Ancient Greek Tomb With Sword And Spearhead Found On Croatian Island Of Hvar

(ORDO NEWS) — The five-year project of the Croatian Science Foundation, launched last year by the Institute of Archaeology in Zagreb and called AdriaCos, aims to unravel multi-layered research on the cultural identity of the island of Hvar and the central Adriatic during the first millennium.

A tomb that represents a significant archaeological discovery was found, considering that it is the first and for now the only expertly researched tomb of ancient Pharos. The cremated remains of the deceased were found in the tomb, along with weapons, an iron sword and spear, as well as some coins, ceramic fragments and the remains of clothing, such as glass beads and buttons.

“When it comes to Pharos, we hoped to find its necropolis, so this year’s field research in the Old Town was largely directed with this goal in mind,” says Marina Ugarkovic, research associate at the Institute of Archaeology who heads the project. “Significant guidance in this was provided by data from previous research, which was conducted by colleagues Sara Popovic and Andrea Devlahovic, collaborators on the AdriaCos project,” explains the archaeologist.

“As is often the case, just before the end of field research, we found the most interesting find, a Greek tomb in a small pit near the ancient walls, apparently from the 4th century BC, which indicates the possibility of the existence of a necropolis on the south side of the city wall.”

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“At first glance, our attention was drawn to the extremely well-preserved weapons, as well as the funeral rite of cremation of the deceased. In the context of our research, the cremation of the deceased is highly interesting and rather unexpected, given that it is a practice that was not common for that period and place.”

“The Greeks in Dalmatia, as evidenced by the well-preserved and well-decorated necropolis of Ise on Vis, practised inhumation, the placing of the deceased, for specific rituals, in a tomb or crypt, as did the inhabitants of the Cycladic island of Paros, who founded the settlement of Pharos.”

“The practice of inhumation of the deceased is also shown by the more poorly studied examples of the graves and tombs of the local population of Hvar and Central Dalmatia. This represents a particular challenge in the study of this deposit, the interpretation of which will be based on the study of the material remains and their socio-political context.”

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“Funerary rites are one of the central interests of archaeology as a discipline, because they reflect different aspects of the cultural history of the studied communities. The study of funeral material remains of practiced rituals illustrates activities encouraged by the phenomenon of death, which, in turn, represent an inexhaustible source of information about earlier generations.”

“So, for example, we can find out what the deceased looked like, what they ate, what they suffered from and died from, which is a measure of the demographics and quality of life. This type of symbolic communication, which encouraged social actors to create new relationships for a number of strategic, emotional and practical reasons, can at the same time provide indirect indicators of the dynamics of social identities and various aspects of community development, from eschatological thinking, cultural borrowing, hierarchy and organization. Society, family traditions, economic development and living standards and so on.”

“The grave is believed to contain at least six individuals, as established by my colleague Dr. Mario Novak, a senior research associate at the Institute of Anthropology, who carried out the bioarchaeological analysis. Among the remains of the adult deceased, there are remains of a woman and a child, but it is possible to speak of a communal grave, which can be more precisely defined by the confirmation of the period of the deposition of the remains by C14 dating and targeted DNA analysis.”

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“We also found a spear and a sword in the grave, which is the best preserved object in the tomb. The sword is currently in the process of conservation, which is being carried out by senior conservator-restorer Borko Vjesnica through a project with the Archaeological Museum in Split and which will provide us with comprehensive data on its preservation, manufacturing technology, precise dating and typology, and origin. For now, we can say that this is a type of one-handed Greek sword with a curved blade, called kopis, which was also used in the Greek subregion.”

“In addition, it is worth emphasizing the importance of the find itself as currently the only example of such a sword from the Croatian part of the Adriatic, which, together with the spear, is the only example of weapons from Pharos and the island of Hvar.”

“Its placement in the grave suggests that at least one of the deceased was a warrior. Considering that so far we know next to nothing about the funeral rites of ancient Pharos, given that many tombs were destroyed in the 19th century at several locations around the city during land cultivation and construction works, this discovery opens a whole new dimension to the study of the Greek settlement.”

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“Of course, we cannot expect the discovery of one grave to offer comprehensive data, but we are very optimistic that further research will reveak other grave sites, which will provide a range of reliable information on all the aforementioned aspects.”

“Despite the fact that Pharos is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, urban centres in Croatia, we know lamentably little about its urban layout and even the original extent of the Greek town from the 4th century BC. A better understanding of the urban development of Pharos, in relation to the burial customs mentioned above, is one of the main concerns of the AdriaCos project.”

“This has been a very important year in terms of archaeological investigations in Pharos, and I think that the next one will be just as significant, if not more so”, concludes Marina Ugarkovic. “The identification of the necropolis also allows for certain guidelines for the understanding of the town’s urban layout, and a part of the research will be directed specifically at locating and documenting the original fortifications and their boundaries from the 4th century BC, as well as other urban features, with the aim of better defining the development of the settlement.”

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“The study of the interaction between the colonists and the local population is especially interesting on the example of this city because the city was originally founded on the basis of a friendly agreement, which later grew into a conflict.

Nevertheless, it is likely that very soon after that there was significant interaction, so the material remains of Pharos, indeed the whole island of Hvar, provide us with the opportunity to explore the development of a Greek community based in the heart of the Adriatic, as well as local response to Greek settlement. In addition, the multicultural ties of the inhabitants of the island of Hvar include members of other communities, such as the Greeks of Syracuse, the Celts, and then increasingly the Romans who participated in shaping the identities created by this island experience.”


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