A day with Macedonian archaeology – Demir Kapija

The development of the settlements and fortresses on the entrance of the Demir Kapija gorge

The geography of the Balkan Peninsula is comprised of many river valleys, ravines, uplands and passages with a great number of land routes passing through the region. One of the most important land routes traced form prehistoric times was the Transbalkanic route that leads through the valleys of the rivers Vardar and Morava. The valleys of these two rivers are spreading though the Dinaric region and they represent the shortest longitudinal land route that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Pannonian lowland. A great number of peoples with their conquests have passed through this route in the past. The importance of this section of the road can be confirmed even today with the recent migrations form the Middle East to Europe, it was chosen as the most favorable and shortest possible route by the migrants traveling to their final destination in Central Europe.

In Tabula Peutingeriana a map compiled in the 4th century AD, we can see the exact track of this section of the road. On the map, this section is marked as Via a Hammeo Usquae Ad Thessalonicam. In large part the section moves along the valley of the river Vardar. On the map the road station Stenas is located 33 Roman miles south-east from Stobi and 65 Roman miles north-west from Thessaloniki. This station was strategically placed on the entrance of the Demir Kapija gorge. The name Stenas is of Greek origin and its meaning is a strait/gorge. Although the name has changed throughout history and in the 11th century the fortress in the gorge had a Slavic name – Prosek (meaning slit or crack), and latter a Turkish name – Demir Kapu (literally Iron Gate), the same as today, all these names have a tendency to describe the area and the gorge.

This gorge is the last and longest gorge of the river Vardar to its estuary into the Aegean Sea and thus the last and most difficult obstacle on this road. The Demir Kapija gorge is in fact formed in the north by the massif Juručki Kamen, as an extension of the mountain Konečka, and the massif Krastevec from the south, as an extension of the Mariovo-Meglen Mountains (Kožuv). In the area where the massifs Jurički Kamen and Krastavec are closest to each other, a natural gap was formed in the limestone structure where the river Vardar had made its course. The limestone structure here ascends from the river up to 200 meters in height and leaves no possibility for any road communication. The gorge is a natural border between the region of the Middle Povardarie in the north and Lower Povardarie in the south.

Demir Kapija gorge from west

This position allowed the locals to have control of this road section which, in order to pass through the gorge had to climb the steep hills of Mal and Golem Krastavec or to around them. This contributed to the rise of powerful and rich settlements that could afford the luxury of the more civilized and developed south in the beginning of the 6th and 5th century BC. The entrance of the gorge was densely populated from both sides of the river, and according to some opinions with Athenian colonists. This position and the geographical configuration of the gorge itself was limiting the movement from south to north and vice versa and very early had become a border between the Macedonian Kingdom from the South and Paeonia from the North.

In the 4th century BC, for better control of the land routes through the gorge, two powerful fortresses in the opus quadratum technique were built, one of each side of the river. The archaeological findings in these fortresses indicate that they were part of the Macedonian kingdom and they existed in the period from the second half of the 4th century BC until the plundering raids of the Celts that passed through the Vardar valley in 279 BC. The Macedonian kingdom was weakened from the Wars of the Diadochi who fought for years over the rule of Alexander’s empire and could not oppose these, as Aristotle says, best warriors among the peoples.

The theory that the life in the fortress Markova kula – Korešnica has ended with these intrusions is confirmed with the layer of intense burning on the entrance corridor of the fort dated with coins form the time of Demetrius I Poliorcetes. We have the same situation in all pre-Roman settlements on the entrance of the gorge. The settlements at the sites Varnici and Manastir, as well as the necropolis in the area Bolnica-Demir Kapija, which is on the right side of the river, also at the fortresses Ramnište and Krasavec. On the left side beside the fortress Markova Kula we have the settlements in the area of ​​Crkvište, Kamen and the refugium at Markov Grad. The life in all of these settlements has ended in the first half of the 3rd century BC. In fact, there is a similar situation in a number of other sites along the Vardar River, such as the sites of Isar Marvinci in Valandovo, Gloska Čuka and Vardarski Rid near Gevgelija, Nerezi, Brazda, Varvara and Studenicani near Skopje.

After these raids, the settlements and fortresses in Demir Kapia were completely destroyed, and in the next several centuries, almost no traces of life have been confirmed at the entrance of the gorge, but also in the wider region of the Vardar valley. None of the above-mentioned settlements were restored until the Roman conquests and the reestablishment of a stable government. This situation was probably due to the terrible raids of the Celts, but also the long and exhausting three Macedonian-Roman wars, which led to almost complete depopulation of area.

Traces of life in the gorge appear again in the second half of the 2nd century AD. This period of prosperity, stability and road safety allowed a new settlement to rise at the entrance of the gorge, but this time only on the right side where the river Bošava flows into the river Vardar. The archaeological excavations indicate that a settlement built according to the urban schemes of Roman construction existed here from the second half of the 2nd century until the 4th century AD.

