A Day with Macedonian Archaeology

Archaeologists in Macedonia, under the leadership of Association Archaeologica, have joined together for the third time to celebrate the International Day of Archaeology 2014.

The purpose of this event was to promote archaeology and present current archaeological excavations throughout Macedonia.

denot (2)

The Day of Archaeology is an annual event that is celebrated worldwide. The project aims to provide a window into the daily lives of archaeologists from all over the world. On this day we ask people working, studying or volunteering in the archaeological world to participate by recording their day and sharing it through text, images or video. The resulting Day of Archaeology project demonstrates the wide variety of work our profession undertakes day-to-day across the globe, and helps to raise public awareness of the relevance and importance of archaeology.

denot (4)

For that purpose, “Archaeologica “ organized an event in the cinema hall of the Museum of Macedonia where there were series of lectures in various topics of archaeology, presentation of documentary film, photographs, exchange of ideas and experiences, as well as some music and entertainment in front of the museum.

denot (13)

“Archaeologica” invited several archaeologists from the country to present their current work.

The event was attended by: Pero Ardzanliev, MA , Archaeological Museum of Macedonia – “The golden faces of the Macedonian aristocracy: from finding to presentation”, Goran Sanev, MA, Archaeological Museum of Macedonia – Promotion of the new book “Ancient Demir Kapija” by Phd. Victoria Sokolovska and the new web site for archaeological site Golemo Gradiste, v. Konjuh, Dejan Kebakoski, MA, Institute for Оld Slavic culturein Prilep – Antique period in Pelagonia, Dejan Gjorgjievski, Museum of Kumanovo – The period between VI and III century BC in Kumanovo, Radomir Ivanovic, Association Archaeologica – “Arheo Park Brazda” (VIDEO), Igor Tolevski – Retrospective of antiques from the village of Dobri Dol, Karshijak, Sopiste Municipality, Ph.D Lidija Kovaceva – Forms of fatalistic beliefs among ancient Macedonians, Mimica Velkova Graorkovska – Epigenetic features of the medieval population of Crkvishte village, Morodvis, Elena Karanfilovska, Assotiation Archaeologica – “Archaeology in Progress 2014

denot (5)

Also, during the event, there was a small exhibition of photographs from the current archaeological excavations on the sites “Antique Theater in Scupi”, Skopje; “Gradishte”, Mlado Nagoricane and “Stybera”, v. Cepigovo.

This event was funded by the National Cultural Programme for 2014 of the Ministry of Culture and was supported by the Museum of Macedonia.

denot (6)

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


A day with Macedonian archaeology “Decorative elements of Roman Headstones between the middle Sections of rivers Axios and Strymon”

Three basic types of headstones can be found in the area between the middle sections of rivers Axios and Strymon originating from the middle of the first until the beginning of the fourth century: headstones, steles and medallions. Since they appear in different parts of the area in question, they display their own local characteristics. Nevertheless, when grouped according to the regions in which they appear, they still carry certain artistic, typological and thematic specifics.

img786 img746

The steles are the dominant type of headstones (total number of 134), followed by the medallions (9 pieces) and headstones as last (2 pieces).

The headstones, dated at the end of the first century, can be found in the region of Skopje i.e. on the territory of the city of Skupi, in Zlokukjani (no. 1 and 2).

Several types of steles can be found in the area between the middle sections of the rivers Axius and Strymon:

1. Roman type steles (also known as North Italian) characterized by large dimensions, tympanon and a separate inscription field containing an inscription in Latin.

2. Hellenic type steles, small in height, with a rectangular, pentagon or semicircular tympanum form, a wedge and an inscription in Hellenic.

3. Steles characterized by mixed Roman and Hellenic architectural and decorative elements.

4. Steles originating from local studios, characterized by small dimensions, tympanum, an inscription field with an inscription mostly on Hellenic.

It is considered that the monumental steles, also known as North Italian, are dispersed in two directions through Aquileia: across the Danube shore into Moesia and through the Dalmatia province, Dyrrhachium and Via Egnatia they arrive in Macedonia. The bearers of this headstone art were the soldiers, i.e. the craftsmen – lapidaries, who moved along with the soldiers. They would continue working on steles in the new environment.

This North Italian stele type was not well received among the local inhabitants in Macedonia, who continue to create and use steles characterized by small dimensions, analogue to the steles from the South, and completely opposite to the ones form upper Moesia, where the North Italian stele type is most numerous. The oldest stele belonging to the North Italian type was found in Malino – Sv. Nikole (no. 120), dating from the middle of the first century.

