Lergina Gradina – Secret Dalmatia donation 2017

As our readers know, each year we donate funds to archaeology digs and last year, to a caving action saving bones of ancient bear and deer (https://secretcroatia.blog/2018/01/04/rescuing-the-bones-of-prehistoric-bear-and-deer/)
and our past funding made some serious discoveries few years back: https://secretcroatia.blog/2014/07/11/underwater-archaeology-in-croatia-with-secret-dalmatia/
This discovery is now fully supported by Ministry of Culture and local municipality but we still provide logistics support. It was time to move on and open some new stories.

So, when we asked where next, our friends recommended Lergina gradina near Slivnica: a tiny village just few miles from Posedarje in North Dalmatia.

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The fortress defense ring still visible

Why this hilltop and note some other? There are several hundred of hilltop towns in Croatia but this was convenient enough to Archaeology department of Zadar University we work with and it is also known that it has very little or almost no Roman traces on top of Liburnian settlement. A rare find!

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Velebit is just across the narrow channel

The gradina or hilltop fort, was a settlement or a refuge during the pre-roman period and some of them date back 4000 years. Most of the interesting ones are much younger and have been built by an ancient Liburinan tribe that lived in this area before Romans. After the Roman conquest, most of them were abandoned as people moved to towns during Pax Romana. Liburninas are still a mystery to us as very little is known about them. Very little written records, limited archaeology materials… so every excavation counts!

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The winter was very mild this past year so digging outdoors was simply a lot of fun. But also a lot of serious work. Students had a great practice in the field and abundance of great finds!

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Lergina gradina is a nicely preserved fortress of about 3,5 hectares in size and it had one section of really finely done carved rock wall. The wall was abandoned soon after it was started. Probably they all left for the city…

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Fine work on stone blocks for the wall
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The abandoned fine wall and later rough addition with some thorn branches to keep the sheep inside

The archaeologists excavated two ancient houses – better say remains – and found a plethora of really special finds:

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The seal on one of the amphora
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Amphora
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Carthage coin

There is a great number of coins from Carthage found on these shores of North Dalmatia and that is still a curiosity. Carthage always had horses on one side of their coins and there is a theory they got here through trade during Hanibal’s Second Punic War campaigns on Italian soil.

In general, lots of great finds and details on artifacts that will help give some answers but also give a lot of new questions!
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I got there just in time of the first break and the sheep were calmly eating grass among the students. Perfect harmony in a classical Dalmatian landscape.

So, this year we will repeat our donation for the same location as it seems that the archaeologists have found the chieftain’s home so it would be a pity not to explore it and see what stories newly dug artifacts will be telling us.

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Ancient roads of Klis fortress

One hot afternoon I decided to join my friend Lino in his continuous effort to discover ancient roads of Split’s hinterland. As a very important area throughout the past, the Split/Salona area was always connected with the interior of the region: Zagora, Hercegovina, Bosnia…and all the way to Panonia. Klis fortress was always the most important fortification on that route and well fortified from Illyirian times.

Klis fortress...from the hill above
Klis fortress…from the hill above

So, we started our search by climbing the hill above Klis in order to, at least, get a better idea of the region and where the potential roads could have passed through. And also, to enjoy a unique panorama of this famous fortress from high above.

And then we found it…

The road
The road

The section of finely aligned side blocks were clearly marking the ancient road. The typical method of building roads has been applied on numerous roads in the area and I documented one near Benkovac: Roman roads of Dalmatia

And these were just a bit more narrow. Of course, although this looks like a Roman road, we cannot be sure until we find more of it or someone does a competent research as we are not archaeologists and not allowed to do any works on sites like these. We can only admire.

Lino on the road
Lino on the road

And we continued up the hill to enjoy the view of the Klis fortress enjoying a fantastic selection of local flowers and plants in full bloom!

Klis
Klis

Blue

Red

Just another wonderful hiking in Dalmatia

Archaeology tour of North Dalmatia

North Dalmatia offers a wealth of truly spectacular archaeological sites mostly unknown to the general public. From the immense riches of thousands of years of continuous living on Bribirska glavica hill, to mysterious rock on top of Ostrovica and all the way to Vrana, in less than 50 km! Without even mentioning at least 5 very important spots.

So, the first stop was fascinating Bribirska glavica also called Croatian Troy for it’s layers upon layers of history, monuments, stories and legends. Some proven, some not – Bribirska still stands as one of the most important archaeological site in the entire country. But, like on most spots of such importance, there were only sheep to accompany us. And provide very authentic soundtrack, too.

