Dan Monah, Ph.D, the project leader, is a Senior Researcher I at the Iași Institute of Archaeology of the Romanian Academy. He has discovered the first and only known tell from the Cucuteni-Tripolye area. Between 1979 and 2006, he directed the excavations at the Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru tell, whose stratigraphy now serves as a yardstick for the chronology of the South-Eastern European Chalcolithic.
The Dealul Ghindaru archaeological deposit is more than 4.5 meters in depth, with 13 habitation levels from Precucuteni II to Cucuteni B2. Here, one can follow the evolution of the Precucuteni and Cucuteni cultures on a time span of over 1200 years. The material gathered from the excavation warranted the most ample series of radiocarbon dating ever produced. The distinct habitation levels contained several sanctuaries, ritual pits, rites for erecting buildings and ritual deposits of human and animal skeletal fragments. So far more than 2000 anthropomorphic and over 800 zoomorphic representations have been discovered: statuettes, figurines, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vessels, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic renditions on ceramics, cult vessels, and numerous sacred and prestige artifacts. Two interesting religious complexes from the Precucuteni II phase have been discovered: Soborul Zeiţelor (“the Council of Goddesses”) and Sfânta Familie (“the Holy Familie”) well-known to foreign scholars following their publication and inclusion in several itinerary exhibitions at Thessaloniki, Heldenberg, Rome, New York, Oxford and Athens. The tell contained numerous vessels of high artistic merit, some of which allow the reconstruction of the Cucutenian cosmogonic beliefs.
During the research at Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru, the discovery of the sanctuaries and of the sacred artifacts – particularly of the statuettes and figurines – was scrutinously observed, as to allow the advancement of a series of pertinent hypotheses and even conclusions. A part of the discoveries from Poduri has been published in Romania and abroad, while the rest is pending publication and is to be used in the current project. The project manager published the first monograph of the Cucuteni-Tripolye anthropomorphic plastic renditions, as well as several studies on the religious concepts and practices of the Cucuteni and Tripolye people. He has contributed to the knowledge of the habitat of the Cucuteni culture, by co-publishing a volume subsequently awarded by the Romanian Academy, and several articles and studies in Romania and abroad.
A new research field in which the project leader has achieved notable success is the archaeology of salt in prehistory. Following the research of the area around the Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru, Solca-Slatina Mare, Lunca-Poiana Slatinei and Cucuieţi-Slatina Veche sites, and due to the numerous field research activities, a number of salt-water springs which have been used since the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze-Age were identified. Alongside M. Alexianu, and Gh. Dumitroiaia, the project leader is an initiator of the ethno-archaeological investigations of the Romanian salt-water springs. Their ethno-archaeological research and contributions are widely known and cited abroad.
The visibility of the scientific contributions As part of the inter-academic exchange programs, the project manager has been invited to: Durham University, University College London, Cambridge and Oxford (September-November 2001), Durham, Oxford and Cardiff (May 5th-18th, 2003); Durham, Exeter, Cardiff, Oxford, University College London (November 1st-28th, 2004); Reial Academia des Doctores, Barcelona (December 8th-18th, 2003); Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum, Mainz, Germany (October 17th – November 17 th, 2005). In 2001 he has delivered a series of four conferences at British universities: Religion and ritual in the Cucuteni-Tripolye Culture in the light of the evidence from anthropomorphic figurines, University of Durham, October 16th, 2001; Religious Beliefs as Reflected in Cucuteni Neolithic Anthropomorphic Figurines, University College London – Institute of Archaeology, October 23rd, 2001; Religious Ideas Reflected in Cucuteni Anthropomorphic Figurines, University of Cambridge – McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, October 29th, 2001; Religious and Ritual Ideas Reflected by the Cucuteni Anthropomorphic Figurines, University of Oxford – Institute of Archaeology, November 6th, 2001.
Because of the interest stirred by the exciting discoveries from the Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru tell, the project manager was invited to deliver conferences at Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte Heidelberg, November 23rd 1988 (Die ausgrabungen in der Cucuteni Siedlung von Poduri) and at Université Nanterre, Paris, November 29th, 2003 (Bilan des recherches sur le tell de Poduri: apports et perspectives de la recherches sur Cucuteni). He was co-manager, toghether with O. Weller,Ph.D., of the PAI Brancusi „Aux origines de la production du sel en Europe : préhistoire et écologie des Carpates orientales roumaines”/ PAI Brancusi/ (2003/2004). He was part, as co-manager together with J. Chapman, Ph.D. and B. Gaydarska, Ph.D., of the The prehistoric exploitation of salt in Romania and Bulgaria research grant (2003-2006) (www.dur.ac.uk/j.c.chapman/research.htm). He has also been a member of the Prehistoric Salt Exploitation in Romania and Anatolia research grant (2002-2005), project manager – John Chapman, Ph.D., of the CNRS research grant entitled Les eaux de Moldavie roumaine, archéologie, histoire et écologie d’une ressource structurante du territoire, project manager – O. Weller, Ph.D., as well as co-manager, together with J. Chapaman, Ph.D., Dan Monah, Ph.d. and Gh. Dumitroaia, Ph.D., of the Research on Trade and Exchange in the Cucuteni-Tripolye Network research project (2001-2005).