There is a mixture of roman elements – the tectonics of the slate and Hellenic elements – a full height figure and an inscription in Hellenic.

Headstones medallions, dating from the end of first to the beginning of the fourth century, can be found in southeastern Macedonia and the middle region of Struma. They are in the form of a disk with a concave basis with modeled busts in one, two and three rows. The frame of the medallion can be embellished with an egg shaped ornament, and in the lower part there was a wedge used to mount the medallion on a post bearing an inscription. These medallions can be found only in southeastern Macedonia and the vicinity of Gevgelija, Dojran and middle region of Struma.


In the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, the most common motif on the steles is the vine with vine-leaves, ivy and acanthus leaves and grape clusters, dating from the second half of the third century, and mostly displayed in the second century. In the region of east and southeast Macedonia, this decorative element is very rare. The decorative vine first appears in Rome and through the steles in North Italy it is conveyed into Lower Moesia, thence into Upper Moesia, where it was well received by the population, as opposed to Macedonia, where its presence is limited and rare.

The double arms motif found only on one stele in Marvinci (no. 122), dating from the first quarter of the fourth century, is brought about from the south.

The rosette is very often applied in the steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, from the second half of the first century until the second half of the third century, mostly displayed in the second century. It is very common as a decorative element on the steles in east and southeast Macedonia, from first half of the first century until the end of the third century. The appearance of the rosette as a headstone art motif should be traced back to Macedonia, and thence to Rome. This iconography is spread from Rome in all directions throughout the Empire and it comes back to Macedonia, where it obtains local marks.

The pine cone is one of the more frequent decorative elements, present in the funerary decoration of the steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, dating from the end of the first until the second half of the third century. This ornament is rarely found in east and southeast Macedonia. From Ravenna through the Danube shore, it has been brought from northern Italy to Moesia, where it was well received, which differs from its reception in Macedonia, where its frequency depends on the region.

The half-palmettes as a embellishment motif are very commonly displayed on the steles form the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, dating from the first half of the first century until the first half of the third century, as opposed to the steles in eastern and southeastern Macedonia, where they can rarely be found. This decorative element arrived from Northern Italy, along the Danube shore into Moesia.

As opposed to the above-mentioned motifs, the garland, the bucranium, the dolphin, the axe, Medusa’s head and Atis, numerous and characteristic for the steles in Northern Italy and the Dalmatia province, are quite rare and secondary in Upper Moesia and Macedonia. This testifies that should something new appear in Rome, it does not mean that it will automatically be accepted in all the provinces of the Empire. It should be emphasized that these decorative elements found on the steles in Dalmatia date from the end of the second century (with the exception of very rare prior occurrences), as opposed to the steles in Macedonia, where they date from the middle of the first century. This leads to the conclusion

that the influence from the second course, i.e. through Dalmatia cannot be even discussed.

The mirror and the comb are very common as funerary motifs on steles found in the region of Skopje and Kumanovo, as compared to other regions where they are seldom.

The coffret and the spindle are rarely found in all the regions. They occur on the steles in Macedonia and Hellas, and later on are accepted as funerary ornaments in all parts of the Roman Empire.

The vase is a common decor on the steles originating from the first half of the first until the end of the third century. It has shifted from the votive monuments to the steles in Macedonia, and is later accepted as a decorative element in the Roman headstone art.

Representations of figures are prevalent in this entire region.

The Thracian horseman is rarely displayed as an iconographic theme on the steles from the beginning until the end of the second century (three in total). As a counterpoint, the funerary feast, the bust and the half stature are very common.

The funerary feast is created and displayed since the second half of the first century until the second half of the third century throughout all the regions. During the 4th century BC, this motif is conveyed from the ancient steles to the steles in Macedonia, and later from Macedonia to Moesia, Tracia, Dacia and Rome. The simplified (common) version is spread from Rome to all the provinces of the Empire.

The human shapes appear in the first half of the 1st until the beginning of the 4th century in three basic forms: bust, a half stature and a full stature. The bust is found on 36 gravestones dating from year 70 – 86 until the beginning of the 4th century; the half stature is found on 10 steles dating from the end of the 1st to the first quarter of the 3rd century and the full stature on 6 steles dating from the first half of the 1st to the beginning of the 4th century.