This settlement probably developed from the Station Stenas, marked on the Tabula Peutingeriana. This unnamed settlement was flourishing until the second half of the 3rd century when again it experienced the fate of the terrible devastation, this time from the great Gothic raids. During the great crisis in the Empire, the population withdrew to safer locations on the hills on the edge of the gorge, and some of them occupied the fortresses and refugiums that existed here in the past. After the crisis, this unnamed settlement / station Stenas continued to live for a short period with reduced intensity, before completely dying out in the first half of the 4th century, at the expense of the surrounding settlements.

After the previous events, during the 4th century AD and with the strengthening of Thessaloniki as an administrative and capital city of the Diocese of Macedonia, later elevated to the rank of the capital of the prefecture Illiricum, serious efforts were undertaken for the restoration and strengthening of the fortresses and settlements on the entrance of the gorge, and also some new fortresses were built. Taught from the great crises in the recent past, in this period, new fortresses were built hastily, transversely through the gorge, where an “inner limes” was formed that included a system of seven fortresses and one cloister, which completely blocked the passage through the gorge, that is, the transition from the Middle to the Lower Povardarie.

In this construction project, two fortresses and a refugium were built on the left side and four(?) fortresses on the right side of the river Vardar. From the left side, starting from north to south, are the fortresses: Markova Kula and Kula, as well as the refugium Markov Grad all in the vicinity of the village Korešnica. The line of fortifications transversely through the gorge continues on the sites on the right side of the river Vardar. Four fortresses and one barrier wall were recorded here. Starting from north to south, they are: the fortresses of Kula Podstralec, Ramnište and Gorni Krastevec near Demir Kapija and Kaluđerska Čuka, near the village Dren.

Markova Kula

The restored and the newly built fortresses and the refugium on the left side of the river Vardar in the 4th century, as the last defensive line of the passage from Middle to Lower Povardarie, set the foundations for the defensive system of the gorge. These, with certain reparations, modifications and additions, will comprise the defense system throughout the entire 5th and partly in the 6th century.

With the Avaro-Slavic incursions the refugium Markov Grad, although high on the mountain was the first on the line, and was not safe enough. That is why during the time of Justinian I a new refugium was built on the site Kale-Strezov Grad in the village Čelevec, secluded and well hidden in the gorge and separated from Juručki Kamen by the deep canyon of the river Čelevečka. This refugium was well protected from the incursions from the north and was more successful in the defense. In a short while the refugium grew into a fortress with a suburb and a separated acropolis. At the entrance of the fortress an early Christian church was built with an adjacent necropolis. During this period the fortresses on the sites Markova Kula and Kula-Korešnica served as a defensive line of the main fortress on the site Strezov Grad- village Čelevec.

Sterzov Grad

While the center of gravity in 6th century falls on the fortresses on the left side of the river Vardar, the fortresses on the right side offer no evidence of activity after the 4th century. The movable archaeological material from all these archaeological sites that was collected and processed so far, gives us no indication that the fortresses were used throughout the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages only the area of the site Crkvište-Demir Kapija was active, where an early Christian basilica was built in the late 4th-5th century and where there are still some traces of life until the 15th century.

From the end of the 6th until the 12th century there were no traces of activity in these fortresses and the refugium. Only in the fortress of Kale – Strezov Grad, after the last findings from the 6th century, traces of life in the 10th century were documented, with two coins of the Byzantine emperor Romanos Lekapenos. Unlike the fortresses, on the plain east of the gorge, on the left side of the river Vardar, small settlements appear on the river  terraces, with necropolises which date to the 11th and 12th century. In the middle of the 12th century these necropolises were no longer used for burial, and at the same time the activity of the fortresses on the left side of Vardar increased. This situation was also documented in the written sources from the end of the 12th-13th century and it was due to the great political, financial and military crisis that this area fell into in the 12th century, when it was under the Byzantium rule.

This was also confirmed with the archaeological material, primarily from the fortress of Kale-Strezov Grad, but also from Markova Kula, Kula and Markov Grad. The recorded archaeological material speaks of their intense activity toward the end of 12th and 13th century.

According to the data we have for the existence of the fortresses and settlements in the gorge, the activity in the fortresses was significantly increased during the turbulent periods. Such is the case at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century BC, the second half of the 3rd and the first half of the 4th century AD, which also continued in the 5th and especially in the 6th century AD. Lastly, the fortresses were again in function in the late 12th and 13th century, and few of them remained active until the 15th century. The placement of the fortresses and their orientation towards the Middle Povardarie opposite, the area in the gorge, indicates that they were intended for protection against the danger that comes from the west, i.e. the north. Such increased activity in these periods points to the significance of the gorge and the fortresses built at the entrance for control and safety of the roads and the passage to Lower Povardarie.

Ordance Petrov, MA, assistant-researcher

Institute for Old Slavic culture


Diversity in Archaeological Work: One Archaeologist’s Journey

The mission of the Day of Archaeology project has been to show the diversity of work done by archaeologists around the world as a group, and what a success it has been!

In this post, I want to demonstrate that a single archaeologist can have diversity in work throughout their career too, and to emphasise that there is (paid) work to be found in this field. I started my career with a focus on the archaeology of the Byzantine and Islamic periods in the country of Jordan. While I am still on this chosen path of mine and continue to be active in both excavation and research, I spent the actual Day of Archaeology this year writing a conservation management plan for a cemetery founded at the end of the 19th century in Australia!

