Carved History

As I hold this artfully designed piece of wood, I marvel, just as I have done many times before, over the unique and amazing handicraft from a distant past.  Grooves and dowels, manufactured with precision, look exactly like the ones carved and drilled with state-of-the-art digital machines invented by our generation. The awareness that this piece of wood in my hand is over 2,000 years old takes me back to a time when even the term “technology” didn’t exist yet. And again, I realise just how beautiful our history is, how little we actually know about it, and how wonderful it is to be able to so much as guess about what went on in the everyday life of our ancestors. This is my day: once again, I’d been invited to assist in the latest underwater archaeological discoveries that took place this September on the island of Ilovik in the vicinity of Lošinj. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

 

For the past 30 years, Jože Hanc - Joc, photographer and a colleague of mine, has been wandering around the bay of Paržine on the island of Ilovik every summer, and knows it like the back of his hand. Three years ago, for the first time ever in thirty years, he noticed small parts of ship timber frames and shell plating, deep on the sandy bottom. He also picked up a part with a broken dowel which seemed to be a part of a very old construction. He took a whole bunch of photos, brought this piece of wood to Ljubljana, and showed the lot to our common friend Miran Erič, curator and underwater archaeologist. In addition to establishing 3D images of archaeological sites, Miran is also an expert in dendrochronology, a scientific method for determining the age of a piece of wood with extreme precision. According to his rough estimate, the parts of this hull belonged to a time period somewhere between the 1st and the 2nd century B.C. He notified Igor Miholjek, head of the Croatian Conservation Institute, of the finding; when the parts of the ship had been examined to determine their age, they turned out to be even older than Miran and Igor estimated at first glance. They go back to around the 3rd/2nd century B.C.; along with his team of underwater archaeologists, Igor had already examined the site in 2017 and noticed a couple more timber frames, which made it possible for him to establish the authenticity of the finding with his own eyes. The next year, however, when they organised the first more serious attempt of underwater excavation, the wreckage was nowhere to be found. They planted no fewer than 8 probes before finally rediscovering it; they had nearly given up all hope. Luckily, they had the exact GPS locations of the wreckage and had also measured the depths pretty well; it turned out that the GPS locations did not correspond to the depth, which helped them find out that the location was, indeed, correct, and that the wreckage was merely covered with immeasurably larger quantities of sand as in the previous year. They correctly predicted that the sand has been relocated due to currents and to the strong wind provoking high waves in the bay; therefore, the wreckage of the ship was buried much deeper beneath the seabed than the year before. This year, the research continued, and nearly half of the ship has already been uncovered.  It is obviously impossible to find out why the ship sank. We can guess, however, that the reason had something to do with the fact that this bay provides a pretty good anchorage and protection against all winds—except against the one coming in from the south. Maybe that was the wind that surprised the sailors; another possibility is that they deliberately stranded themselves due to bad weather or another accident, seeing as a sandy shore definitely provides better shelter for a crew to save itself than a rocky beach in deeper waters would have. We’ll never know. One thing is certain, though: the ship was carrying wood that was probably intended to be used at a construction site. Through detailed analyses of the wood, we’ll maybe learn some more about its purpose in the future. Although they even found some amphoras, the cargo is not what the archaeologists are most interested in. They also discovered that this was a rare type of ship with extremely well-preserved construction details. According to archaeologists, this is the reason why the wreckage found on Ilovik is one of the most important findings from this period ever discovered on the Croatian shore. 

 

There is more, however; in addition to extremely interesting and rare structures and an amphora or two, they also found a magnificent bronze sculpture that remains hidden to the public eye...for now. When the time is right, I’ll show it to you...😊 I’m looking forward to it already!

 

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Arne Hodalič
Arne Hodalič

My life-motto is “You can sleep when you’re dead!” and I stick to it every day in my life! I worked with the Company “Our Space appliances” for many years now, and together we have prepared numerous successful events, lectures and team-building articles for you to enjoy and read. The best part of it all is when Jure (the CEO of Our Space appliances) comes to visit my family and me at the seaside and together we can grill a tasty fish or 2. That’s when life becomes even better…

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