WE LIVE in an area where ancient amphorae are an archeological find known to all. We will see them in almost every museum on the coast of our country, and their miniature copies have been on offer to tourists for decades.
Most of us are familiar with the most common function of amphorae; this belly-shaped container was used to transport and store wine, oil, honey, cereals and the like. But many do not know that it was also used to bury the dead and that it was a kind of coffin for the poorer citizens of ancient times.
This type of tomb, more than 1500 years old, was recently excavated by Split archaeologists and is on the Facebook page Archaeological Museum in Split published photographs of the excavation of ancient tombs and skeletons in amphorae. We contacted the research leader and senior curator Ema Višić-Ljubić to find out more about this interesting archaeological find.
During what research did you discover these unusual amphorae?
This research represents the completion of protective research in the area northwest and west of Manastirin, which began in late 2015.
The monasteries are the most important Salonitan early Christian cemetery complex with the remains of the basilica in which the tomb of the bishop and martyr St. Dujam, the patron saint of the city of Split. During the research, a large number of burial units of different types of burials were discovered, which are part of a larger Christian cemetery complex.
What kind of graves have you come across?
We discovered 12 masonry tombs, six with two and six with one burial chamber. Of the simpler types of graves, burials in amphorae and under tegulae predominate, while burials in earthenware and wooden coffins and one in a stone urn are less represented.
Did you find any other items, such as decorations or money?
A number of archeological objects were found in the graves, such as bronze bracelets, belt buckles made of silver, bronze and iron, bronze boxes, decorative beads, a large number of iron nails, two glass bottles and a large number of bronze coins. The finds date the tombs to the period from the 2nd to the 6th century, but most of the graves go to the late antique period from the 4th to the 6th century.
Were burials in amphorae frequent during this period?
Tombs in amphorae are the most common type of tomb in Salona. The tomb structure consisted of one or more amphorae. Children were buried in individual amphorae, and at least two amphorae were used to bury the adults. The amphorae were mostly halved in length, with one side laid on the ground and used as a base on which the body of the deceased was laid, and the other served as a cover.
How is it that some bodies were buried in amphorae and some in stone graves, on what did it depend?
The tomb in the amphora is located throughout the Roman Empire and was used by the population of lower wealth, while the masonry tombs were mostly buried by members of the middle class. Graves in amphorae can be both pagan and Christian.
Namely, the Romans from the middle of the 2nd century. gradually accepting burial, so that from the 3rd century. this type of burial prevailed and completely replaced the ritual of cremation of the deceased that had previously prevailed among them. This was greatly contributed to by the acceptance of Christianity, which from the end of the 4th century. was the only approved religion in the Roman Empire.