Past landscapes of south-west Slovenia

I am professional archaeologist from Slovenia. For living I mainly work on excavations all over Slovenia. In this blog post I would like to write about research that I do in my free time.

Me at excavation in Ljubljana 2015

Me – a tall guy with white helmet at excavations 😀

To start, let me answer why I am doing archaeology.

I believe that without understanding and respecting lives of our ancestors in past ages, we cannot respect, protect and maintain healthy environment that we live in. Also humanity without roots its like a tree without a roots. It is just electrifying when you dig, research, think and feel about people that once lived in a landscape where you know live.

Yes, I also love landscapes. Landscapes are a mosaic done by nature and mankind. They are always changing, but this changes never completely erase the image of landscape in the past.

There is many aspects of landscape to research. From finding new archaeological sites, to researching economic, cultural, social, religious and other aspects that are hidden in the landscape. First we must find clues and the look for some patterns. Out of this we build an interpretation model and maybe maybe seeing something new in the tapestry of landscape before us. I enjoy it, but is it tedious work and sometimes frustrating as you came to a dead end or you simply don’t have enough data to come up with anything.

The most adventurous work is finding new archaeological sites or finding more about already known ones. In Slovenia all known archaeological sites are protected by law. Here is complete registry of them with an interactive map.

Lets take for example an interesting surroundings of village Škocjan.

Why are surrounding areas of village Škocjan interesting?

Because village Škocjan lies in the center of a very important late bronze age ritual site of trans-regional importance. More about archaeology of Škocjan you can read here.

Landscape of Škocjan

Landscape of Škocjan. Village is located around church. Church tower visible on the left. In the background hill Ajdovščina. On it lies large and superbly preserved prehistoric and late antiquity hillfort.

How it is possible that such important landscape holds even more than already marvelous cave sites, rich late bronze age and iron age cemeteries and few big hillforts? Well it is possible and it does 😀

I start my Indiana Jones search for new archaeological sites in my armchair,simply looking at LiDAR maps, usually around village or certain that I am interested in.

Here is link to interactive map where you can see LiDAR hillshade visualization of whole Slovenian territory.

On this LiDAR hillshade visualization of Škocjan I notice one, then two, then…too many interesting features.


LiDAR hillshade of a landscape near village Škocjan. On it you can see loots of interesting archaeological features. Most of them are boundary walls.

Next step is downloading LiDAR data and run some other visualizations, so that I could recognize them better or find new ones. For all this work I use open source and free GIS software (LAStools, SAGA, Qgis and RVT tool).

Here is an example of LiDAR visualization with combined Skyview factor and Multicolor hillshade. Here we can see previously somehow poorly visible features better.


LiDAR multi hillshade and Skyview factor combined picture of a landscape near village Škocjan.

Excited with what will I see on the ground I put all my maps on my mobile, take my trusted Nikon D70 and trowel and off we go. Often first visit is all about getting feel for the landscape and the layout site, photographing some features and kicking molehills in search for some finds.


Remains of one of many boundary drystone walls. We suspect by the shape of this linear mounds, that they are older than medieval times. Most of medieval and modern boundaries are simply ignoring them.

Then it is back to a drawing board where I start to transcribe all features visible on LiDAR, then checking satellite and aero-photo images of the sites for any traces of visible underground features. And then back to the site to check some new features and look at those that are confusing in the images.

The results are amazing. We have (as I am not the only archaeologist with interest into this area) discovered huge new areas of plain prehistoric settlements, field boundaries and roads. Here I give you example of new small hillfort, that was until recently unknown.


Just partly transcripted archeological features. Most of them probably dates back to prehistory – iron age 800 BC.


Remains of a wall around small newly discovered hillfort.

I hope you enjoyed it!

If you want to read more about archaeology of Karst and Brkini you can visit my blog or follow me on Twitter.