Underwater research nearby the islet of Babuljaš close to Pakoštane
During the implementation of the Zadar County survey program, which was conducted in 2012 by the staff of the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar, several underwater locations were inspected. One of the locations was in the area of the islet of Babuljaš.
During the reconnaissance of its northern part, a large amount of ceramic material scattered over a wide area was observed at a depth of about 6 meters. A review of the material led us to conclude that it can be dated in two different periods. A large quantity of ceramic fragments with a lot of calcite admixtures is scattered in wider area and we can date it most probably in the Bronze Age. In the eastern part of the site, there is another type of archaeological material that overlaps with it. This is a devastated ancient shipwreck which was carrying large cylindrical amphorae of North African provenance.
Systematic archaeological excavations of this site began in 2013 and lasted until 2016. A total of 88 m2 of shipwreck area was researched. The ship's structure was not found, but some evidence of it is represented by objects that were an integral part of it - bronze and iron nails and lead formwork. Unfortunately, due to the lack of information about the wooden structure, it is difficult to talk about the dimensions of the ship. The bulk of the cargo consisted of North African amphorae which are known to carry olive oil and wine as the main content. The largest number of these amphorae belongs to type Keay 25. A smaller number of amphorae of type Keay 35 B suggest that fish products could also be part of the cargo. In addition to the amphorae, the other part of the cargo consisted of luxurious North African red slip ware and coarse kitchen pottery. The most common types of kitchen vessels are Hayes 195, 196, 197, while red slip ware is represented by type Hayes 50B and Hayes 53A. All the finds confirm the dating of the shipwreck at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century. Among these finds, the most interesting are certainly the fragmented bowls belonging to the Hayes 53A type dated between 350 and 430 AD. One has relief decoration in form of a lion and tiger on opposite sides; the other has depiction of a shepherd with a Phrygian cap dressed in a tunic carrying a ram over his shoulder, and next to him stands another ram. This representation can be characterized as the Good Shepherd which is in fact the personification of Christ.
A significant amount of prehistoric finds was discovered during the research of the trenches in the lower layers. It mostly consists of ceramic material, dark brown and black in colour with a larger amount of quartz particles. Majority of the ceramic finds are smaller fragments whose edges were worn out due to the work of the sea, before they reached the deeper layers of sand. The most recognizable are the wide striped handles that are characteristic of the Bronze Age when this site can be dated. In addition to the ceramic finds, the remains of animal bones were also found as well as processed flint tools and flint cuts. Since the stratification of this ceramic material in the trenches was not noticed, it is assumed that it reached the seabed from the mainland due to the permanent leaching of the sea coast. The examination of the mainland part of the island revealed that today a larger amount of identical pottery can be found on its surface.
The research leader of the project was Mladen Pešić, PhD, deputy leader was Luka Bekić, PhD while other ICUA’s employees were a part of the research team - Anita Jelić, Marina Šimičić, Roko Surić, Maja Kaleb and Zdenka Vrgoč as well as colleagues from other institutions - Mate Parica and Mato Ilkić (University of Zadar), Marko Meštrov (Public Institution Agency Han-Vrana), Roman Scholz and Antje Fischer (Germany), Nemanja Čavlović and Jelena Čelebić (Montenegro), Elizabeth H. Briggs (USA), Milan Rodić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Saša Koren (Slovenia) and Katarina Jerbić (Croatia).
During the research at the site, in cooperation with UNESCO, Basic courses for underwater archaeology were organized with the participation of Dragomir Garbov (Bulgaria), Damir Ugljen (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Maria Michael (Cyprus), Ana Fundurulić (Croatia), Veronika Zerzanova and Barbora Machova (Czech Republic).
Technical support during the field work was provided by Nadji laguna from Pakoštane.