I write this post especially for those younger people who might be interested in pursuing their interest in archaeology as a career but who may be discouraged (either by themselves or through the warnings of elders and peers) by the myth that there is no work in archaeology. The skills one develops as an archaeologist are transferrable. I don’t necessarily mean to jobs in the mainstream, though that is also true (but you just might have to try extra hard to convince employers of that!) – I mean in the field itself, and in related fields. With hard work and effort, supported by flexibility, a dedication to networking, a little bit of entrepreneurship, and of course (as with anything else), luck, an archaeologist can find work across a range of interesting projects and disciplines while getting paid.


Sometimes You Just Have to go Back

If you are an archaeologist working far from home, you try to plan everything to a T before heading to the field. You carefully excavate and collect samples for later analysis knowing that your final field season is your last chance to get the information you need for your research project. You later spend countless hours in the lab sorting and examining artifacts under a microscope, taking detailed photographs of important pieces, and documenting everything ad nauseam until finally, surely, you are ready for the write-up. Right? Wrong. Sometimes, the results of the specialized laboratory analyses you conduct later on, after the fieldwork and after the artifact analysis, motivate you to go back and collect more information.

On my way to find an aguada to the south of Ceibal Str. 79, known for its round shape.

I am a graduate student in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. I study ancient Maya urbanism at Ceibal, Guatemala by exploring whether or not neighborhoods were organized around temple complexes and water features in outlying areas of the city. (For more information on the Ceibal-Petexbatun Project, follow this link. For a peek at some of my findings, follow this link.) From 2012 to 2015, I excavated different areas of five temple groups at Ceibal, placing test pits in the temples, in some of the surrounding residential structures, and in nearby aguadas (man-made reservoirs). I also worked in the lab each summer from 2012 to 2016 to analyze the pottery artifacts from my excavations. The analysis of pottery allowed me to date constructions and other features, and in that way reconstruct the occupation histories of each group. I was also able to see if there were any differences in access to certain pottery types among the diverse groups of people living in outlying areas of Ceibal. Aguadas, like the ones I excavated, would have been important locations of face-to-face interactions for people residing around them, and crucial for agricultural production and human consumption. I wanted to analyze the pollen in the soils from the aguadas I excavated to verify if these features held water in antiquity, to learn about the quality of water they held (whether it would have been suitable for human consumption), and to see if agricultural plants were cultivated near these features.

Earlier this year, I sent a series of soil samples from the aguadas I excavated to a palynologist (pollen specialist), Dr. Susan Smith, for analysis. While Dr. Smith found that pollen preservation was poor in most of the samples, the soils collected from two of the aguadas provided some preliminary results that merited further investigation. Unfortunately, one of the samples was from an aguada that had filled up with water while we were excavating it, meaning we were not able to take samples from the most important layers at the bottom. The other sample came from an aguada excavated by my colleague, José Luis Ranchos, in 2016, which was not originally part of my project. I was in a hot spot, but I was determined to (quite literally) get to the bottom of water management systems at Ceibal. Shortly before my planned trip to the lab this year, I decided to travel back to Ceibal to collect more samples.

Excavation in an aguada (reservoir) in the Amoch Group of Ceibal, Guatemala. Notice the small pool of water collecting at the bottom. This was after repeated attempts to bucket out the water, which at one point was about 20 centimeters deep in the bottom of the pit.

On the 2017 Day of Archaeology, I had just returned to the lab after spending three days in the field collecting soil samples from the two promising aguadas identified in the pilot study. In antiquity, these features were dug out like ponds, and were probably 2-4 meters deep. Over centuries of erosion and other depositional processes, they have filled up with soil and now appear to be shallow depressions, a mere 20-50 centimeters below the surrounding surface. Whereas the upper layers are recent infills, the deepest layers—those just above bedrock or an original occupation surface—may correspond to ancient Maya occupation. For that reason, I wanted to take samples from the bottom. However, during the rainy season, these features fill as the water table rises. We had never attempted to excavate or otherwise document what happens to an aguada during the rainy season. As we dug, the excavation unit slowly filled from little water “veins,” or channels, that ran the water from deeper levels to upper ones. It was truly amazing, and reassuring, to see the water flowing into the depressions and imagine how these features must have filled in antiquity.

In three short days, with a lot of hard work and sweat, my team and I were able to get to the bottom of these two aguadas. We collected samples from each of the visible soil layers, and will send them to Dr. Smith for analysis. Just as we were leaving the site on the third day, a massive storm rolled in, causing two trees to fall and block the road on the way to the Sayaxché, the town in which we were staying. We had to run through the rain, hop over the trees, and grab a taxi to catch our flight out of Flores that evening. I arrived at the project lab house in Guatemala City at midnight on the dot on Friday, July 28. Later that day, while I was preparing for my trip back to Arizona, one of the excavators sent me a photo of what happened to the aguadas we had dug into. They had completely filled up, with standing water about ten centimeters above the surface. It appears we had gotten in and out of the field just in time.

An aguada excavation after a heavy storm. The entire excavation and surface was filled with water. Photo by Wilver Godoy.

