Thoughts from a corner of Sweden: If the UK leaves Europe, where does that leave me ? (and the many other archaeologists in the same sinking boat)

This year my Day of Archaeology posting comes from Sweden…..At the moment I am working on the site of Nya Lödöse, the old town area of Gothenburg. I am told it is the largest urban excavation ever to have been undertaken in western Sweden. My interest is in the early post-medieval houses and workshops of the town, but we are also excavating the church and its associated cemetery. As with every urban excavation, anywhere in the world, we are under pressure both in terms of time and resources…. but there are many joys. The scale and survival of the buildings is brilliant, the cemetery is producing all kinds of interesting anatomical and spatial data.


Nya Lödöse excavations 2016

I continue to follow the progress of the Intrasis dedicated archaeological GIS, but this time in the nation that developed the system….I am sure all my colleagues back at Historic England would love to see the latest version of Intrasis being used on a really intensive excavation…and to see demonstrated the facilities where onsite inputting of GIS data linked to an external remote database is possible.

We finish this phase of the project at the end of August….but there is another part of the cemetery and town to be excavated in 2017….


Three members of the team

But enough of the good news… there are bad times a coming and coming up fast. Anyone who has read any of my previous Day of Archaeology posts, will note that over the years, I have taken full advantage of my rights as an EU citizen to travel and work in quite a few different EU and EEA countries. Unfortunately, future opportunities of this type are likely to limited for us Brits. I don’t intend to say anything about the motives or mind set of the 52% of British voters who decided the UK should quit the EU. Those folk will one day have to justify their decision to someone mightier than any of us and may indeed feel real regret as they descend into the ninth circle of Hell, sweating through the flames of the Inferno and overcome by the stench of the raw sewage within which they hopefully will stew for all Eternity….

No, what I would like to say is something about how the decision of the UK to leave the EU will affect archaeology and archaeologists across the whole continent.

we are stuffed

In the first instance those of us Brits that work in other EU countries will have our wings clipped by the Brexit vote. Hopefully some arrangement will be reached where we can still work within the EU/EEA area, but I imagine that extra layers of bureaucracy will be placed upon us. As someone who worked in Europe before freedom of movement, I can recall the hours spent waiting at various airports, police stations and the like getting documents and permissions verified; on occasions having to attend medicals to ensure that I wasn’t bringing the Black Death back to one of its source nations and often having to take out separate (and often expensive) private health and liability insurances. Let alone the difficulties of opening bank accounts, transferring funds from work nation back to the UK etc etc.

Secondly, the situation will become equally difficult for the large number of EU nationals currently working in UK archaeology. EU citizens do not at present require visas to work in the UK, but that is likely to change following Brexit. Archaeology is not a ‘protected profession’ when it comes to granting work visas and non-Brit archaeologists wanting to work in the UK will find they are subject to the most restrictive forms of visa. The worst of this is the requirement for the post to provide a minimum salary level, currently £35,000 pa, before a work visa is granted. Only a very few UK archaeologists currently earn that amount and it seems unlikely that a massive wage increase will be instigated to retain non-UK workers

Thirdly, there is the question of research funding, collaboration projects and the status EU archaeology students in the UK and UK students in other EU countries. I anticipate a minefield of funding options, none of which will be less expensive than current levels and surely will result in less choice, less research and less collaborations. My personal grief will be compounded if employment with European research institutes and/or universities becomes difficult if not impossible as a result of Brexit…..It is already being predicted that the Erasmus student exchange programme will be severely curtailed for UK students travelling abroad and UK universities hosting EU students.

So here’s the rub. I think that the opportunities for British archaeologists to work in many different European corners and for EU nationals to come and do the same in the UK has contributed to a wider and more comprehensive understanding of our discipline. Archaeology across the EU benefits from the UK being an active participant. We equally learn from out interaction with colleagues from across the continent. I believe that there are cultural and social advantages in exploring the commonality of our continents history/prehistory.

Postscript: If anyone knows of a nation out there willing to offer asylum to the large number of UK archaeologists who are proud to rise above petty nationalism and declare ourselves ‘European’, please get in touch….

A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Promotion of the new archaeological website

For our anniversary, 15 years of continuous archaeological excavations at the site Golemo Gradiste, near the village Konjuh, we have recently created a website Through the website we wanted to convey the magic of Golemo Gradiste and its beautiful surroundings to all interested professionals and admirers of natural and cultural heritage. It’s my pleasure to present our new web site at this occasion of the Day of Archaeology because in this way it will be presented to the right audience.


I would like to point out that as an international project, which was realized with Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, USA, and the Museum of Macedonia, today Archeological Museum of Macedonia, the research conducted at Golemo Gradiste it’s a project with the longest continuity in our country. This is due primarily to the great scientific potential of the site was recognized from the start and funded jointly by Gettysburg College, Dumbarton Oaks, the Getty Foundation and the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia.

The archaeological site of Golemo Gradiste at Konjuh is a rare example of a city founded in the late 5th or early 6th century in the province of Dardania within the Eastern Roman Empire. Situated on a high and elongated acropolis; a broad, gently sloping terrace between the northern foot of the acropolis and the Kriva River; and a narrow area at the south foot of the acropolis, the city represents the late phase of Roman urbanism, heavily fortified and significantly altered by the insertion of ecclesiastical architecture. Its municipal plan, fortifications, and churches represent the early phases of development of European urbanism and religious heritage. Covering an area of ca 17 ha, Golemo Gradiste near Konjuh is the largest and so far best investigated town from the 6th century AD in the north-eastern part of R. Macedonia.