Bribirska glavica
Bribirska glavica

When it comes to archaeology: neolithic, Pre-illyiran and Illyrian architecture, Romans, Croatians, Turks, Venetians, Serbian graves… all that one can visit and see while visiting this vast site. Probably the most interesting monuments are believed to be built by ancient Illyrians – the megalithic wall structures at the entrance of Illyiran/Roman Varvaria seen bellow.

Meghalitic walls of ancient Varvaria
Megalithic walls of ancient Varvaria

Then on to touring the medieval section where the mighty Subic family once ruled from and enjoying some quite interesting parts of Roman thermae before continuing forward.

Medieval section of Bribirska glavica
Medieval section of Bribirska glavica: inside the cathedral

But not before we stopped at he very bottom of Bribirska glavica to drink from Bribišnica water and admire one of the cutest little historic bridges in Dalmatia.

Bridge over Birbišnica
Bridge over Birbišnica

And then we were off to Ostrovica: seen on this picture as the pyramidal structure in the distance.

Ostrovica and it's pyramidal hill seen in the distance
Ostrovica and it's pyramidal hill seen in the distance

Ostrovica used to be one of the most important and impenetrable forts Dalmatia that was captured by Turks only by treason.The entire fortress was blown to bits by the Venetians when they conducted the military operations  in late 1600s in fear that the Turks may come back. Since then, all we have is the huge rock on top of the hill. The rock – often called Mačkov kamen for Mačak family that lived bellow – is believed to have been part of the ancient cult of Illrians or pre-Illyrians.
Now, it is superb place to visit and offers breathtaking views. For all fans of Lord of the Rings: this is Minas Tirith in real life! With fortress on top, town (village) bellow and a vast plain where Orcs were invading…

Ostrovica (last winter)
Ostrovica (image taken last winter)

One can drive up fairly close to the very summit but some hiking is required and some caution as the very slopes are fairly steep and with lots of small rocks and stones that can send you sliding downhill.
Once up, we had a small snack break sun tanning right bellow the very rock…

Resting beneath Mačkov kamen
Resting beneath Mačkov kamen

As the Noon was near, we headed to Šopot for some authentic tastes of lamb and veal peka

Lamb
Lamb

… and finishing everything with tasty classic of the region: Benkovački prisnac for dessert!

Benkovački prisnac
Benkovački prisnac

After the lunch, we headed to Asseria for some more megalithic walls and little known Roman ruins. As one of the most amazing fortified towns, Asseria is still very impressive and just the first glance at the shear size of stone blocks is making everyone realizing that this was a very special place! So we toured the walls, ancient forum (now the cemetery) and eastern entrance to Asseria…

Asseria
Asseria

And all that followed by smoke coming from the folks cleaning their fields and reminding us that spring is just around the corner.

Almonds in bloom
Almonds in bloom

And then we headed south to Vrana. Probably the most interesting historic place in Croatia with:
– remains of 42 km long aqueduct from cave in the hill to Zadar
– historic fortress that was headquarters of Templar rule in Croatia
– home of Lucian Vranjanin – Croatian artist that was hired by French court and brought the Renaissance to France
– Maskovica caravan serai as the best preserved, most western example of Turkish architecture in Europe

Most other historic places in Europe have one or two attractions but they also have much better management…

Cave the Roman aqueduct was passing through
Cave the Roman aqueduct was passing through

And we also spotted common buzzard showing off high in the sky!

Common buzzard
Common buzzard

But since my friends were most intrigued by the Templars and their heritage, we spent most of the time inside the ruins of the fortress. Again, destroyed by the Venetians – the worse rule we ever had but hey, as Christians, they were far more acceptable than the Muslim Ottoman Turks.

Entrance to Vrana fortress
Entrance to Vrana fortress

And we were even in luck to find the doors to Maskovica Han (caravan serai) open so the guy running it gave us a tour and explained a bit about EU giving us about 1,5 mil Euros to restore this fascinating monument and making it into a very special and unique heritage-hotel! Really looking forward to it!

Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture

This beautiful day we ended with stopping at must-see panorama point over Vransko jezero lake where we got right in time for a beautiful sunset (although it was misty).

I cannot resist this place...
I cannot resist this place...

So, I already have a plan that we incorporate this tour (with minor modifications) into our travel in Croatia projects like Secret Dalmatia and Tours in Croatia. and, as my companions on this trip were more than great (really an exceptional group!), I am happy to join them in other adventures we will plan together!