When I left Ceibal in 2015, I did not know when I would return. But sometimes you just have to go back. Sometimes all the pieces fall into place just in the nick of time for the right amount of time to get all the information you need. Now I can say that I am finally, surely done with data collection… or at least until the results of the analysis tell me what steps to take next.

Wakacyjna „przygoda z archeologią”- badania kultury rösseńskiej na wielokulturowym stanowisku Stobno 13, woj. zachodniopomorskie.

Mając 14 lat odkryłem pierwsze w Polsce stanowisko kultury rösseńskiej w miejscowości Szczecin- Gumieńce, w pobliżu siedziby Uniwersytetu Szczecińskiego. Pierwszy kontakt z tą ceramiką pozostawił na mnie niezatarte wrażenia. Wówczas miałem okazję uczestniczyć w badaniach w których kierownik mgr Eugeniusz Wilgocki. Rzeczywiście kolejne lata przyniosły przełom w studiach nad obrazem mozaiki kulturowej na Niżu Środkowoeuropejskim. Wobec ogólnego słabego stanu badań, również w Niemczech, przez szereg lat trudno było prawidłowo wykorzystać to wyjątkowe znalezisko.

W 2004r. i 2007r. miałem okazję prowadzić badania obiektów kultur rösseńskiej w Mierzynie, przy ulicy Mierzyńskiej, pod kierunkiem prof. dr hab. T. Galińskiego i mgr M. Dworaczyka. Poświęciłem im dwa artykuły naukowe.

Najważniejsze badania obejmujące ślady najpewniej dwufazowej osady kultury rösseńskiej przeprowadzono w ramach współpracy między Muzeum Narodowym w Szczecinie (mgr M. Dziewanowski) i Uniwersytetem Szczecińskim (dr A. Matuszewska). Początkowo ich celem była weryfikacja mojego doniesienia z 2014r. o naruszeniu jamy tej kultury. Efektem współpracy było jednakże poszerzenie zakresu i przebadanie jednej z największych jam gospodarczych z oryginalnym materiałem ceramicznym. 4519&type=3

Chociaż obecność tej kultury postulowałem już w 2011r. na stanowisku w Warzymicach (przy ul. Turkusowej), dopiero w 2013r. miałem okazję ten stan rzeczy zadokumentować dzięki we współpracy z mgr Mieszkiem Pawłowskim. Kolejne, szczególnie owocne badania przeprowadziłem w 2016r. 1226572040701278

Natomiast, odkrywając w 1999r. zabytki krzemienne ze Szczecina – Gumieniec, przyjeżdżałem na Stobna pozyskiwać krzemień pasiasty do “eksperymentalnej” produkcji wiórów. Mój ‘kontakt z obiektem kultury rösseńskiej na stanowisku Stobno 13 sięga 2013r., chociaż wówczas widoczny był jako w-wa kulturowa (w-wa zasypiskowa jamy). Badaniom prowadzonym na tym stanowisku i najnowszym odkryciom poświęcona jest niniejsza opowieść. Pierwsze wyniki badań pozwalają wskazać ich większy potencjał poznawczy od stanowisk Szczecin- Gumieńce i Mierzyn. Jama o powierzchni przekraczającej 160m² powinna kryć świadectwa intensywnej aktywności gospodarczej. Należy zaznaczyć, że wstępne prace dostarczyły kilkudziesięciu fragmentów ceramiki, w tym znajdującej analogie tylko w obrębie ekumeny kultury rösseńskiej. Musze też zaznaczyć, że pisząc te słowa mam za sobą dopiero dwa dni badań terenowych i potencjalnie najciekawsze wyniki powinny przynieść kolejne tygodnie. 1611921595499652

Pojawiają się pytania dlaczego odkrycie jest tak istotne dla nauki polskiej, ale też europejskiej. Około roku 4600 przed Chr. doszło do silnego przemieszczenia ludności KR w kierunku północno-wschodnim z międzyrzecza Renu i Łaby, dotarcie do Odry i stworzenie silnego mikroregionu na Wale Stobniańskim oddziaływującego między innymi na cały Niż Polski i inicjującego zmiany w środowisku kultury Erteboelle- Ellerbek. Bez wątpienia społeczność ta będąca nośnikiem kultury zachodnioeuropejskiej z oryginalną, piękną ceramiką, dobrze zorganizowaną praktyką replikowania jakości kulturowej i specyficzną architekturą jest kluczowa dla zrozumienia procesów kulturowych, tym bardziej na styku świata kultury agrarnej i łowieckozbierackich. Granica między ‘światami’ jest wyobrażona i przebiega na wysokości Szczecina, ale jest też geograficzna i jest wyznaczona przez rzekę Odrę, która tworzy podział na dwa światy w ramach ugrupowań agrarnych.

min. 13.25

Pierwszym badaczem polskim, który przyjrzał się kontaktom równoleżnikowym w kontekście kultury rösseńskiej był prof. dr hab. L. Czerniak. Najnowszym ujęciem jest obszerny artykuł Aleksandry Sznajdrowskiej z Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego. Z kolei zjawisku kontaktów równoleżnikowych i bezpośrednio elementom kultury rösseńskiej na Wale Stobniańskim przyjrzałem się w artykule, który ukazał się w tym roku. culture_influences_on_Szczecin_Heights.pdf

