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The systematic investigation of Roman period shipwrecks at Cape Uljeva

The systematic investigation of Roman period shipwrecks at Cape Uljeva

In 2012 the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar, with the support of the Municipality of Ližnjan, launched archaeological research of two shipwrecks in the Cape Uljeva area. To the south Cape Uljeva shelters Kuje Cove and is situated near the town of Ližnjan.

Kuje Cove
The ship's cargo on the seabed of Cape Uljeva

Both ships struck a reef during a storm and their respective cargoes were strewn among the cavities in the rocky seabed. The first shipwreck, Uljeva A, is dated, by archaeological finds, to the period of the 1st century BCE or 1st century CE. It can be concluded from the large quantity of amphorae sherds, amphorae plugs, plates, platters, jugs and glass bottles, that this was a large vessel. The second ship, Uljeva B, transported ware of the Aegean type – ceramic cups and various pots with the accompanying plugs, and amphorae for the most part of the African types of the 2nd and 3rd century. Also found along with the large quantity of ceramic finds were three fragments of various types of glass cups with truncated rims. This find dates the shipwreck to the 4th century.

The investigation began with the installation of fixed grid frames and the plotting of crevices and cavities in the rocky seabed, as separate contexts.

The crevices were excavated with a water dredge in the course of which all finds were collected. The finds were taken by divers to the vessel where the other part of the team weighed, counted and sorted the finds. The typologically relevant finds were transported to a workshop while the amorphous fragments were returned to the depths of the sea in the same cavities from which they were extracted.

Divers during the plotting of crevices
The excavations at Uljeva

Participating in the campaign at Uljeva were research leader Luka Bekić DSc and Mladen Pešić of the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology, Miran Erič DSc of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, Borna Krstulović and participants from several countries of an advanced underwater archaeology course organised by ICUA under the auspices of the UNESCO Office in Venice.

The research at Uljeva will continue in the coming years with plans to publish a monograph at the end of the research campaign. Conservation-restoration processing of the finds at the underwater archaeological finds restoration and conservation workshop of the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar will be followed by their scientific treatment and, if possible, the reconstruction of the shipwreck event and a description of the ships and their cargoes.

Marina Šimičić

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