The Underwater Archaeology Collection

The Underwater Archaeology Collection at the Archaeological Museum of Istria (AMI) was founded in early 2015. The collection documents, interprets and holds archaeological artefacts from the maritime and nautical domains, and those finds that were submerged in the past as a result of geomorphological and hydrological processes, now submerged below sea level or the levels of inland waters in Istria County.

The holdings of the collection include archaeological finds made of ceramic, glass, metal, bone, stone, wood and leather, dated from Prehistory to the Post-Medieval period that originate from archaeological sites in Istria County.

The history of underwater archaeology in Istria County began in 1963, when a first century BC shipwreck with a cargo of some 200 amphorae was excavated in the waters off Cape Savudrija. The amphorae are now kept in the subterranean section of the Roman amphitheatre in Pula, as part of the “Viticulture and Olive Oil Production in Istria During the Roman Period” permanent exhibition.

The development of underwater archaeology and autonomous diving in the Adriatic in the mid 1960s, lead to the training of civil divers who also participated in the organised actions of underwater archaeological surveys. Amongst these divers was also Štefan Mlakar, a curator in the Archaeological Museum of Istria, who was also the expert archaeologist in charge of organising those investigations.

In 1965 he worked with the divers of the Centre for Underwater Activities “Pula” (CPA Pula) and by 1966 the archaeological team was joined by divers from the Underwater Activities Club “Uljanik” (KPA Uljanik). Navy divers also took part in the archaeological excavations. The former Cultural Monuments Protection Institute in Zagreb financed the excavations with the objective of collecting data and the creation of archaeological maps of sites in the Adriatic Sea.

In 2007, AMI revived its active participation in the field of underwater archaeology with the rescue excavation of a Roman seaside villa near Pomer, more specifically its submerged pier. These excavations made the museum take back the active role of the leading underwater heritage protection, excavation and data collection facility in Istria County.

 

The Roman lamp from the 1st century, site of the Roman pier in Pomer. 

 

In 2011, the museum launched an international collaboration with Italian universities in Salento and Trieste, Italy, with the underwater archaeological excavation of the Roman harbour at Savudrija. The excavation campaign was running from 2011 to 2014.

 

 Investigation of the pier of the Roman port in Savudrija, 1st century.

 

Furthermore, in the waters of Zambratija Bay south of Savudrija, more excavations were conducted after the 2008 discovery of finds dated from Prehistory, Roman and Late Medieval period. The site consists of Prehistoric pile-dwellings from the Early Copper Age and the remains of a sewn boat dated to the transition from the Bronze into the Iron Age. The boat found at Zambratija is the so far oldest preserved case of a sewing boat building technique in the Mediterranean.

 

Investigation of the prehistoric boat from 12th – 10th cent. BC, Zambratija (Umag)

 

Analisys of the prehistoric sewn boat from Zambratija

 

An international collaboration project was launched in 2013 between the Conservation Department of the Ministry of Culture's Directorate for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Pula, and the Camille Jullian Centre in France (CNRS National Center for Scientific Research, Aix-Marseille University) for the purposes of investigating the Zambratija Prehistoric sewn boat.

As a part of this collaboration between Croatia and France, AMI has conducted an excavation of the remains of two Roman period sewn boats discovered in the layers of the Roman harbour in Pula in 2013, and launched new excavations of a Late Roman shipwreck in the waters off Cape Kamenjak in 2017.

 

Survey of the Late Roman ship in Debeljak (Kamenjak)

 

Since 2014, the museum is continuously working on the protection and excavation of a submerged Roman period production complex at Bijeca Cove near Medulin, as part of the Underwater Archaeology Collection fieldwork activities.

 

Architecture from the Roman period, 1st cent. BC – 1st cent. AC, Bijeca (Medulin)

 

The Underwater Archaeology Collection at AMI holds successful collaborations with a number of clubs and associations who are a part of the Istria County Diving Federation.

 

 

Information, consultations and questions:

Dr Ida Koncani Uhač - Senior Curator, Head of the Underwater Archaeology Collection

Tel. no.: 052/351-320

e-mail: ida.koncani-uhac(at)ami-pula.hr 

 

© Arheološki muzej Istre 2010. Proizvodnja Ulisys d.o.o. Bazirano na Typo3 CMS sustavu.