the Holy Cross (1873) extended along the valley of the Roșia stream over a length of 7 km.

Mining has generated, in correlation with the underground universe of mining itself, the components of the other levels of the site’s heritage:

  • the Roman surface landscape, which preserves ore processing areas, habitat areas, sacred areas and vast necropolises organized in nuclei located in relation to the ancient mining areas;
  • the historic industrial landscape, which includes artificial lakes (tăuri) made since 1733, coastal galleries, surface mining areas, tailings deposits dotting the slopes and rocky coasts exposed by vegetation;
  • the settlement developed along the valley of the Roșia stream – with nuclei in direct relation with mining areas in the Orlea and Cetate massifs – and developed upstream, in the area of a natural amphitheater between the Cârnic, Jig and Letea mountain massifs, where the central area of the village was shaped.

 

The Alburnus Maior archaeological mining site was also a rich source of epigraphic documents, whose systematic collection and publication began in the second half of the 18th century. With the discovery of the famous Roman waxed tablets in the galleries of the mine workings, the impact of the study of the site became universal.

The cultural landscape of Roșia Montană is composed of an extraordinary concentration of relics that testify to the evolution of mining over an extremely long period of time – more than three millennia – from the prehistoric period to contemporary times.

The Alburnus Maior – Verespatak – Rotbach – Roșia de Munte – Roșia Montană site, famous since the 19th century for its famous Roman tablets (contracts written in cursive Latin script), is represented, in the light of research in recent years, by an exceptional Roman mining system that preserves more than 7 km of galleries, to which must be added more than 80 km of medieval and modern galleries preserved together with the systems of ore evacuation (wooden rails, cranes), a mining fair preserved in an exemplary manner from the pre-industrial period and a landscape dotted with many traces of mining activities dating from the first half of the 18th century.

Roșia Montană is one of Romania’s richest sites in terms of cultural heritage resources, comprising in a territory of about 1200 ha 51 classified historical monuments, of which 7 are designated as monuments of national and universal value, the highest form of classification according to the Romanian legal system of protection. The cultural heritage of Roșia is also recognized by the National Land Use Plan – Section III, Protected Areas, where its monuments are designated as historical monuments of exceptional national value and the whole commune is recognized as an administrative-territorial unit with a very high concentration of cultural heritage values.

In 2015, a specification was introduced for the Alburnus Maior archaeological site, listed on the Historical Monuments roster, which extends its coverage to a 2 km radius around the Roșia Montană settlement. This expansion ensures that the entire site benefits from the highest level of protection mandated by Romanian legislation.

In accordance with the law, the preservation and activation of these recognized values are deemed public utility works of national significance.

Roșia Montană in UNESCO World Heritage Site

The heritage of Roșia Montană has been officially recognized by the Romanian State for its exceptional value since 5 February 2016, and the locality has been included on Romania’s UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

At the end of the year, the application was also submitted proposing the entry of the locality in the UNESCO Heritage.

According to the rules of application of the World Heritage Convention, Roșia Montană met 5 of the 6 criteria (it should be noted that it is enough to meet only one criterion to be admitted):

  • Criterion II: to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
    • The mining practices of the Romans at Alburnus Maior exemplify the Roman style of underground gold extraction.
    • Many of the Roman mining systems preserved at Alburnus Maior are unique – pillar chambers, spiral staircases, vertical mining waves, etc.
  • Criterion III: to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
    • The underground mining workings, the above-ground mining landscape composed of ore processing areas, habitat areas, sacred areas, necropolises, the actual settlement formed at the dawn of the industrial age and the high degree of documentation of the communities that generated them are unique testimonies, through the exceptional level of detail of Roman, medieval and modern mining activity.
  • Criterion IV: to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
    • The preserved mine site is an exceptional testimony to the history of precious metal mining from the Bronze Age to the early modern period.
    • The Roman mining landscape is exceptional testimony to the development of Roman gold and silver mining technology from the 2nd century AD.
  • Criterion V: to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
    • The traditional mining fair of Roșia Montană is a representative example of the pre-industrial period. This mining settlement also evokes the moment of transition to the industrial age, when the development of the means of production did not lead, as in other cases, to its transformation into a town. In other words, Roșia Montană is a traditional mining village frozen at the beginning of the urbanization process. The way in which the transition from rural to urban form is reflected characterizes the settlement as a whole and gives it uniqueness and significant world heritage value.
    • The mining landscape of the Roșia Valley and Corna Valley is a representative landscape of the pre-industrial period. Artificial lakes (tăuri), bare mountains, coastal mine openings, small vegetated pits are spread and define the landscape.
  • Criterion VI: To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
    • The famous inked tablets discovered in the galleries of the Alburnus Maior, disseminated through the works of the great German historian Theodor Mommsen, were one of the most important sources for the discovery of Roman law.
    • They influenced the German Civil Code and then formed the basis of similar regulations for several countries of the world: Portugal, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Greece, Ukraine and so on.
    • The frequent associations made by scholars between the history of the Roman Empire during the Antonine period and Dacian gold or gold mined in Dacia open up a direction of approach that addresses the history of European culture – the emergence of the Roman Empire from crisis, the beginning of Rome’s great building programs, of which the construction of the Forum and the erection of Trajan’s Column are certainly the most important elements.
    • The importance of the Roșia Montană galleries is not limited to Antiquity. From the end of the Crusades to the discovery of America, the Apuseni Mountains were Europe’s main source of gold.

 

On 27 July 2021, the long-awaited moment happened: Roșia Montană was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List!

This achievement is a big step towards developing Roșia Montane in a sustainable way. Now its natural, scenic, historical and cultural riches can be truly enhanced. Locals can develop various projects and activities to attract new tourists.

The Pachamama Romania Association also wants to carry out new projects here in the near future, in addition to the Roșia Montană Marathon running event.

Roșia Montană is one of the most important legacies left to us by our Dacian ancestors. It is worth investing time, energy, creativity, inventiveness and innovation so that this place can be reborn and shine again!