On the naturally fortified acropolis, an even stronger fortress was created in the 6th century. There, through archaeological excavations 1998-2004, were revealed also gates, streets, stairs, and several residential and public buildings founded on the soft bedrock. A number of them, e.g., a large cistern for water, are visible today. With its dominant position overlooking the wider area, the hill of Golemo Gradiste was of stratigic importance for the safety of the city and its inhabitants during the restless times of the 6-th century. The site is also famous for the numerous chambers cut in the rock, found on the southwestern side of the hill. It is believed that they served as cells for monks in the past.


Excavations since 2005 on the northern terrace have revealed two large residential complexes. One was a multi-unit structure, in which dwellings, storerooms, and workshops clustered around an internal courtyard. The second residence, displaying several spacious rooms, a kitchen area, and a colonnaded courtyard, undoubtedly belonged to a member of the elite. Between the two residences, a large, three-aisle basilica (35 x 15 m) with various unusual features came to light. Among its annex rooms a piscina for baptism is located in an apsidal hall. Fragments of exquisite relief sculpture found in both the Rotunda and the basilica point to a local, mid-6th century workshop.

Goran Sanev, MA – NI Archaeological Museum of Macedonia


A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Overview of antiques from Dobri dol village, Karshijak, municipality of Sopishte, Skopje

“We do not dig up objects, we dig up people.”

 – Sir Mortimer Wheeler

 The need to go back to the past is process of rejuvenation of memories or their placement in time and space anew, as well as a realization and replenishment of the complete picture of a certain geographical ambient.

The seeker directs his interest of a certain space towards its deeper perception and befriending forgotten experiences, discovering, stone by stone, that which his forefathers before him have sawn.

For each individual, the mounting of Vodno, as any other mountain, is a goal to reach. To that end, there is a possibility to walk the marked mountain road, others have walked before you, or to boldly take the unmarked road full of various challenges and obstacles.

Climbing up the steep eastern slopes of Vodno, one can reminisce of the old road stretching from the great Stone Bridge on the river Vardar to the south towards Kisela Voda village. There it split in two directions, one continuing south-east (villages of Taor and Zelenikovo), whereas the other turning more to the south towards the gentle hills to the east and south-east of Vodno (villages of Soptishte, Rakotinci, Dobri dol and further down to Pelagonia). (Evans 1885, 98; Hadzi-Vasiljevic 1930, 24-25; Shkricanic 1974, 80.)

This geographical area was known as Karshijak or “on the other side”, “across the river Vardar or opposite Vardar” (Hadzi-Vasiljevic 1930, 33). Once road passes by Markovo Kruvche, or medieval Chrnche, one would arrive at the old quarry where blue limestone (limestone deposits from the third Mesozoic shallow sea dating around 150 million years ago) was excavated and used to tile the streets in the center of old Skopje (Radovanivic 1937, 75; Trifunovski 1958, 84; Herak 1973, 314-317). Remnants from that time can be found even today, a time when the noise, dust, smoke and clatter of the craftsmenwere companions to every weary traveler. Most probably, Sir John Arthur walked this same road while exploring the Roman remnants in this region.

Next are the village of Sopishte, and then the village of Rakotinci, both spread over the long valleys and dry trenches shaped by the long hand of the wild spring and summer rain.

The village of Dobri dol is located south of Skopje, at a distance of around 10 km from the city center. It is situated in a valley shaped as a horseshoe in the southern slopes of Vodno, ridged by the two small rivers, Krushka and Rakotinski Dol (made up of Buturec and Cimkoec springs) that contributed to the fertility of the soil and the ease of its processing, and a little higher up, on the neogene terraces, the soil is dry, sandy and perfect for growing Dobridol grapes. It is protected from the cold north winds, but through the valley of the river Markova reka, open to the warm south wind (South-Razvigor breeze or Lodos) (Hadzi-Vasiljevic 1930, 18; Trifunovski 1958, 15, 130).

In the area surrounding the village Dobri Dol the following toponyms can be found: Preku dol, Preku rit, Ciganski grobishta, Gola Rudina, Kocho padina, Pitoma rupa, Po rogoi chuki, Pargoi chuki, Kushica, Gorni Zabel, Dolni Zabel, Perkoec, Dushkov dol, Opal, Bel Krst. Mankoec, Kojdui rupi, Grashishta, Crna shuma i Drmos (Skok 1936, 104-105; Trifunoski 1958, 138).

fig. 1 Topographic map from the vilage of Dobri Dol

Preserved testaments of the first settlements dating from the early Stone Age can be found in the area surrounding the nearby villages of Rakotinci and Govrlevo. Two settlements were located to the east of Dobri Dol, in the terraces of the Orlovica hill and above the two small river-streams flowing from Dobri dol and the neighboring Rakotinci, the first one dating from the early Stone Age and the second one form the Copper Age, Orlovica 1 and 2 (Bilbija 1996, 380; Mitrevski 2013, 139; 32, 155)

In the middle reaches of Markova Reka, near the village of Sushica (Kolishtrkovska-Nasteva and Videski 1996, 42), deep in the sandy shore, the traces of Mycenae pioneers who most likely were in search of rivers rich in gold, lie hidden.