W trakcie badań planowane są akcje popularyzatorskie i warsztaty między innymi we współpracy z Fundacją Ścieżkami Pomorza. Całość danych można znaleźć w albumach na stronie Dolne Nadodrze- nadzory archeologiczne oraz Archeologia Wzniesień Szczecińskich założonych na portalu społecznościowym Facebook, zaś artykuły na profilu autora na portalu


Opracował: mgr Marcin Dziewanowski




Czerniak L. 1979 Z badań nad problematyką równoleżnikowych kontaktów kulturowych społeczeństw dorzeczy Odry i Wisły w młodszej epoce kamienia (Zagadnienie tzw. wpływów kultury rösseńskiej), Wiadomości Archeologiczne, t. XLIV, z. 2. s. 123-130.

Dziewanowski M. 2015(2017) Obiekty kultur postlinearnych z wpływami kultury Rössen na Wzniesieniach Szczecińskich w świetle odkryć z lat 1995–2014 (Features of post-LBK cultures with the Rössen culture influence on Szczecin Heights in the light of discoveries from the years 1995– 2014), Gdańskie Studia Archeologiczne, t. 5, s. 9-40

Sznajdrowska A. 2012 Recepcja wzorców rösseńskich na Niżu Polski, Materiały i Sprawozdania Rzeszowskiego Ośrodka Archeologicznego, t. XXXIII, Rzeszów, s. 63-93

Linki: ny_Ko%C5%82baskowo_w_latach_20112013._Przyczynek_do_studi%C3%B3w_mikroregionalnych_Wzniesie%C5%84_Szczeci%C5%84skich_The_summ ary_of_studies_carried_out_in_Ko%C5%82baskowo_Commune_in_2011-2013_ ku_nr_5_AZP_3004_106_w_Mierzynie_gm._Dobra_Szczeci%C5%84ska_Rusults_of_intervention_excavations_at_the_multicult ural_Site_5_AZP_Archaeological_Record_of_Poland_3004_106_in_Mierzyn_the_Dobra_Szczeci%C5%84ska_Commune_



Szczecin- Gumieńce (ul. Harnasiów). Wybór ceramiki klasycznej dla ‘kultury Rössen’.


Mierzyn, ul. Mierzyńska. Badania studenckie w Mierzynie w 2004r. (autor: Michał Rejchert).



Stobno- krzemień pasiasty (autor: M. Dziewanowski).


Stobno, w pobliżu ul. Rodzinnej. Widok stanowiska z drona (autor: WESTEND 3D Studio).


Stobno- wybór zabytków (autor: M. Dziewanowski).


Wybór dotychczasowych znalezisk z Wału Stobniańskiego.



Wahlitz, Kr. Burg. Wybrane znaleziska z publikacji.


Mierzyn, przy ul. Zeusa. Największy obiekt z fazy Bischeim (ca. ‘Roessen III’) w Mierzynie w trakcie badań w 2010r. (Autor: Marcin Wierzbicki).

Waterlogged wonders from Must Farm: Bronze Age boats, bowls, boxes and buckets

As an independent wood specialist, I’m spending the day sat at my computer, finalising the text for the waterlogged wood assessment report for the timbers excavated from the Late Bronze Age pile dwelling at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire, UK. The excavations at Must Farm and in the surrounding landscape over the last ten years have been truly astonishing, turning up the remains of nine Bronze Age log boats, and – most recently – a breathtakingly well-preserved settlement, built on piles above a river channel. Must Farm is one of those archaeological sites that presents a tangible snapshot of how past lives were lived, beautifully preserved in the anaerobic conditions of the river muds.

Overhead view of the excavation (Courtesy of CAU)

The document I’m working on needs to outline all the waterlogged wood that was excavated and recorded on site, assess its significance as an archaeological assemblage and lay out the case for the analysis that could be carried out. I’m dealing with remains of the wooden structures that once stood at the site, the tools and wooden artefacts that they used in and around their homes, even the woodchips that resulted from building the settlement. All the different material types – pottery, metalwork, bone, textiles, and many others – will have a specialist assessment which will be brought together to produce an overarching document summarising all the discoveries made at the site. The archaeological contractor (Cambridge Archaeological Unit) will then work with Historic England and the developer (Forterra) to decide how to move the project forward into the analysis and publication phase.

Although we’re not carrying out any detailed analysis at the assessment stage, it’s already proving to be a fascinating process. The spatial information is starting to be pulled together in GIS, so we can now ‘see’ a lot of the settlement’s wooden structure on the computer screen. This is essential as it’s a really big assemblage, with about 5000 pieces of wood recorded. I’ve been working closely with Iona Robinson Zeki, one of the site supervisors. Although I was on site a lot, it’s not the same as being there every day and it’s that fine-grained knowledge of the excavation which is now helping to bring the construction of the settlement into sharp focus.

Some of the plan data for Roundhouse 1 (Courtesy of CAU)

We spent a lot of time as a team, talking in the trenches about how the roundhouses were built and, although there’s still a lot we don’t know, it’s great to see some of our ideas and theories down in black and white on the page (well, screen).

