Mortimer Wheeler

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.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN DOBRO DOL VILLAGE

  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

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

 

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 – igor.tolevski@gmail.com

Who is a “Real Archaeologist”?

“Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”

Which eminent scholar confidently states that statistic? Certainly someone from the last half-century, right? Perhaps an archaeologist who is concerned with the inherently destructive nature of our field.

Nope. Indiana Jones.

He utters these words in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It rings ironic not only just for the general practices of this fictional character, but also because he has just told his students that archaeology is not “about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world,” yet he is about to hand the speciously-acquired Cross of Coronado to Marcus Brody. (more…)

Digging into the Social History of Archaeology at Verulamium

hypocaust currently in Verulamium Park

Hypocaust currently in Verulamium Park

The museum archaeologist’s lot can be varied and since being restructured to the role of Collections Manager my role is broader than pure archaeology. However, this has given me the scope to develop some really interesting and exciting projects and one of them is to do oral history interviews with as many archaeologists who have dug on our site at Verulamium as I can. There are several aspects to this project, a bit of hunting around and trying to track people down, then going along and interviewing them using our digital Marantz recorder and then coming back to the museum transcribing interviews.In the morning I found myself looking through the transcript of an interview in order to try to find some quotes to go with historic photographs. I’m slowly pulling together all of this research for a book which I hope to publish, we have interviews with archaeologists who worked with Mortimer Wheeler right the way through to our present day District Archaeologist. Many of today’s most respected archaeologists worked at Verulamium and these interviews are a record of their experience, life as a digging archaeologist and the town at the time.It’s fascinating work, not the least seeing some of our most interesting and exciting objects being excavated. For example, the image to the top left is from the 1930’s of the hypocaust currently in Verulamium Park
and here is one of the excavators talking about it:

“…we were all rather excited about the hypocaust… and I was one of those who had the fortunate opportunity to crawl along the channel, under the pavement, between the pilae which supported it. I struck matches to see where I was going, and found myself under the centre of the mosaic…”
Helen Carlton-Smith 1980

Another aspect of my work is to work on the museum documentation system. I am currently trying to improve the records by adding photographs and as much additional information about objects as I can. The afternoon was spent taking photographs of metal medieval and post medieval artefacts and then integrating them into the database.Of course, in between this there was the usual stream of public enquiries which are rich, varied and interesting. I tracked down a map which detailed all the WWII air raid shelters in St Albans and did a bit of research on the local dairy for someone. I was also part of the team which considered some new objects for acquisition- some historic CND banners.I often wonder what an oral history interview with me would sound like in fifty years!

General antics of Public Archaeology student

As a student archaeologist, life is routine but fairly relaxed. I am currently finishing my Masters with only my dissertation left to do. I spend most of my time in the Institute of Archaeology library and talking to fellow Institute students in the park. I like the fact that we all do a range of subjects for our dissertations, from archaeology and art to conservation; it is surprising where archaeology plays a role. My dissertation is part of a project at the British Museum – I am helping to develop a new video-conferencing session, related to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the work it does with treasure finds. The session is going to be structured around challenge-based learning – this involves a real life situation where students have to make their own decisions based upon the resources/evidence available to them.  Its main elements consist of allowing students to work by themselves with minimal input from an adult, using teamwork and applying technology. Having fun is a key aspect of the activity. I am currently making Top Trump cards of treasure finds… this should make my next presentation more entertaining, will also help me to decide which artefacts should be used for the session.

I am a Public Archaeologist. Frankly, I admit that my knowledge of historical periods/civilisations is very superficial. However, I am comfortable with this as I am primarily interested in how the public perceive archaeology – through television, newspapers, museums and even politics.  I work as a facilitator at the British Museum, a job I love and enjoy; it is always good to see children getting really stuck into an activity (trying to get a balance between entertainment and education, of course) and I like hearing the questions they ask. Sometimes they approach objects with a completely different perceptive, which is refreshing after reading so much academic literature. The activities I am involved in range from following museum trails, presenting arts and crafts to schools groups and making news reports. I actually spent most of my time in the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre, where we use technology and the museum’s collections to create both family and school activities. One example is the Sutton Hoo Headline, where  school children create a news report of the discovery using a video camera and a green screen – we get them to gather content by visiting the galleries using a video mobile phone.

On the ‘Day of Archaeology’ I attended the Mortimer debate, an organisation named after Mortimer Wheeler which focuses on archaeology and the future, using the tag line ‘our past, our future, our choice!’. There have been problems of late with the government trying to reduce the amount legislation that protects our environment and heritage. The debate had four panel members: Tony Robinson (Time Team), Cllr Alan Melton (who sparked recent media fury by calling archaeologists ‘bunny huggers’), Andrew Selkirk and Andrew Richardson. Some interesting points were made about sustainability and the costs of commercial archaeology, ie who should pay. The debate got quite heated, especially between Tony Robinson and Alan Melton. Melton suggested that the public were not that interested in heritage, with Robinson arguing that it is human nature to be interested in the our heritage. Does the past have value to you?