Fragmented (Mycenae) vessels belonging to the Bronze Age of the Vardar Valley are found in Govrlevo (according to Bilbija 2012; Mitrevski 2013, 184), west of Dobri Dol.

Settlements and fortified stations, small forts and shelters have been woven into the landscape since Ancient times and the Middle Ages. Old cemeteries, stone markers, stelas and crosses. Slanted or excavated. Lonely or attached, one can find them on the hills and fields. Christian or Muslim religious temples tower over the red tile rooftops of the village houses. But, also holy and healing springs and creeks that bring peace and tranquility to the weary travelers and eternal seekers under the deep shadows of the centennial trees and the on road resting places reminiscing of times past.


  1. Archeological site Krushka,

is situated in the vicinity of Krushka spring (Kushica) (Vuchkovich-Todorovich 1958, 289; Jovanova 1996, 370), 500 meters north-west of the village church St. Spas. A double tomb dating from the late Antique was found in the 50’s of the last century and six secondarily used stelae intended for the double tomb construction inscribed in Latin letters, and one inscribed in combined Latin and Ancient Greek. Bricks were used for the floor of the tombs. Bricks with larger dimensions, were a little elevated than the rest were set as the headrest.

Fig. 3 Arch. loc. Krushka-Kushica

Burial gifts were found in both chambers:  a coin (Constantine), gilded crossbow fibulas, a golden earring, golden ring, glass vessels- vials and two ceramic vessels (Vuchkovich-Todorovich 1958, 295-296).

The stelas most probably belonged to high class decedents who held lands in the horseshoe-shaped valley, but served their professional and life course in the administrative, religious and transit center in the province of Upper Moesia, in Skupi. They originate from the period at the end of the 1st to the beginning of the 3rd century (Vuchkovich-Todorovich 1958, 290-295, Dragojevich-Josifovska 1982, 68-69, 81-82, 86, 99, 118; Petkovski 2013, 182, 197, 198, 209, 213).

The following names are mentioned:

– Decedent (soldier in the Flavian cavalry-ala) Vanno, Iulius Vanno Missicius and the dedicator – establisher Flavius Antiocus,

– Decedent (centurion veteran) Antonius and the establisher, free slave Simphorus,

– Decedent Drutie Mestulae and the dedicator Maema Dioscuridi,

– Decedent (veteran of the VII legion Claudia Pia Fidelis), Publius Caetennius Clemens and the establisher, free slave  Simphorus and heir Publius Caetennius Felicianus,

– Decedent Publius Aelius Posidonianus and the establisher Antonia Saturnina,

– Decedents (sons, praetorian soldiers Caio Valerio Pudinti veteran and Caio Iulio Celeri, the son-in-law, who was Augustales (priest of the royal cult in Skupi) Caio Valerio Maximo and the establisher mother Iulia Victorina (Vuchkovich-Todorovich 1958, 290-295, Dragojevich-Josifovska 1982, 68-69, 81-82, 86, 99, 118).

On this very spot, atKushica near the high poplars, ceramic pipes – tubules most probably belonging to an ancient water supply system were excavated while repairing and constructing a new water supply system for the village, thus this place got the name Old Spring.


  1. Archeological site Grmadi

is believed to be the settlement or one of the village estates belonging to some of the abovementioned persons located at a distance of around 500 meters from the double late-antique tomb. While reconnoitering this are numerous rocks and tegulae were found, as well as house foundations that were probably ripped out in the process of ploughing the fields. (Vuchkovich-Todorovich 1958, 295)

Fig. 4 Arch. loc. Grmadi


  1. Archeological site Smilanci,

situated around 1.2 kilometers to the south-east of the village, on the slopes of a flattened plateau and above a deep valley and an aqueous spring scattered stones and pieces of Corinth tegulae can be found. Maybe this was also the location of a village estate from the Roman period.

Fig. 5 Arch. loc. Smilanci and Bel Krst

  1. Archeological site Bel Krst (White Cross),

a gentle hill at a distance of less than one kilometer to the south-east from the center of the village. On the top of the hill, a wide ditch was dug where most likely a roughly caved stone block was set with a recipient in the middle. Nearby the stone block, there is a stone cross inscribed in Old Slavonic letters.

 Fig. 6 Arch. loc. Bel Krst



The little horseshoe-shaped valley which is the resting place of Dobri Dol village is also a meeting point for several communication routes, connecting the Skopje region to the south and vice verse. The good and fertile soil and the closeness of the forests and higher pastures have provided conditions for a secure and good life for the population inhabiting this area in different time periods.

The presence of quality drinking water gushing from the several watery springs (a few of which are completely dried out today) as well as the favorable and mila climate were a precondition for forming the first settlements ever since the early Stone Age.

This short review of the few archeological points in the village and its vicinity is merely a starting point for further, more scrutinized and comprehensive research into the archeological past of the village of Dobri Dol.


This text was finished on the day of † Venerable Martyr Fevronija;

Venerable Dionisiy Kosturski, 2014

By Igor Tolevski –

A Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Promotion of the new book “Ancient Demir Kapija”

Promotion of the new book of PhD Viktorija Skolovska “ Ancient Demir Kapija“.