Key Structural elements of Roundhouse 1 (Courtesy of CAU)

There are around 170 wooden artefacts which Vicki Herring, CAU’s fantastic illustrator, has drawn. As the artefacts are now all in conservation at York Archaeological Trust, the illustrations are proving an essential resource while pulling together a catalogue of the material.

Wooden beater (Courtesy of Vicki Herring / CAU)

I’m really looking forward to reading the full assessment document and beginning to see all the different strands of evidence come together. Then it will be time to crack on with the analysis, and really get to grips with what the wooden remains can tell us about the lives of the people who lived in this settlement 3000 years ago.

Finds and More: Being on the Post-Ex Team

I’m currently in Greece on an excavation. I can’t tell you exactly where – we have to keep the location secret to protect the site and to abide by the reporting restrictions imposed by the Greek authorities – but I can tell you it’s currently going very well. I am the finds specialist, which means I work in the local museum processing and registering all the finds from the excavation.

This involves washing ceramic sherds, entering details and measurements of every object into a database, taking photographs of every find, drawing all the diagnostic pottery (rims, handles, bases and decorated pieces), and making sure all the finds are safely stored away for study by specialists next year. Luckily I have other members of the dig team to assist me!

We have some free time in the afternoons, which I also fill with archaeology. I’m a member of the Well Built Mycenae team and my job is to publish an important part of the Cult Centre at Mycenae. This area was excavated in the 1960s but the site turned out to be so complicated that publication took much longer than expected. However, I’m now at the stage that involves editing images for which I need to use my more powerful desktop computer. Obviously I wasn’t able to take that with me into the field(!) so I can’t do any work on that project at the moment. Instead I’ve been using the afternoons to produce an article based on my PhD research, which investigated how metal vessels fitted into the social and political system of Late Bronze Age Greece. It may seem strange at first to think of the use of metal pots as an important way of expressing social status and significance. Yet even today, expensive metal vases are often awarded as a prize; just think of the trophy handed out to the winners of the English FA Cup! Publishing articles is a vital part of archaeology as it allows research to be shared amongst the archaeological community and makes it available to future generations. It’s also one of the best ways to gain recognition in your field, which is essential when you are a post-doctoral researcher like me. The archaeological job market out there is highly competitive at the moment, so I’m hoping that the work I do now will eventually be enough for me to land a long-term university position.


A Day with Macedonian Archaeology—Styberra, Center of Devriop

Styberra—Center of Devriop

The ancient city of Styberra is located 16 km south-west of Prilep, in the immediate vicinity of the village Chepigovo. The town is spread on the hillside Bedem, the surrounding plateau towards the river Blato, the area between it and Crna Reka, as well as on the hill Bakarno Gumno.  Styberra was an important urban center that existed for a long period of time from the end of the 4th century BC to 4th century AD. It is assumed that one of the main reasons for the city’s collapse was the raid of the Goths in 267/8 or 268/9, during the reign of Emperor Gallienus.

In the ancient written sources about the Roman – Macedonian wars, it is recorded that during the expedition of the consul Sulpicius against the Macedonian king Philip V (200 BC), the Roman  armada withdrawing from Link, arrived in Styberra, where they renewed their supplies with grain. According to the same records, we also learn that the last king of ancient Macedonia, Perseus in the year 169 BC organized his military command post in the city of Styberra, from where he started conquering the territories of neighboring Penesti, who fought with him during the battles against the Romans.

After the conquest of the city of Uscana (Kicevo), the king returned to Styberra where he sold the captured Penesti and Illyrians as slaves. Later records point to the ubication of the city in the region of Devriop on the river Erigon (Crna Reka) and that it was on the ancient road communication Stobi – Heraclea.

Between the two world wars small excavations were undertaken by Nikola Vulić, while the first more serious archaeological excavations at the site Bedem – Styberra were realized by the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia in 1953. In 1959, there were excavations by the National Museum of Prilep. After a long pause, starting from 1983 until this day the National Museum of Prilep is excavating this site.

In the past archaeological campaigns, parts of the city wall from the time of the rule of the Macedonian kings were discovered, while all other discovered buildings were from the Roman Imperial Period, i.e. from the time of the great prosperity and flourishing of the empire (the Antonine and the Severan dynasties – II century and the first half of the III century).

The city walls from the Macedonian period were found in the northern part of the hillside Bedem and were 3 m. wide and 30 m long, while in its western part the wall extends parallel to the later roman gymnasium and is recorded in the length of 63 m.

The Gymnasium complex was a public building in which the young men – ephebe were educated and millitary-trained. It was erected on the lowest terrace in the western foothill of the hill Bedem, which mildly descends to the Blato River. A large courtyard was discovered – perisitil with atrium and vestibule-proatrium where public lectures were held, an exedra, a heroon- sanctuary, a small square with a drainage channel and a small part of the athletic path.

