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Underwater arheological research at the Janice - Pakoštane site

Underwater arheological research at the Janice - Pakoštane site

Underwater archaeological research of the seabed of the broad cove at the Janice position at Pakoštane was conducted in May and June of 2011 and 2012. Research of this site was first undertaken in 2004 when 19th century speculation of the presence of a Roman period harbour was confirmed. Research ceased after several campaigns led by the University of Zadar's Department of Archaeology and was reinitiated in 2011 as a collaborative effort of the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar, the University of Zadar's Department of Archaeology, the Han-Vrana Agency, the Roman-Germanic Commission (RGK) of Frankfurt and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) of Berlin. Also taking part in the research were participants from several southeast European countries of an underwater archaeology course organised by the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar with the support of the UNESCO Office in Venice.

Excavations at the Roman period harbour position

Research was conducted in the frame of the two most recent campaigns of two neighbouring sites from entirely different time periods. Two archaeological trenches were investigated at the dock of the Roman harbour and two trenches at the position of a submerged Neolithic settlement.

The 2 by 2 metre trenches at the Roman harbour were placed near the locations at which two trenches were investigated during previous campaigns. The archaeological layer was identified soon after the beginning of excavation in the first layers. This is a layer of sand of some 70 centimetres that contained a large number of diverse archaeological artefacts. The diverse range of objects included sherds of amphorae, Aegean kitchenware, pottery of coarse manufacture, sigillata ware, tegulae, glass cups and a large quantity of organic material (bone, olive pits, walnuts, vine branches and wood). There are interesting finds of wooden elements that appear to have served as structural elements containing the stone fill of the mole. Based on the material discovered the peak period of use for this harbour can be placed from the 1st to 2nd century, a period when goods were imported and exported via the Pakoštane harbour for the broader hinterland, primarily Roman period Blandon and Asseria.

Luka Bekić with the find of a Sarius type cup
Mato Ilkić with a glass drinking vessel find

The submerged Neolithic settlement is located at a depth of about 4.5 metres between Janice beach and the islet Sveta Juština. Positions were identified following an intensive surface survey of the area with a greater concentration of prehistoric ceramic material and flint tools. Two 2 by 1 metre archaeological trenches were set based on these positions. Each square metre was further divided into four 0.5 by 0.5 metre sub-quadrants. Divers collected material from these trenches, while a fine mesh netting was installed at the end of an airlift dredger that collected all of the material in the trenches.

The material from these nets was sifted and inspected every day with the aim of collecting small archaeological and organic finds from the layers. Wooden elements were discovered in the first trench at a depth of 10 centimetres. In the second trench a problem appeared in the form of the collapse of the lateral profiles of the trench when excavations exceeded a depth of one metre. A large quantity of potsherds and flint tools were collected at these positions. The pottery is for the most part of coarse texture with a large quantity of temper in the form of small pebbles and quartzite, while the flint tools represented are scrapers, blades, bladelets and end scrapers. A large number of cores and flakes bear witness to tool manufacture in situ. All of these objects date the site to the Neolithic period. Various types of flint and fragments of bone, seeds, pieces of wood and charcoal were sent for further analysis. The large quantity of flint tools, pottery and organic material and the developed layering of the site bear witness to the long-term settlement of this area.

A trench at the Neolithic settlement
Flint bladelet in situ

To date only a small number of prehistoric habitation sites have been found in Croatia that have been submerged as a result of changes in sea level, and research conducted at these locations is very rare. Research at the Janice Cove site is, therefore, a major step forward for underwater archaeology in Croatia.

Marina Šimičić

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