PhD. Sokolovska is well known name in Macedonian Archaeology, first as curator at the Archaeological Museum in Skopje, then as a director of Museum of Macedonia from 1991-1995, that all her professional life she devoted to research the antique period in Macedonia and published in more than 90 texts.

The book has a volume of 118 pages, 110 illustrations, including 7 maps, 84 photographs in color and black and white, 4 plans, 6 boards, 9 drawings and findings. The content is organized into two major parts.
This is the link where you can download the book

NEARCH and ADS looking forward to Day of Archaeology 2015!

ADS LogoOk wait, isn’t this Day of Archaeology 2014? It’s time to think about 2015 already?!

Yes!…and 2016, 2017 and 2018, as the New Scenarios for a Community-involved Archaeology (NEARCH) project prepares to work with the Day of Archaeology from next year. NEARCH follows on from the ACE project, which aimed to promote contemporary archaeology at a European level, by emphasising its cultural, scientific, and economic dimensions, including its manifold interest for the wider public. Conducted by the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), the NEARCH project, supported by the European Commission Culture programme, is a European-wide cooperation network of 14 partners from 10 countries willing to explore these changes and their consequences. More specifically, NEARCH aims to study the different dimensions of public participation in archaeology today, and to propose new ways of working and cooperating in a profession strongly concerned by the current economic crisis.

The main themes of the NEARCH project are:

A. Archaeology for the community: informing and involving people
B. Archaeology and the imaginary: crossroads between science and art
C. Archaeology and knowledge: teaching and sharing information
D. Archaeology in a changing economy: towards sustainability
E. European archaeology and the world: dependencies and mutual development

The NEARCH project is delighted to be joining forces with the Day of Archaeology, and while this work technically falls under theme A, it has relevance across every theme. ADS is coordinating the collaboration, and we are currently discussing how best to work together. Broadly though, the first year will likely entail working across our collective networks to ensure greater participation from archaeologists across Europe, and providing translations for the ‘How to take part’ sections of the website, so that more people can post in their native language if they so choose. In the following years we hope to also explore creative ways for people across Europe to use the site.

Looking forward to next year!

EU Culture Logo



The NEARCH project has been funded with the support of the European Commission.

Photo above titled: From fragments to pixels: digital representation of a tomb painting of the 4th century BC, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece by Pierre Buch © Buch Edition. From the ACE Portal for Publications and Outputs.

Middle Ages at work

It’s a cold morning of the end of october and the air is already chilly, almost wintry. The northern wind clears the sky and the sight reaches the horizon and meets the islands of Montecristo and Elba.

Above our heads an ancient medieval fortress, mighty and lonely.




What’s it thinking about us? About this few people who are walking up on the paths in the wood, willing to build up a house travelling again over the gestures and knowledge of that thousand-year-old humanity who erected the Fortress of San Silvestro.


These and many other thoughts come into my mind. Emotions are strong and a dream has become true. I’m not feeling cold anymore. I hear voices from a distance, it’s Dario, the master builder, the guardian of “knowledge”. He tells me about the lime to put out, firstly in the morning, carefully, and he reminds me of how, in his childhood, he started working with his father…and how a construction site of his times was not so different from our medieval one.



My dream. After passing 15 years digging and studying medieval architectures of towers, palaces, churches and castles all around Tuscany, after a PhD and many projects abroad, eventually theory becomes practice. The idea of building a house in the way they did in the Middle-Age is really taking place.
The project is called “Medioevo in corso” and is born from a collaboration between the co-op Coopera, in which I take part, and the company Parchi Val di Cornia, that has been managing greatly a web of Museums, Archaeological and Naturalistic Parks in the Populonia promontory area, in the province of Livorno, for more than 20 years.

Our construction site is at the feet of the fortress, right outside the building circuit, and we are three working on it. Dario, the hand and the head. A huge man, shadowy..but just on the surface, a life dedicated to work, today the custodian of an endangered knowledge that should be kept alive.
Then comes me, Alessandro, archaeologist specialized in medieval architecture, apprentice and scientific project consultant, as well as object of Dario’s continuous jokes….all because of my urge to write notes and take photographs of things he thinks the most insignificant. As a rule, there’s also a third assistant who shares with us the burdens of the workday.

But why building a house in the Middle Age?” This is the question I hear most of the times. The possible answers are many. The ripercussions of the project vary from the regard to the communication of the archaeological data, to the scientific research and the archaeological restoration. The hard daily life of the construction site, the meticulous reconstruction of all the operations linked to it allow to answer to a series of questions so well, that the only study won’t have done it. Only to this day, I have a pretty clear idea of all the necessary resources (stone, lime, water, wood) to build a house, and now I can suppose an evaluation not too far from reality, for the building of an entire castle.

Our structure follows the model of the houses of the castle that date back to the XII century reconstruction: a one-floor house, 6 x 4 m, with a pitched roof, covered in sheets of stone.

As though in a “workshop”, I learn all the essential steps to “put out” the lime, that is to turn it into slaked lime to be kneaded with water and sand in a “mixer”, built on the model of that brought to light during the dig of the Donoratico castle (Castagneto Carducci – LI). They are tanks dug in the ground where the lime could be kneaded in a continuous cycle with a wooden machine, avoiding the heavy manual operations. Structures like these date back to a period between VIII and X century and the few examples found in Europe always correspond to construction sites linked to important monasteries or royal palaces, places where highly specialized workforces circulated.