A number of movable artefacts were also discovered, objects for everyday use, as well as  marble altars, a herma and inscriptions with writing about the functioning of the Gymnasium. Comparing the number of the mentioned ephebes on the epigraphic monuments, we can calculate the number of inhabitants in the city, that is, we can see that the city of Styberra was a large city for that time with about twenty thousand inhabitants. Certainly, according to the importance, a large number of marble findings discovered in the Gymnasium stand out – statues of meritorious citizens, statue of the emperor and sculptures of deities (Asclepius, Nike, Mercury).

The temple of the goddess Tyche, the protector of the city, is located on one of the terraces on the hill Bedem which descends from east to west. From the west end, one can enter a room with dimensions of 10 x 10 m. The walls were made of crushed stone and bricks, connected with lime plaster. In the eastern wall of the room there is a central semicircular niche, and on the side walls there are three niches. In the interior, a well was discovered, most probably used for cultic purposes. From the inscription in the central niche we found out that the temple was restored in 126 BC, while from the inscriptions in the other niches we can read the names of the people whose busts were in them. The busts of the father Orestos and the son Philoxenus were discovered, they were members of the family who founded/sponsored the temple, as well as a small statue of a young Dionysus.

This year, during the excavations an adjacent building to the temple was discovered in which we assume that some ritual processions that preceded the main ritual activities in the temple were taking place. A few facts point to this assumption. In particular, the walls of the building are three times narrower than those of the temple, which of course ranks the two buildings in their importance. The width is 13 m, which means there was a sufficient space where a large number of people who participated in the ritual can be gathered, unlike the smaller space in the temple, where only a handful of citizens and the presets could enter.

In the central part there is a platform with marble floors and fencing blocks – parapets and a well in the middle, with the same depth as the one in the temple-up to 3 m. Only one part of the well was explored, so future excavations will confirm our assumption for its purpose, which was probably cultic. Another room, a workshop for terracotta figurines of deities and ceramic oil lamps, excavated in the last two years was also a part of this adjacent building of the temple. Also a large number of pits and four furnaces, used in the production process were discovered.

Latter in the 3rd century AD, a shrine of a God with a bird face was built above the workshop. It was modest in size, with only two rooms, with poorly constructed walls of crushed rock mixed with mud. This sanctuary was in use at a time when the city of Styberra started to lose its glow as an urban Roman regional center. But its great scientific significance is that it was intended for worshiping a deity with bird attributes, whose relief was discovered on a marble plaque, part of a small “house”.

Beside the “small house” with the relief, two more small “houses” from marble plaques were found, all radially positioned towards the platform in the western wall of the building. According to the symbol of a great eye shown in profile, the deity is similar to the Egyptian god Horus. But our God has bird claws on it arms and legs, whereas Horus has human limbs. We can chronologically place this sanctuary at a time when the cults from the East are spreading to this part of the Empire, including the ones from Egypt, such as the cults of Isis and Serapis.

If this is not a representation of Horus, then it would be an indigenous local deity with bird attributes. Previous research in our country, but also in the wider Balkan region have not confirmed a similar deity, so in this case this finding from Styberra would be a unique and rare scientific discovery.

At about 60 m. north from the temple of the goddess Tyche another very important building was discovered. A monumental structure which according to its size and the discovered findings in it, was probably a building of a public character. The front room with a width of 17 m. had walls decorated with an imitation of a monumental opus isodonum performed in a stucco technique. This decoration was divided by a horizontal line, where the upper part was comprised of several light-colored fields, while the lower part was painted in red. Also a low platform and several altars were erected beside the eastern wall.

A statue of an important citizen and a several marble fragments from the building were discovered inside. The upper room, which was only partially excavated, had walls and floors paved with decorative marble plaques with floral ornaments. Beside all of the abovementioned findings, the most valuable discovery was the epigraphic monument with an inscription that mentions the city council of Styberra. A finding like this suggests that the building was the assembly (Bouleuterion) of the city, which would make it the first of its kind in our country.

Unfortunately, the building had to be buried again, because the plot where it is located, as well as all the other plots in the area are privately owned. We are currently in the process of finding a positive solution for the legal status of this property so we can continue our research in the future.

With the archaeological excavations of the ancient city of Styberra so far, a very small percentage of the city is covered.  However, the discovered buildings and findings point to the high status that the city held, especially in the Roman Imperial Period. Also a very significant data about the history and the development of the city has come to light through the inscriptions and the altars discovered. With its 20,000 inhabitants, a number obtained by comparing the records of the number of ephebes in a particular year, Styberra was, of course, a significant urban center in the Devriop area. The rich findings and the high cultural and spiritual level of development are presented through a very beautiful portraits and cult marble statues, due to which the city rightly deserves the epithet “Macedonian Pompeii”.

Duško Temelkovski


The Challenge of Managing Visitors to Archaeological Sites in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico

In the first week of July I went to the Mayan Riviera as part of my duties as the Head of the Unit for Planning and Management of Archaeological Sites in the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The main objective of this field visit was to carry out an holistic inspection of the current management and operation status of the archaeological sites open to the public on the easter coast of the Yucatan Peninsula (commonly known as the Mayan Riviera). The sites I visited were Muyil, Tulum, Xelhá, Xcaret and Playa del Carmen. These are my preliminary results of this visit (I am still working on the processing of the data – very interesting information!)

