Deva is located close to the former ancient capital of Dacia in Orastie Mountains
The town of Deva is located in the southwestern part of the country, close to the former ancient capital of Dacia in the Orastie mountains. The area is rich in historical evidence of civilizations cross-fertilizing in Dacia, so there’s no wonder that the town of Deva plays host to the main building of the Museum of Dacian and Roman Civilization.
The building housing the museum is the Magna Curia palace, whose past is also rich in historical events. In late 16th century, the captain of the Deva fortress garrison started to build a house. In time, the building turned into a real official palace, and all throughout the years had a couple of owners, among whom Transylvania’s ruling princes Gabriel Bethlen, Gheorghe Rákóczi I, and the governor of the province in the 18th century Ioan Haller. After Transylvania’s unification with the Romanian Kingdom, Magna Curia became a property of the Romanian state. Since 1938, the building has hosted the Museum of the Dacian and Roman Civilization, one of Transylvania’s oldest museums. With details on that, here is museographer and spokesperson for the museum Daniel Iancu:
Daniel Iancu: “The foundation of the museum in Deva is closely linked to attempts made in the first and the second half of the 19th century to rescue and capitalize on the historical evidence of the past. The first museum to be set up in the region was, as you may know, the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu, opened in 1817. Then the museum in Cluj followed, in 1859, and later, in 1880, the Hunedoara History and Archaeology Society was founded, which, in turn, set up the museum as one of its sections. Therefore, our museum is also one of the first such initiatives in Transylvania and in Europe. Our museum has several sections, sections you can find in the main building in Deva, but also elsewhere across Hunedoara county. We have buildings in Orastie, where you can find the ethnography and traditional craftsmanship section, then there is the archaeology section in Sarmizegetusa, where you can also find the Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetuza site, we also have the Avram Iancu house in Baia de Cris, we have the complex of monuments in Tebea, we have the ethnography and local history museum in Brad, as well as the Aurel Vlaicu museum compound in the locality with the same name, nearby Geoagiu.”
The heritage these buildings house is varied, with items dating as far back as the pre-historic age, the Dacian and Roman times, and going through the medieval and modern age. Some of those items are displayed in the main building in Deva.
Daniel Iancu: “First of all, I should mention the Lapidarium exhibition, with items dating from pre-historic times, but mainly from the Dacian age. We have stone objects found in the Dacian fortresses in the Orastie mountains, but not only there. There are items found in the sites of Ulpia Traiana, Germisara, Aquae. There are also items dating from the medieval and post-medieval times up until the modern age. There is also an exhibition displaying items from the treasury of the Deva museum. There are the most representative silver and gold items dating from prehistoric times up until the 18th century. The collection includes pieces of jewelry, gold and silver coins, necklaces, bracelets.”
On display in an adjoining room one can find the latest and most famous archeological find: the bronze matrix discovered in 2013 on the premises of the site of the former Dacian capital Sarmisegetuza Regia. It is a one-of-a-kind item, dating from the period before the Roman conquest of Dacia, as experts concluded, after studying the item until 2015, when the conclusions were published in a volume.
Daniel Iancu: “No similar item has been found in the entire Dacian area or in other neighboring areas across Europe. In many ways, it is linked to the Mediterranean and the Hellenistic-Roman area, yet it also has some Northern-Pontic characteristics. From this point of view, it is an eclectic object. On it you can see representations of animals living on the territory of today’s Romania, but also animals from other geographical areas, such as elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamuses. The matrix is believed to have belonged to a jeweler who, sometime in the 1st century BC, came from the Mediterranean region and settled in the capital of the Dacian kingdom. He must have thought commissions for his work were easier to get there.”
So all those who want to get better acquainted with the archaeological and ethnographic richness of Hunedoara County and Hateg Land can start their journey in Deva, in the Magna Curia palace housing the Museum of Dacian and Roman Civilization.
(translated by: Eugen Nasta)