…I learn to square a stone voussoir with chisel and mallet, I learn to wall up just with plumb line and level, but every evening the strain is rewarded by a wall, growing in its height, that will be found there by my future colleagues even in a hundred years.




I learn to build a wooden scaffolding and a roof made of sheets of slate.





I learn that the transmission of knowledge is a path that arises from the observation of the gestures, from the imitation of them, and I understand the meaning of “work-shadowing”.


A medieval construction site is a challenge against time, it’s a game with eternity. Just now I manage to understand it and will be able to pass it down.

Day with Macedonian Archaeology – Forms of Fatalist Beliefs in Ancient Macedonians

The most eminent mysteries of the ancient world took place on the island of Samothrace[1], located in the northern coast of the Aegean Sea, once regarded as the center of the mysterious cult of the Cabeiri venerated as protectors of sailors and ships, the meeting place of Philip and Olympias[2] amidst the celebration of the holiday of the Mighty Gods in the period from 365 to 361 BC, as recorded by Plutarch[3]. During the celebration, the ghosts of the dead were called upon and secretive rituals, orgies, purgation and purifications were held that only the immersed and initiated into the mysteries of the Cabeiri attended.The aim of the immersion into the Cabeiri mysteries was to relieve oneself of the past sins and protect oneself from future misfortune.[4] The influence of the Samothrace mysteries[5] and the respect that the Cabeiri enjoyed among the Macedonians of the ancient world is witnessed by the reliefs discovered on the territory of Macedonia. According to V. Bitrakova-Grozdanova, the Samothrace gods, the Cabeiri, were also known in western Paeonia by the name of Dioscuri and in compliance with the samples discovered in Macedonia, it is evident that this cult held a significant place in the religious beliefs of Macedonians in the ancient period.[6] IMG_1143

It is not known why Philip was on Samothrace, but it is known that Olympias was very religious and deeply mystical, having great respect for the orphic rituals and always participating in the holy dances dedicated to the gods of nature with great pleasure, as recorded by Plutarch.[7] She showed greater courage in handling the snakes than most women, a sight that “would make most men tremble with fear”[8] as A. Weigall would record.  It is assumed that her mysterious behavior and wild and untamable nature caught the attention of young Philip, who fell in love with her and married her five years later.

In the ancient period, beside the oracle of Delphi, the oracle of Dodona in Epirus was considered to be the most consulted one. It is the birthplace of Olympias, who is presumed to have been a frequent visitor of this place.The Oracle of Dodona was located in the immediate vicinity of the temple of Zeus, nestled between oak and beech woods whence the responses to prophecies were discerned through symbolic interpretation of the sounds of nature, the whisper of the tree leaves, the cooing of the doves, the babbling of the brooks and the songs of the brass vessels lulling to the wind.  A. Weigall discerns another type of prophesying used in the Oracle of Dodona. This involves a young man hitting a kind of gong with a whip with three chains, and thus the response of the deity corresponded to the nature and degree of the vibrations. [9] Due to simultaneous beginnings, similarity in the prophesying, as well as the choice of location in regards to oracles nestled in woods, the Oracle of Dodona is considered to be a twin-oracle to the Egyptian oracle of Siwa , known among the people as the Place of trees (Sekbet – iemy), located in the Egyptian desert, as recorded by Herodotus.[10]  Since the Oracle in Siwa was dedicated to Ammon, and Dodona dedicated to Zeus, the two Gods were equated into one, Zeus-Ammon and as such was worshipped amongst the peoples of the ancient world.  Philips visits to the Temple of Ammon in Thebes, Boeotia where the statue of this deity inscribed by Pindar was placed, as recorded by Pausanius,[11] as well as Philip’s offering of holy sacrifices at the famous Oracle in the Temple of Ammon in Macedonia, speak volumes of the cult of Ammon in Macedonia and the reverence he enjoyed among the ancient Macedonians.[12] In Donona, Zeus was worshipped under the name of Nayos, god of birth and the fertilizing moist of nature, whereas in Egypt Ammon was likened to Min, god of fertility.  The connection of Zeus from Dodona with Min-Ammon from Egypt is done through the use of a whip with three chains, the most characteristic symbol of Min in the prophesying ceremonies. Its use is also noted in the Oracle in Dodona during prophesying through hitting a gong with this kind of whip.    According to legend, after the arrangement of the wedding of Philip and Olympias, it is most likely that she directed all her prayers to Min-Ammon, god of fertility, whose power amongst the people was experienced through thunderbolts and the shooting stars in the sky. [13]

When weaving the legends of the birth and life of Alexander the Great, apart from the prophecies of oracles,a considerable role was also played by the beliefs in ancient forms of foretelling the future through different occurrences that were believed to be infallible signs or omens.   As the most common form of seeing into the future, prophetic dreams were considered to be the most enlightened and most significant form, followed by prophesying through the flight of the birds, odd signs as well as dream interpretation.    Predicting the future was in the hands of seers, prophets, druids, fortunetellers or astrologers. In the time of Philip and Alexander the great, Aristander was considered to be the most skilful seer.[14]