First of all, some location information. The sites I visited are located on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, within the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. As some of you dear readers may know, Quintana Roo is one of the main tourisitc destinations of Mexico (and the world I would say), with two main touristic beach hubs, Cancun and Playa del Carmen. On the coast, the Mayan Riviera, several archaeological sites are open for public visits, and this may be the main challenge in this region of Mexico.

Location of the visited Mayan archaeological sites on the eastern coast of Quintana Roo


Muyil is managed by the Director of Operations of Tulum, considering is very close to this site. The area open to the public is quite small, but what the regional authorities have been doing is to consolidate the site as a model example of how to maintain the vegetation. This is more important than you may thought. The weather on the region is very humid and the jungle around the sites may be an obstacle for the tourism, for what a proper gardening and maintenance programme is necessary. Muyil is a site with a small amount of visitors per month so the management strategies are focused on guarantee a visitation experience. Something very important about density of visitors will be noticed further on.

Access to the archaeological site.

Interpretative signage in Muyil.

Maintained green areas.

“The castle”, Muyil’s main structure.


Tulum is the more visited archaeological site in the Mexican Mayan Region, just ahead of Chichen Itza (there may be months when Chichen Itza is more visited than Tulum, but in general Tulum has more visitors). This is mainly because its location, on the heart of the touristic development of the Mayan Riviera, surrounded by the main cities in the area, modern Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun. It is common, if you go to one of these resort cities, to have a day trip to Tulum. Also, it is known that Tulum is the favourite beach destination for visitors that want to do both, archaeological tourism and beach (and I have to say, the very turquoise colour of the Caribbean, white sand, rocky cliffs, and pre-Hispanic Mayan buildings behind you, it is actually quite impressive and breath taking).

Visitors on the viewing point of the sea and the main structure, The Castle.

The inspection visit to Tulum was focused on evaluate the conservation of the heritage signage. The weather in the coast is very agressive, and the sunlight may damage the signage fabrics. Although I took the chance of being in the site to take some photographs of the areas where visitors congregate the most. And yes, there may be a problem in the near future (I was very impressed with the amount of visitors on a regular Tuesday. According to the Director of Operations of the site, the day with the major visitors density is Saturday and Sunday, with a “rush hour” – yes, Tulum has rush hours – between 9am and 11am), for what a visitors management programme will be implemented very soon.

Queue to buy the entrance ticket.

Rush hour in Tulum.

The weather could be very agressive. Finding shade is a must!

Tulum is the only archaeological site in Mexico with three opening times. One regular visitation time, between 9am and 5pm, and two special opening times (which require a special ticket, more expensive than the regular access ticket), one in the early morning, and the other one after closing time. I had the opportunity to enter into the site after the last group visited the site. And let me tell you something: Tulum without visitors is MAGICAL. This made me think about the great challenge for us heritage managers to implement visitors management plans considering all elements, mostly the visitors experience and the conservation of the archaeological heritage.

Tulum without visitors. So quiet! You can even hear the sea.


You might heared before this name, Xelhá. This is because Xelhá is actually two places: the most known Xelhá is the resort-beach park in the coast, famous for snorkeling activities and eco-tourism; the other place less known is the archaeological site, which gave the name to the resort-beach park.

The site have been in moderate abandonment, but currently the regional offices of INAH in Quintana Roo have being implementing a major programme in order to diversify the visitation offers outside Tulum. I have been closely involved on this kind of programmes in Mexico, developing archaeological routes using major archaeological sites as a focus point in order to communicate to the public the opportunity they have to visit other archaeological sites, some of them bigger and more impressive than the most visited ones (not always, though). This measures are very important in the Mayan Riviera, around Tulum. As the pictures above may tell you, Tulum may have in the near future some difficulties with the carrying capacity of the site and public areas.

Main entrance to the site.

Updated introduction sign, with a site plan.

Detail of the site plan updated sign.

Paths of the site are being renovated.

The visit route in Xelhá, tracked with a GPS. This is actually the route available for visitors.

Xelhá, then, is being attended with this consideration. The visitor services infrastructure is being attended, with a general programme of conservation and update of signage being carried out. Xelhá is a very impressive archaeological site, with some archaeological features unique in the region: it has a pre-Hispanic artificially made road known in Mayan language as “Sacbé” (which means “white road”). This road connects the center of the site with a resiential and ceremonial archaeolgical group known as “The Jaguar Group”, which is located next to a natural water source known as “cenote”. One problem in this site, though: MOSQUITOS. Oh my god…

Sacbé (white road).

The sacbé (white road) connects the center of the site with the Jaguar Group. Notice the artificial elevation of the road above the bedrock.

The Jaguar Group.

The cenote, a natural water source common in the Yucatan Peninsula.

About Xcaret and Playa del Carmen: those sites are very interesting cases of management of archaeological heritage in the region. The archaeological buildings of Xcaret are scatered within a resort-park named also Xcaret, and Playa del Carmen (originally known in Mayan language as Xamanhá) is a site scatered within a residential area and hotels. But that would be for another post. I am still working on the data. Stay tuned!

Note: All the management data collected on the field is being desk-processed in Mexico City.