A day with Macedonian archaeology – Stakina Češma

          Archaeological excavations on the site Stakina Češma – Valandovo

 

This presentation is a reminder of the previous archaeological excavations on the site and the results obtained so far, with a brief overview of the latest results.

The site Stakina Češma is located on the very edge of the small town Valandovo.  It was first recorded through archaeological survey in the 70s of the last century, and with short-term archaeological excavations by the Institute for the protection of cultural monuments from Skopje, several rooms with floor mosaics made in various techniques were discovered. The Museum of Macedonia under the leadership of Mila Šurbanoska started with excavations in 1987 (unfortunately with long interruptions) which continue to this day.

The systematic archaeological excavation of this area confirmed that it is a late roman building – Roman Domus with beautiful floor mosaics. Ten rooms with floor mosaics made in various techniques, an apsidal pool which was marble plated, part of the hydro-installation system, as well as a part of the economic premises of the building have been discovered. Due to an unsettled property claim by the owner of one part of the area, the building has not been fully explored yet, which makes it difficult to definitely determine its purpose.

The floors in all the rooms, except in the economic ones were made in opus tessellatum and opus sectile with various geometric motifs, decorated with polychromatic tesserae. In some of the rooms we have a combination of opus tessellatum and sectile. In one of the rooms on the west side of the building i.e. the assumed entrance a marble impluvium was found. On the east side of the building a large room connected with a semicircular pool was discovered, it had floors with both opus tessellatum and opus sectile. The pool was covered with marble slabs, and right in front of it, in the floor itself a marble bath was also discovered.

 

According to the stylistic features of the mosaics, the preserved architecture, as well as the several bronze coins form the second half of the 4th century, the building is dated in the Late Roman period.

During the research in the previous seasons, exploratory- trial trenches were dug in certain areas, especially in the south and west side of the building, where it is assumed that either the existing building may continue or that there are other buildings. It was concluded that in the whole surrounding area there are large amount of hydrostatic plaster, parts of collapsed walls and tesserae.

At the excavations in 2013, after the inspection of this area (west of the existing building), the following condition was determined: on 30-40 cm below the surface a mosaic floor was visible in the opus sectile technique, covered with large deposits of soil, stones and various debris.

Due to these new findings and the condition of the site, in 2015 the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia initiated new excavations again under the leadership of Mila Šurbanoska on the new area called Baknovka.

Namely, then, west of the excavated domus, in a layer of sediment and debris, a part of a new building was found, that is, a mosaic floor in opus sectile. The floor segment was with approximate dimensions of 1.00 x 1.20 m. Preventive conservation, measuring and documenting was carried out.

The discovered building was located at a distance of 29.55 m west of the threshold of the room 2 of the Roman Domus, that is, 17.15 m west of the western wall that was last excavated. The level of the newly discovered floor is 0.78 m lower than the floor in the room 1 of the house. The conclusions drawn from these preliminary records led the researchers to believe that it was definitely a new building, which requires systematic excavations.

The results from the excavations showed that it was part of a building with an apsidal form, and that the entire inner wall was probably covered with marble plates. On the outer side, on the east part, remains of fresco decoration with yellow background and ornaments in red color were preserved. The floor area on the east side ends with a vertically placed marble plate, set as a stair, which was measured and it was 10 cm below the floor. Despite the short period of excavation, it became clear that it was a significant, luxurious building and that the discovered part probably was the exedra.

This year the archaeological excavations were realized by an expert team from the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia with several collaborators, led by the same project manager.

At a depth of almost 1 m. in the room 2 (working title), a new floor appeared in the opus tessellatum technique. In the south and south-east part of the room the floor is damaged. On the floor, in front of the vertical marble plate a bronze coin was found.

The mosaic is made from polychromatic tesserae, arranged in various motifs. For the time being, we do not know how much of the mosaic floor is preserved and what are its definite dimensions.

In the west side of the room four vertical marble plates were also found. They were made from fine white marble and three of them have channelled decoration on the front side.

From the movable material, ceramic fragments mostly kitchen and tableware ceramics were found and one bronze coin.

The luxurious polychromatic mosaics with various decorative motifs and the other details revealed in the 2017 campaign confirmed that this was an extremely representative luxurious building.

Igor Širtovski