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Protohistoric communities in the northern part of the east Adriatic coast and its hinterland


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Tonc, Asja. (2015). Protohistoric communities in the northern part of the east Adriatic coast and its hinterland. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Archaeology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije) [mentor Dizdar, Marko].

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The area situated between the rivers Raša in the West, Kupa on the North, Una on the East and Krka in the South is traditionally associated with autochthonous communities whose names are known to us through ancient written sources. The coastal area with the islands is said to belong to the Liburni; in their hinterland, i.e. the present-day area of Lika, part of Gorski kotar and the middle Una basin come the Iapodes, with the Colapians as their northern neighbours in the Kupa river valley. However, the analysis of their material culture shows a much more complex situation. Starting from the ancient written sources, there is the problem of their reliability and outside perspective. Ancient authors frequently observed the less known, „barbaric“ areas from the view of their own superiority, so this has to be considered when encountering typical descriptions of events involving the locals or the brutality of the local residents. Furthermore, we lack the self-definition of the autochthonous communities, more simply their own view of themselves which is a basic feature of one's identity. Closely related to this topic is the question of ethnic identity which is approached according to the relevant modern theories of the topic within the archaeology of protohistoric societies. Identities are fluent and aspects of them can vary in time and space, but most probably we have to think of the autochthonous communities as more locally oriented in everyday life and possibly more inclined to joining the community on a larger scale in times of need. There are indications of such a fragmentation already in the very sources, which sometimes mention smaller groups by name or note a division among a larger ethnic group (such as within the Iapodes). The distribution of the different categories of material analyzed and also that of different aspects of burial practices, show that there are significant differences even among adjacent societies, like those buried in the Una valley cemeteries; or between the Kvarner region burial rites and those of northern Dalmatia, i.e. south Liburnian territory, where large family tombs with abundant hellenistic pottery appear. These differences probably represent the need to express individual, social, family or ethnic identity, which vary in different communities. Elements of dress and jewellery present the largest category, especially rich in forms and general number being the fibulae, then parts of belts or different pendants of glass, amber or metal. Their typological and chronological analysis shows that there are no particular changes in the local development at the beginning of the second half of the 1st millenium BC and this continuity can also be observed in the perseverance of established contacts with other regions, especially northern Italy and the southeast Alpine area. This area is particulary well connected with the Kvarner region, the latter being well integrated also in the regional network between Istria, Soča valley and in particular with the Colapian and Iapodian territory. This is corroborated by the analysis of distribution maps of different items that point to preferred areas of contact. Southern Liburnia, on the other hand, is more oriented towards the south and middle Adriatic areas, showing some similarities also in grave rituals. While the Iapodes situated in the Lika region show traces of influences from both directions, those in the Una valley are clearly separated from them as a specific group, situated on a very important communication route. In fact, the Una valley provided good connections between the south Pannonian and the coastal areas, showing an inclination towards the north-northwest regions in various elements of dress. Also, this route allowed a good communication towards the Danubian area along the Sava valley, and the southeastern Alpine area in the west. This strategic position is even more relevant for Sisak and partly also for the Vinica (Bela krajina) community. Both present evidence of their integration in the network of contacts in the south Carpathian Basin, whilst keeping their position in the regional network of the wider Caput Adriae area. Besides marking differences between these communities, the typological approach allowed a better knowledge of the chronology of elements of dress and other typical local items, thanks to parallels with middle European chronology on one hand and that of the Hellenistic material on the other. As mentioned, there is no sign of major changes during the 5th cent. BC. Some types of fibulae or pendants continue to be used from at least the end of the 5th cent. BC to the 3rd cent., but also there are types more characteristic for the end 4th – beginning of 3rd cent. BC. These are fibulae of Baška and Certosa VIIe/f, Ic/d types, and new items such as amphora-shaped glass beads or variants of the Dux fibulae type, or other less common types showing La Tène infleunces. During the 3rd and 2nd cent. BC local types continue to be developed, such as fibulae with one knob on the foot extension or fibulae with double spring and amber beads on the bow. Several types can be connected directly or considered local imitations/adaptations of La Tène types, most notably the fibulae with two knobs or imported glass bracelets, sometimes worn in local fashion as an ornament on the fibula bow. From the second half of the 2nd cent. BC local boat-shaped or double spring brooches continue their development, so several graves can be generally attributed to the 2nd cent. BC. Some of them show a mixed content with local or regional items alongside imported Hellenistic pottery, maybe used as a prestige object. During the 1st. cent. there can be observed a more frequent appearance of types largely distributed over wider areas and frequently adapted in local variants, with northern Italy as point of origin. Around the middle of the last century appear fibulae types Alesia, Gorica and Jezerine, somewhat later even much less frequent types (Distelfibel, Langton Down) that are, however, still worn in local fashion, as shown by secondary usage or associations with common local items. In the Una valley, in the last decades there are some other changes in grave ritual, but again without signs of disruption due to Roman military interventions. It is very possible that the location on an important communication route allowed a peaceful integration, with locals adapting part of their dress to new rules, but still maintaining signs of local identity. This shows that the process of Romanization varied due to different circumstances and different communities adapted in different ways, once again showing that there is no „one“ single large group, but much more likely a series of smaller communities that shared certain traits, but for sure maintained there own identity throughout the Late Iron Age.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Liburni, Iapodes, Colapians, Sisak, Una valley, grave rituals, brooches, dress, typology, chronology, ethnic identity, Romanization, distribution analysis, contact networks
Subjects: Archaeology
Departments: Department of Archaeology
Supervisor: Dizdar, Marko
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij arheologije
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2018 11:06
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2018 11:06

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