Dalmatian pyramid

No, this is not a new discovery in line with “Bosnian pyramids”. This is just a possible explanation of a mysterious pyramid first drawn on a 1570 map that was based on an older map by Šibenik native Martin Kolunic Rota who one of the most significant graphic artists of the second half of the 16th century.

map

I heard about it a while back. About the time when Bosnian pyramids were still making the news back in mid 2000s. A friend of mine – a legendary collector of all sorts of antiques, Ivica Ćurković  – told me that there is an image of a pyramid on an old map. Hmm… I saw it and there was no doubt that it was a real piece of late 1500s cartography. I personally bought a later version as the image was much more clear and all other details were pretty much the same. My map is this later one, by Merian from 1652. Simply a stunning piece!

Martin Rota was born in about 1520 in Šibenik. Little is known of Rota’s early life or where he trained as an engraver, but most of his documented career was spent working in Venice, Rome, and Vienna.
Rota has been described as one of the most significant graphic artists of the second half of the 16th century, though few if any of his prints were original compositions. You can learn more on Rota here.

So, it was puzzling why would anyone draw a pyramid on a map… Legend? Folk stories? Something so ancient that no one remembers any more?
I was thinking about a location near Vrlika, foothill of Dinara. Or something closer to Bosnia?
Recently I was discovering more and more on a very historic area of Nevest and Cera in the very heart of Zagora. The region has gone through dramatic changes through the history and holds some of the most interesting historic sites in the country. What particularly got my attention was the village Ostrogašica that was named after (allegedly) the Ostrogoths that once ruled the area. And then, studying maps, I saw it…

Zvonik hill near Ostrogašica
Zvonik hill near Ostrogašica

A topographic maps shows a very steep hill. It is called Zvonik (Bell Tower) and the only written piece on that was also found on that Neves and Cera web site discussing a medieval fortress on top of the hill. The pieces of the puzzle are now shaping into a story. What else but a field trip!

Zvonik
Zvonik

The hill stands steep but not as steep as I expected. Actually, this is the easiest “looking” side and it looks much steeper from other direction. But, this is not an easy climb! This is a very demanding hill with really steep slopes and lots of thorn trees and rocks. Of course, it is not a pyramid. It is a natural hill that, from the Šibenik side, looks like a pyramid. Still not enough evidence to prove this is the “Pyramid” on the old maps. Some 20 minutes later, we were on the top.

The walls
The walls

There are clear evidences of the structure on top of the hill: nicely carved blocks still showing the size of the structure. Most of them either taken away or simply rolled down after the fortress was destroyed. There is a pit on top of the hill probably dug out as some sort of a cistern for water in case of a siege.

A pit on top of the hill
A pit on top of the hill
Cross on top of the hill
Cross on top of the hill

Someone put up a big cross on top of the hill. Probably after the war as this area was also quite affected by the war in the 90s. What was more interesting to me were the outer walls of the fortress. They are typical medieval walls on an angle. Closing in towards the top. Just like on pyramids.

The walls
The walls
The walls
The walls

A lot of broken roof tiles shows that at least one of the buildings had a roof. Combined together – hill and fortress with a roof – one can get a pretty decent pyramid shaped hill looking from the distance.
And that was the only way to look at the hill back in the late 1500s as the Turks captured the region in 1522… So, I guess the “mystery” is solved.
I was also quite impressed by the steps carved in the rock!

Steps in the stone
Steps in the stone
Steps in stone
Steps in the stone

There is also a door on the image. At the very bottom of that “pyramid”. It can be explained probably by some sort of the gates. I saw a basic stone wall going around the foot of the hill and there was some sort of the entrance to the area. Probably marking the easiest access to the top as it was easy to guard and close. Not visible now and it is quite hard to figure out the easiest path because of all the trees and bushes.
We managed to go down the hill – not easy – to see one small pond.

Pond next to Zvonik hill
Pond next to Zvonik hill

There were some local girls with dogs next to it. The pond is now much bigger than usually as it was quite rainy last month.

Dogs having fun
Dogs having fun

The spring is definitely here!

So, is this the pyramid from the old maps? Maybe. I would leave some space for different interpretations but from all the evidences on actual maps, history, remains of the fortress… I think it is. After hours spent on aerial shots and reading different sources, this makes the most sense.

The pyramid
The pyramid

So, of course it is not a pyramid, but a historic hill with remains of a fortress that, at one point, looked like a “pyramid” from the distance. And a great place to visit any time 😉

Travel in Croatia

 

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9 thoughts on “Dalmatian pyramid

  • Hi Alan,
    another great trip, and as long as it’s not called “The Bosnian Pyramid” it’s fine to me.
    Stronghold, no doubt; Fortress, to be examined and evaluated; Interesting, absolutely !!
    Question: as far as my (limited) English goes, somewhere in a bulk of text I opened (my fault, always digging deeper, I saw “Ricice”.
    Is there some link with the Ricice I know and love (near Imotski).
    You lucky “bastard” speaking both English and Croatian 🙂
    Anyway, thanks again for an interesting peace.

  • Thank you! Hahaha This is a true piece pf history: a did a research based on an actual map and I believe this is it. This is a fortress, no doubt. Who and when, don’t know. But the archaeologists and historians should have the last word. Not an amateur like me 🙂
    Ričice is a fairly common name meaning small river, streams…

  • This was interesting! It would’ve been an impressive sight when the fort was standing back in the day.

  • @ Elisa – yes! But there are numerous places in Croatia like this. I would certainly love to see the Templar fort of Ljubač or Ključica that I blogged about before… All amazing places!

  • Can you imagine how many centuries ago our ancestors were capable of making maps? Comparing those maps to what we have today, we can see that some are quite accurate. For people who live across the ocean, there is little information about Croatia. Thanks to blogs such as your we can find out more about this wonderful country.

  • Reblogged this on POSVUDUSHA and commented:
    Well I know lot about my country but this is really new for me. Here are some interesting facts about so called Dalmatian pyramid. Thanks Alan for a great story!

  • The title of the pyramid rather looks like “Cdina Piramide” (not Colina) which would mean “bricked pyramid” or “pyramid build of bricks”.

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