Legends that refer to the birth of the greatest leader and conqueror of all time, Alexander of Macedon, are most consistently described by Plutarch through the account of Olympias’ dream she dreamt a day before her wedding to Philip as well as Philip’s dream the next night, after the wedding ceremony.[15] The interpretation of Philip and Olymipias’ dreams was in the hands of Aristandar, the seer, who according to Plutarch: considering how unusual it was to seal up anything that was empty, so consluded that Olympias was with child of a boy, who would one day prove as stout and courageous as a lion.[16] The conception of Alexander of Macedon was followed by Olympias’ dream on the same night:  “The night when he was conceived, his mother dreamt that she had laid with a extraordinary serpent; and the dream was not a lie since, in her womb, she was carrying an offspring who was larger than human mortality.”[17] According to Egyptian legends, characteristically, Ammon would visits of the marital beds of mortal queens so as to infuse a certain divinity in the royal blood.  Thus, the legends that explore this dream imply a divine conception between Olypias and Ammon, incarnated as a serpent, as well as the people’s beliefs that she is to bring unto this world a child of Fate, son of Ammon in the role of Min-Ammon, the main god on the Egyptian oracle of Siwa. [18]

According to Plutarch, the weaving of legends about the estrangement between Philip and Olympias, and the dying out of his fiery passion for her are due to the constant presence of serpents in their marital chamber and bed. Olympias could not live without the serpents, but Philip in fear of poison, magic or the belief that she may be enamored by some divine creature, was ever after less fond of her company.   Thence Plutarch’s episode which describes Philip looking through the gap of the door before entering their marital chamber, so as to see whether there are serprents inside: “[he] presumed to peep through that chink of the door, when he saw the god, under the form of a serpent, in the company of his wife. [19]

The fear that Philip felt due to the constant presence of serpents in their bed chamber, as well as the belief he held in her divine conception, brought about an anxiety in him, and according to Plutarch:  Philip sent Chaeron of Megalopolis to Delphi, by whom an oracle was brought to him from Apollo, who bade him sacrifice to Ammon and hold that god in greatest reverence, but told him he was to lose that one of his eyes which he had applied to the chink in the door when he espied the god, in the form of a serpent, sharing the couch of his wife.…” [20]According to folk beliefs this would be his punishment for seeing something that no mortal was ever to see. [21]It is believed that this legend is connected to the later wounding of Philip’s right eye, which took place during the siege of Methone in 354 BC, and which the people interpreted as god’s punishment for the done deed.[22]His return to Pella with a patch on the eye further strengthened Olympia’s beliefs that Ammon did in fact visit her in the marital bed as a serpent and stirred up the precautions from the oracle in Delphi regarding Philip, which are now coming true.[23]

Many historiographers have noted down the legends that depict a series of peculiar omen prophecies which mark the birth of Alexander of Macedon. According to their scripts, the same night when Olympias gave birth, the ancient old temple of Ephesus, dedicated to Ephesian Artemis was engulfed in a fire and burnt to the ground. [24]Althought, Quintus Curtius Rufus gives a rational explanation as to the reason of the fire as an “act of profligate incendiary, who, being apprehended and put to the torture, admitted that despairing of fame by good actions, his view in perpetrating this impiety was to transmit his mane to after-ages by a stupendous crime”,[25] the fatalist belief in prophecies overcame reason among the Magiand the people, as stated by Plutarch: But all the Magi who were then at Ephesus, looking upon the temple’s disaster as a sign of further disaster, ran about beating their faces and crying aloud that woe and great calamity for Asia had that day been born.”[26]The Ephesus soothsayers interpreted this catastrophe as the onset of a great power fatal to the Orient, and according to their words “today there is a torch burning in one part of the world that one day is going to burn the East.”[27]Legends can be found that depict prophecies rooted in astronomical phenomenon which also indicated the future greatness and might of the newborn: “It was witnessed that Alexander’s birth was attended with lightning, thunder, and a local convulsions of the earth.” [28] Quintus Curtius Rufus records the legend of the two eagles sitting on the roof of the house where Olympias gave birth, interpreted by the diviners as a sign that the child born in that house would rule two kingdoms.[29] The legend of the three joyous messages Philip received after conquering the Athenian province of Potidaea, was interpreted as: “…and the seers raised his hopes still higher by declaring that the son whose birth coincided with three victories would never fail to be victorious.[30]

The belief in the divine origins of Philip and Olympias, their meeting of the island of Samothrace, and the influence of the religious beliefs, mysteries and prophecies gave rise to legends of the birth, life and death of their son Alexander III of Macedon, most probably to explain his life accomplishments. Although the story of Alexander of Macedon lives on more than two millennia, his legends in the Macedonian folklore have a national meaning and thence carry messages of the ethnogenesis of Macedonians and comprise the identity of the Macedonian people.

[1]Plutarch, 7, Translated from ancient Greek by Sarakinski, V., comments by Proeva, N. (2008) 183.

[2]Stoneman, R. (1997) 13.

[3]“And we are told that Philip, after being initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace at the same time with Olympias, he himself being still a youth and she an orphan child, fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother, Arymbas.” Plutarch, 7, 2,Translation by Sarakinski, V., comments by Proeva, N. (2008) 109.

