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Preliminary survey of the seabed of Zadar County

Preliminary survey of the seabed of Zadar County

In October and November of 2012 the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology conducted a survey of the coast and seabed of Zadar County. The seabed from the islands of Vir to Vrgada was surveyed. The diving positions were selected on the basis of reports and information from associates who participated in this programme. Several anchorage sites were discovered on this occasion that served as safe havens for ships during their navigation of the eastern Adriatic coast, as where shipwrecks that occurred during these voyages.

The research campaign included the use of Side Imaging Sonar to scan the seabed and diving to survey the seabed. Participating in the reconnaissance along with research leaders Mladen Pešić and Luka Bekić of ICUA were outside associate divers Marko Meštrov (the Han-Vrana Agency), professor Zdenko Brusić DSc, senior lecturer Mato Ilkić DSc, Mate Parica (University of Zadar), Igor Mihajlović and Anita Jelić (Croatian Conservation Institute). Also participating in the work were outside associate divers Rok Kovačić and Jerko Macura, and Petar Dobrović providing technical support.

Part of the team at the harbour in Pakoštane
Amphorae from the seabed off the island Vrgada

The preliminary survey covered the area off the western coast of the island of Vir. This site was to have had a shipwreck at a depth of a few metres. The survey did not establish the presence of a shipwreck, and the extraction of sand conducted in this area has eradicated any evidence of its presence.

The following position to be surveyed was the breakwater in Fažana Cove at Petrčane below the small 11th century church of Sveti Bartul (St Bartholomew). The plan of the breakwater has been documented. The breakwater most likely served to protect seafarers staying at the monastery or the neighbouring structures from the southerly jugo wind.

Documenting the breakwater at Fažana Cove, Petrčane
The remains of a shipwreck near the islet of Veli Školj

Two possible anchorage positions were surveyed during the reconnaissance. The survey of the possible anchorage in the western part of the cove at Petrčane did not yield results. Sherds of Late Roman and Post Medieval vessels were found at the anchorage position in the southwestern part of the island of Ošljak near Zadar. These sherds indicate the use of this anchorage over an extended period of time.

Of particular archaeological value is the seabed from the town of Pakoštane towards the island of Vrgada. Several interesting and archaeological valuable positions – a number of shipwrecks – were surveyed in this area.

The first is the wreck of a Post Medieval vessel for the transport of building materials. It is indicated by a pile of ballast stones on the seabed of the northern part of the islet of Veli Školj. Fragments of brick and barrel roof tiles between the ballast stones indicate that this is the wreck of a vessel for the transport of building materials. The collected sherds of Post Medieval vessels from this shipwreck place it approximately in the 16th century.

The second is the possible wreck of a Late Roman ship with a cargo of amphorae. It is located in the immediate vicinity of the Post Medieval shipwreck. Identified here were fragments of large cylindrical amphorae of northern African provenance, Late Roman fragments of ribbed amphorae and sections of a pithos.

The waters of the islet of Babuljaš are particularly interesting. Remains from two different and unrelated time periods were identified here. These are sherds of ceramic vessels from the Bronze or Iron Age and sherds of large cylindrical amphorae of North African provenance and several plates of red terra sigillata chiara clay that can be approximately dated to the 3rd to 4th century.

Also found on the seabed off Babuljaš was a sizeable pile of glass bottles with the "Lajos Hunyadi" stamp, a deep bowl with lugs and fragments of other contemporary material. These finds are likely from the cargo of a small vessel from the contemporary period. The collected fragments of Venetian glass and part of an elongated bottle can be dated to the period from the 13th to 15th century.

Two shipwrecks were identified in the waters off the island of Kozina. The first is a devastated shipwreck indicated by several fragments of Forlimpopoli type amphorae that are dated to the period from the 1st to 2nd century. Reports from local inhabitants of the existence of complete amphorae in the area were not confirmed. The second shipwreck is indicated by a large quantity of broken ballast stone. Fragments of various ceramic ware – mostly amphorae, Aegean kitchenware and sections of tegulae – date the shipwreck to the Roman period of the 1st to 3rd century.

Amphorae of the Forlimpopoli type on the seabed off the island of Kozina

An attempt was made during the reconnaissance to locate a shipwreck on the seabed between Vrgada and the islet of Artina. The search was, unfortunately, unsuccessful.

Most of the positions surveyed were not previously logged in the Register of the Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia, so that the data collected during this research can be utilised to complement the MACHU.HR database of underwater sites being developed at the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar. For some of the locations surveyed preventive protection would be appropriate. The Zadar County seabed reconnaissance programme will continue in 2013.

Marina Šimičić

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