In cases where the shapes are represented as busts or as half statures, it can be said that they are gravestone portraits wherein the craftsman-stonemason strives to represent individual characteristics. The gravestones’ bust can be model in several ways: by shallow, engraved lines, completely neglecting the clothes, on a shallow or salient surface. This means that alongside the shallow linear style, characteristic for the provincial art of the Roman age, we also encounter a salient relief that emphasizes the craftsmen tendencies to project the mass from the surrounding surface, especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when the statures are very salient i.e. highly protruded and resemble feely modeled sculptures, for ex. steles (no.51.61-64).

The rendering of busts on medallions is mainly realistic, i.e. the manner of modeling is in compliance with the general principles of portrait art. Thus these busts can be implemented and dedicated to the departed in every province of the Roman Empire and throughout the entire Imperial rule.



In the process of creating decorative elements and realistic human representations, apart from the chisel, the craftsmen also used a drilling technique using an auger, slate (no. 1) and steles (no. 13,29, 30, 32, 35, 76, 77, 93, 99, 103); a technique that resembles engraving, stele (no. 78); puncturing, stele (no. 136) and gradation, steles (no.123, 124).

In the process of modeling these motifs, the main stylistic characteristic of the craftsmen is polishing, occuring in the first half of the 1st and lasting until the beginning of the 4th century. Apart from this stylistic characteristic, certain schematic and geometric qualities are apparent starting from the 2nd to the 4th century, especially during the 3rd century. From the end of the 1st century, and particularly around the middle of the 2nd, we come across a tendency for realistic rendition which although rarely present, shall last until the beginning of the 4th century.

The ultimate realism can be seen on stele (no. 128) from Southeastern Macedonia, where the departed is presented with a scarf on her head. In the 2nd and even in the 4th century, there is also an idealization of the deceased present, stele (no. 52) and medallion (no. 137, 138). Apart from stylistic polishing and a schematic quality, the local craftsmen also exhibit certain linearity, a geometric quality, disproportionate dimensions, as well as an effort to fill in the empty spaces, especially in the 3rd century.

The full stature human shape is characteristic for the steles of the Hellenic type, as is the funerary feast and the Thracian horseman, and the bust and the half stature figurines are characteristic for the Roman type steles. Even with steles of purely Roman type, a certain new style indigenous for this region can be sensed through the choice of themes that are a feature of the craftsmen from the South, as well as the manner in which these themes are rendered.

The Hercules knot, different garlands and vases characteristic for the steles originating from the region in the middle section between rivers Axios and Strymon can be found among these motifs dated from the first half of the 1st until the beginning of the 4th century.

Not just the vine, but every ornament is presented in a way that is characteristic only to the studios that worked on this territory in that period. Apart from the decorative function they also had an ethnographical and symbolic meaning that intertwined in the beliefs of the ancient Macedonians, the idea of an eternal life and rebirth. Long after the arrival of the Romans, the craftsmen continue to deal with motifs that were instilled upon them from the past, just adapting them to the tastes of those ordering the steles. The craftsmen – lapidaries had excellent knowledge of the symbolic meaning of the decorative elements, thus their choice and rendering of the headstones cannot be circumstantial. Some of the steles belong to soldiers and legionaries, for ex. to the Legio VII Claudia, the Fifth Macedonian Legion, Fourth Flavian Legion and the Third Gallic Legion, who after serving their duty or untimely release – pension, inhabited this territory. With them, different craftsmen came along that combined their new art skills with the existing knowledge and skills of the people who lived here. Namely, even before the arrival of the Romans, on the

territory of Macedonia headstone, influence by the craftsmen of the South, were being created and used.

And after the arrival of the Romans on Macedonian soil nothing changed in the appearance of headstones. They remained small, rectangular, semicircular or cubic, and only the bust is accepted as a decorative element. The funerary feast, the Thracian horseman and the full statute figure, characteristic to the iconography of the Southern craftsmen (from Macedonia and Hellada) were implemented as motifs on the Roman type steles in Upper Moesia.

In this way a symbiosis between the Roman and the Macedonian-Hellenic architectural and decorative elements was created, which combined with the local interpretation comprise a unique union in the funerary art originating from the territory between the middle sections of rivers Axios and Strymon and dating from the first half of the 1st to the beginning of the fourth century, whose lead bearers are the ancient Macedonians.