[4]Weigall, A. (2006) 43

[5]Herodotus, II, 51, Translated from ancient Greek, preface and comments to text by Chadikovska, D. (1998) 135.

[6]A series of cult reliefs portraying the Dioscuri or Cabeiri ana a goddess among them have been discovered in western Paeonia in the villages of Zivojno, Krushevjani and Dunje, around Prilep, in addition samples have been discovered from Kavadarci (Sirkovo) to Stobi, from Negotino to Demir Kapija. Bitrakova-Grozdanova, V. (1999) 236 -238.

[7]“Now Olympias, who affected these divine possessions more zealously than other women, and carried out these divine inspirations in wilder fashion, used to provide the revelling companies with great tame serpents, which would often lift their heads from out the ivy and the mystic winnowing-baskets,or coil themselves about the wands and garlands of the women, thus terrifying the men.”Plutarch, 7, 2,Translation by Sarakinski, V., comments by Proeva, N. (2008) 109.

[8]Weigall A. (2006) 45.

[9]Loc. cit. 45.

[10]Herodotus,II, 54-58,  Translation, preface and comments to text by Chadikovska, D. (1998) 136-137.

[11] Paus., IX, 16,1.

[12]Plutarch, 7, Translated from ancient Greek by Sarakinski, V., comments by Proeva, N. (2008) 185.

[13]Weigall, A. (2006) 47-48. Macedonian traditional folklore beliefs that a new star is born on the sky with the birth of each child and said star dies away upon their death are maintained as rudiments from the oldest of times. Kovacehva, L. (2009) 53.

[14]Plutarch, 7, Translation from ancient Greek Sarakinski, V., comments Proeva, N. (2008) 184.

[15]“The night before the consummation of their marriage, she dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body, which kindled a great fire, whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about, and then were extinguished. And Philip, some time after he was married, dreamt that he sealed up his wife’s body with a seal, whose impression, as be fancied, was the figure of a lion.“ Ibidem 109, 184.

[16]Ibidem 109.

[17]Justin, History of Philip,Translation from Hellenic by Basotova, Lj. (2008) 67.

[18]Weigall, A. (2006) 50-51.

[19]Plutarch, 7,2, Translation from ancient Greek Sarakinski, V., comments Proeva, N. (2008) 110.

[20]Ibidem 109-110.

[21]Weigall, A. (2006) 49.

[22] Plutarch, 7, Translation from ancient Greek Sarakinski, V.,comments Proeva, N. (2008) 185.

[23]Weigall, A. (2006)  53.

[24]Alexander was born the sixth of Hecatombaeon, which month the Macedonians call Lous, the same day that the temple of Diana at Ephesus was burnt. Plutarch, 7,3 Translated by Sarakinski, V., comments by Proeva, N. (2008) 110; According to Quintus Curtius Rufus.: “The night when Olympias gave birth, the most famous temple on all of Asia, dedicated to Diana at Ephesus burnt.”  Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, Translation from Hellenic by Basotova, Lj. (2008) 33.

[25]Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, Translation from Hellenic by Basotova, Lj. (2008) 33.

[26]Plutarch, 7,3, Translation from ancient Greek Sarakinski, V., comments Proeva, N. (2008) 110.

[27]Waigall, A. (2006) 52.

[28]Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, Translation from Hellenic by Basotova, Lj. (2008) 34.

[29]It has been recorded, as another remarkable incident, that two eagles set, during the whole day, upon the house where the queen was delivered, a presage that Alexander should become master of the empires both of Asia and Europe.” Loc.cit. 34.

[30] Plutarch, 7,3, Translation from ancient Greek Sarakinski, V., comments Proeva, N. (2008) 110.

By Phd. Lidija Kovacheva

A Day With Macedonian Archaeology – The period between VI and III century BC in Kumanovo, R. Macedonia

Until recently, the period of transition from the Iron Age into early Antiquityfor the region of Kumanovo was nearly unidentified. It is in this period that the influence of the achievements attained by southern civilizations– both Hellenic and Macedonian, becomes evident for the first time in this part of the Balkans.

Presently, the most explored site in the mentioned region that features a defined stratigraphy and best reflects the transition from the 7th into the 6th century is Gradishte near Pelince.  We can record the penetration of southern influences though the occurrences of matte painted earthenware and colored in lines, found in the lower reaches of the river Vardar, that nearly simultaneously occur in the necropolis near river Bregalnica, and date from the same time as the autochthonus, hand-made pottery decorated using incising tools. As a logical development, what follows is the dominance of grey ceramics from the 5th century. This site most probably existed until the end of the 5th / the beginning of the 4th century, but signs of settlements are absent up until the Roman period (2nd – 3rd century) when it was most likely used as a small guard post for overseeing the Pchinja road.


A Mummy from Lipkovo, R. Macedonia

Something similar can be noted on the Glauchica site, near Lipkovo. The Iron Age settlement experienced southern influences through the use of pottery made on wheel, but it appears that later this settlement was abandoned and consequently there are no characteristic forms of ceramics from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The inhabitants of this settlement were buried in Kisela Voda, a place where owing to the content of the water passing through the caskets the bodies are naturally mummified. Unfortunately, due to political reasons only, this necropolis is not yet excavated thus its chronological frames are not determined.

