Ancient road from Krupa to Lika – Archaeology Trip in Croatia, 2021

It was a gorgeous day to go to the hillside and explore. I am here with my friends Pero and Mato. Mato is a well known archaeologist specializing in the Liburnian and Roman period. I did this drive back in 2016 but this time I was with educated archaeologists making this a unique opportunity to learn more on this Ancient road from Krupa to Lika. Check out our video at the end of the article or click here to go to our YouTube channel.

On the road

We decided to head to the hills to check the ancient road from Dalmatia to Lika via Krupa River spring. By some, this was the main road that was connecting Italy to Dalmatia. Another connection was by the sea and that was always much faster. This ancient road from Krupa to Lika, was used from the most ancient times as it was the easiest way to cross to Dalmatia.

There is some evidence that this gradina is found on the famous Peutingeriana map. This map is a 13th-century parchment copy of a possible Roman original and the best source for roman roads besides the field research.

Peutingeriana map (part of Croatia)

It covers most of Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia, including the Middle East, Persia, and even India. According to some sources, the existing map is based on a 4th or 5th century document that contained a copy of the world map originally prepared by Agrippa during the reign of the emperor Augustus (27 BC – AD 14). However, it is possible  that the existing map could instead be based on an original from the Carolingian period. The map is now in Vienna.

Gradina of Medviđa

The first major point on our route is the gradina of Medviđa or ancient Sidrona as it is believed. Gradina is a hilltop fortress or hillfort. Basically a settlement or a refulge that can be very old but many got abandoned with the arrival of Rome and peaceful times.

Gradina of Medviđa needs proper research and protection as it is often devastated by the illegal metal detecting activities.

Medviđa hillfort

We continued further to the hills along the dirt road and one of my favorite drives in Croatia.

We continued across the ancient bridge over Zrmanja and reached the village of Krupa known for the spring of the river of the same name. Arguably, the most beautiful river in all of Croatia. This time, our goal was not the Krupa river spring but the valley of Duboki dol deep in the mountain. I did explore this road back in 2016. But now I am visiting with an authority on local Roman history to get a better understanding of the actual life and this ancient road from Krupa to Lika.

Spring of Krupa River

To the Mountains

Dalmatian mild winters are the best time to explore the hillside. We usually head to the hills during the winter months as that is when there is not much vegetation.

Heading deep in the mountain

The road to the valley is a difficult one and not sure if one can make it without a proper SUV like my Hilux.

Drone operations in progress

It is poorly maintained as there are no people living there any more. There are only some hunters coming irregularly. In case you get in trouble, it will be a proper trouble as you are in the middle of nowhere with no signal most of the route.

Duboki Dol

Duboki dol means deep valley and it is clear right away how it got its name. In 1931 there were about 200 people living here. About 20 lived here up to the 1990s war. Today, the village is abandoned.

Duboki dol
Abandoned village in Duboki dol

We also looked for ancient roads easily confirmed by the groves in the rocks but this road is too modified from the Roman times so it is hard to expect to find anything here. The groves are found nearby but we did not go there on this trip.

Gradina Duboki Dol

Next stop was a small hilltop fortress by the road. This was one of the goals of the expedition as this hilltop fortress has not been properly researched and there are very few details in literature.

This area is rich with game, particularly boars and they have turned up ground with their snouts across the whole gradina. However, that brought s lot of pottery to the surface. Of course, these are just fragments but we can still find some clues on the age of the entire settlement.

Gradina Duboki dol

And here is where we found this special clay loom weigh…

Clay loom weigh of Duboki dol

What makes it even more interesting is the similar object found some 6 years ago near Muškovci on the Zrmanja river! Some 40 kilometers along this very road to the west.  Is it possible that we found two objects done by the same craftsman 3000 years ago? Quite likely! This is a typical bronze age object as there are so many loom weighs found all over Europe.

Clay loom weigh of Muškovic

This hilltop fortress needs excavation so we can get a better understanding of who lived here. It.  looks like it was inhabited a long, long time ago and then abandoned. Maybe attacked and destroyed. But we cannot know any of that without proper excavation.

To Lika

Then we continued to Lika passing an ancient well and possibly an ancient wall dividing two tribes that lived here. The region is virtually unchanged since the dawn of the civilization making it fantastic region to observe life in the ancient times. Ancient road from Krupa to Lika is still alive but nowhere near as it was back in the ancient times. Modern roads took over.

Smiljanića well
The wall dividing two tribes?

This area is not only beautiful  but full of fantastic, untouched historic sites.

Vučjak region

Here is the video on our adventure that gives us the best perspective on the whole day:

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