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Social Landscapes as Multicultural Spaces: Stećci in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SOLMUS (Social Landscapes as Multicultural Spaces: Stećci in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2018-09-01 do 2020-08-31

This project studies medieval funerary culture in the western Balkan, specifically in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and is focused on one medieval administrative unit, on župa Dabar. The stećci gravestones are a plural heritage that developed in the region with high religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity. They appear in great numbers: more than 70000 tombstones are scattered in the countries of BiH, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Their quantitative character is the main reason for their understudieness from an archaeological perspective. This heritage is very important for the advancement of future Europe and its relations to the plural cultural coexistence within it. The exploration of stećci could bring information on how such a diverse population managed to live together in peace. Not only that, but the plural communities in the medieval Western Balkans also developed a shared commemorative heritage that lasted for almost a millennium.
The overall objective of the project is to introduce these monuments to a wider European and global academic public and also to the general public, and show how an exotic heritage does not need to be searched for in distant places. The results from the project will add a new perspective to the narratives of the nascence of modern Europe and will advance the discipline of archaeology in southeastern Europe.
Fieldwork research:
-archaeological survey by the PI and colleagues from BIH. We surveyed the territory of the medieval župa Dabar, located all the medieval stećci cemeteries within the geographical span of the medieval administrative unit, and documented the state of it, number of monuments, and possibility for future work. On the basis of this survey, we identified 6 possible locations for geophysical survey and in-depth archaeological study. The report is in Bosnian and English languages.
- geophysical survey of 6 sites, performed by Dr. Robert Fry, University of Reading, UK, and the team, with the collaboration from the National Institute for the protection of the historical, cultural, and natural heritage, Banja Luka, BiH, and the PI. The survey reinforced our idea of changing what was initially our local-level site for excavations. We decided to excavate two different sites, to get a clear understanding of the development of stećci cemeteries. The report is in the English language.
-Archaeological excavations of two sites: Hatelji, a small stećci cemetery with 13 tombstones, located on a prehistoric mound in the village of Hatelji, municipality Berkovići & Milavići community cemetery, which is still in use today, and which has 352 medieval tombstones, and a possibility of a medieval church - discovered with the geophysical survey. The report is in the English language.
- an archeological topographical survey was planned for the beginning of April 2020 and another season of fieldwork excavations (international summer school again) in June and July 2020, with all the permits already in place, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Conferences: academic and professional conference dissemination across Europe

Invited talks: two invited talks at Stanford University, USA

Public outreach during the excavations:
• Collaboration with the Elementary School of Petar II. Petrović Njegoš in Bileća (7th – 9th grade): during the school’s summer vacations 14 students were working on the project within the Physics course, learning about the shapes, volumes, weights, perspectives, etc. The whole activity finished on 2.11. 2019, with the public presentation of their work and outcomes in Bileća.
• All-about-Archaeology (Sveoarheologiji), on 5.7.2019 BiH: http://sveoarheologiji.com/arheolozi-iz-inostranstva-ucestvuju-na-iskopavanjima-u-hercegovini/
• Istok Portal, 8.7. 2019, BiH: http://istokrs.com/nova-arheoloska-otkrica-na-podrucju-bilece/
• National Radio and TV (RTVRS), 26, 27. 6. 2019; RTRS,The National radio and TV broadcasting network on 26.6. in the main news at 7.30 pm, and a longer contribution on Dobro jutro Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, BiH: Dnevnik 2 (https://lat.rtrs.tv/av/pusti.php?id=84765) & ( https://lat.rtrs.tv/av/pusti.php?id=84768)
• eKapija, July 9th, 2019, BiH: https://ba.ekapija.com/news/2565112/arheolozi-iz-cijelog-svijeta-u-bileci-istrazuju-nekropole-stecaka
• CREES Chronicle 2018-19 (Center for Russian and East European Studies, Stanford University, USA, Aug 2019), pg. 9, https://creees.stanford.edu/about/creees-chronicle
• Trebinje Danas newspaper, 8.7.2019 Trebinje, BiH, Nova arheološka otkrića na području Bileće: https://www.trebinjedanas.com/vijest/nova-arheoloska-otkrica-na-podrucju-bilece
• Radio Bileća, BiH: 4 interviews about the project and our work in BiH: 1 in March and 3 during the excavations to inform people about our work. (1 interview in March 2019, during our geophysical survey, along with a TV News coverage).
• Agencija SRNA- Novinska Agencija Republike Srpske [National News Agency, Republic of Srpska], July 2019.
• Herceg TV, ‘Our guest’ show - Naš gost: Arheolozi iz svijeta zavirili pod stećke (Our guest-show; VIDEO; 6.7.2019– an hour-long talk show at the regional TV station, every Friday at 8pm, BiH: www.herceg.tv/video/p/2810/nas-gost-arheolozi-iz-svijeta-zavirili-pod-stecke-video-06-07-2019
Two public talks at the municipalities of Bileća (16.7.2019) and Berkovići (18.7.2019) BiH.
Progress beyond the state of the art was achieved by giving archaeological training to the students of archaeology in BiH, Slovenia, and Serbia; providing international networking to all the students who collaborated on the project, exposing the BiH heritage to the wider, international public and presenting the international interest to the local population regarding their heritage, making them feel like a part of Europe and not left behind or neglected.

One of the most impressive results of this project, beyond the scientific advancement, was a discovery of a medieval church on a large communal medieval cemetery. With the geophysical survey, the church was first discovered, during the excavation season (which also served as training for the students) we excavated the church (partly - due to the lack of time, we located the church and reached the burial levels. As the Covid-19 pandemic canceled/postponed all our plans for summer 2020, we cannot proceed with the excavations, but the PI is looking for funding to continue the work started) and at the end of our work, the idea sprouted to rebuild the church. While this might take some time, the process and the outcomes of this research are much wider than initially thought. Also, the public interest was much greater once the news was announced that a possible church was discovered at the site.

Another great impact of the SOLMUS project was the education of the local public about their own heritage. Our dialog with the public brought the locals a new perspective on their own heritage and disbanded old and 'exclusive of others'-theories. The local public and a few tourists were able to see our work first handed and we were able to consider and answer their questions and interests. The two sites we excavated on will be included in the new tourist routes through Herzegovina, as soon as the excavations are completed. The IR is obligated to finish another season of excavations to fulfill the promise given to the locals and to complete the research on these two sites, which was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Drawings of the six forms of stecci.
Excavation at the Milavici site.
Forms of stećci tombstones - tombstones in situ.
Excavations at the Hatelji site.