Kostoperska Karpa and Gradishte in Mlado Nagorichane share a different fate. The former site used to be and still is located on the spot where the road that led from Nish to Thessaloniki met the road from Skopje to Bulgaria. The early-antique settlement there continued to thrive into the Hellenistic period, and its location contributed to the occurrence of ceramic forms that clearly reflect the commerce with the south, as well as the imitation of the imported luxury pottery vessels.

Kostoperska Karpa

Kostoperska Karpa

Gradishte in Mlado Nagorichane is a site made know upon Z. Georgiev’s survey, around 30 years ago. These have set the chronological frame of the site, that certainly lived through the Celtic invasion of 280 – 279 BC., and immediately after that life in the settlement was renewed, although in a more modest volume. The recent surveys done by V. Lilikj also support this chronology.

We can see that not all early-antique settlements were abandoned in the 4th – 3rd century BC, as was claimed thus far. Some have lost their significance in the 5th century, others continued to live on after the Celtic invasion and there are no discernable differences that would suggest Dardani raids and settlements. Consequently, we cannot easily discern the origin of the population settling this part of our country. The theories suggesting the Agrianes, Paeonians, Dardani and the Thracian-Triballi tribes have their support and claim, but they also have serious shortcomings especially because the history sources place all these tribes in different locations at different time periods. The overview of the material culture says that in different time periods, the ethnic landscape of the population would change, which has always been the border zone between the large Balkan peoples.The contemporary understanding of national identity as unique and unaltered since the ancient days, as well as its uniformity and homogeneity throughout the entire territory of the Republic of Macedonia does not coincide with the real picture obtained by archeological digs. If we combine this picture with the antique sources there is a possibility to gain a more realistic display of history, without the subjective view that is more and more present in Macedonian archaeology.

By Dejan Gjorgievski – Museum of city of Kumanovo

Paeionian coin Audoleon from Mlado Nagoricane

Paeonian Silver Coin from Mlado Nagoricane17


ArchaeoLandscapes Europe

Increasing Public Appreciation, Understanding and Conservation of the Landscape and the Archaeological Heritage of Europe

Archaeology can be so fascinating – digs in nice and exotic places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, teaching students and learning from students, telling stories about the past to the public.

But I am sitting in my office in Frankfurt/Main (Germany) today and trying to cope with our new website. The old one was hacked a while ago to be used for DoS attacks on another server so we had to take it offline. We used that opportunity to refresh the old page so now I am working on tinkering the new site a bit, adding content here and there, trying to find mistakes and replacing some placeholder images with pictures from the project before the site will go live again as soon as the provider has managed the domain transfer.

Sounds all rather boring but in the end it’s exactly part of the things I like so much in archaeology: teaching and telling stories! And the background of the webpage of course is the project ArchaeoLandscapes Europe (ArcLand), funded by the EU culture programme for 5 years (sept 2010 – sept 2015) to foster all kinds of remote sensing and surveying techniques, to spread the knowledge all over Europe within the archaeological community and of course also to the broader public. It’s about telling the public that archaeology is more than a dig in a temple in the jungle or an investigation of a pyramid. It’s also – and mainly (?) – about understanding the history of a landscape and the people that lived in it, it’s about trying to find out how people could cope with their environs and which traces they left – and it’s about finding these traces. From the air (aerial archaeology, LiDAR, satellite imagery) and from the ground (geophysics, field walking) and in all cases non-invasive.

From left to right: near infrared aerial image - rob aerial image - LiDAR scan - geomagnetic survey

From left to right: near infrared aerial image – rob aerial image – LiDAR scan – geomagnetic survey

And yes, this is absolutely fascinating – and it brings me to many nice (though not always exotic) places where I meet new people and old friends, where I experience new and well known cultures and where I have the opportunity to tell the stories that are relevant within the framework of the project. It is talking to archaeologists who know a lot about the remote sensing and surveying techniques and learning a lot from them, it is talking to students to make them aware of the fantastic options of these techniques and it is talking to the public to share the fascination that I still feel when I look at a newly discovered site on an aerial image, on a landscape palimpsest on a LiDAR scan or on the hidden subsoil feature visible in the geophysical data.

I really feel very happy when I can see that the grants that our project provided helped students and young researchers to experience new techniques, to exchange knowledge and expertise with other people and to meet people from different areas of Europe to widen their (cultural) perspective. And I am happy to see that all these activities have always been a lot of fun for all those that have been involved.


ArcLand partners meeting in Amersfoort (NL) in 2013

Sure, it’s a EU project which means that there is a lot of administrational work to do. The EU is supporting us with a lot of money and I can understand that they want to make sure that this money is well spend. Still, I am swearing a lot over time sheets and lists of invoices and all that. But that is a very fair price for all the options this support offers to many people all over Europe and abroad! And it shows that Europe is more than a bunch of bureaucrats that only care about the bend of bananas to be imported into the EU! Seeing all these people from the Baltic to the Iberian Peninsula, from Ireland to the Balkan getting together, learning from each other , exchanging ideas and enjoying themselves at our workshops, at our conferences or when visiting our travelling exhibition really makes me feel the the idea of a joint and peaceful Europe is worth all that money.

So all in all, working on a webpage is not that bad, it’s raining outside anyway, so I am sitting in my dry office and I know that the work that I am doing is one tessera in the large archaeological mosaic. Watch out for our webpage to go live again hopefully soon!