In the morning hours of last Saturday on the Koludrt hill in Lumbarda, the archaeology team led by dr.sc. Hrvoje Potrebica found a key section of the Lumbarda Psephisma, one of the most important monuments of ancient Greek history, some 2.300 years old
It had been a tough day, the team admitted. On Friday they had been digging all day, continuing into Saturday. And then, what every archaeologist dreams of happened, they found the holy grail of archaeology, a red limestone some 2300 years old, 30×15 cm in size, which will alter the interpretation of the oldest written monument in Croatia – the Lumbarda Psephisma, as Dora Mikelić reported for Slobodna Dalmacija on May 22, 2018.
The Lumbarda Psephisma was found in 1877, 141 years ago. It was the first proof that a Greek colony existed on Korčula Island, while the document tied Korčula with the Greek colony Issa, today known as Vis on the same name island, which gave new findings and context about Greek colonization of this part of the Mediterranean. The Psephisma holds extremely rare and valuable content, explains the manner of founding and function of the colony, but also a legal element so important that lawyers in European universities, as dr.sc. Hrvoje Potrebica pointed out, finish their schooling by using information from this monument.
The legal regulations and sanctions are connected to the division of land among colonists, as well as a list of their names. Although the in past 140 years several smaller parts of the Psephisma were found, the most important piece of the document was missing, until now.
“We were missing that one piece which has for a hundred years been reconstructed in more or less scientific methods. There are three levels of reading the engraved text – what is actually written and what can be read, completion of the missing text coherent with rules of Greek epigraphy, and scientific and less scientific assumptions on what could have been written using other monuments of the similar kind from that time. The stone we found belongs in the right, upper corner of the Psephisma, the ending of lines regarding the legal and historical formulation. As such it is of invaluable significance to the interpretation of the Psephisma and its to-date interpretation. Initial results already show that most attempts at reconstructing the text in the past 120 years will see significant changes,” said the team leader Hrvoje Potrebica, professor of the Archaeology Department of the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.
News of the sensational finding quickly spread among Croatian, but also European and global archaeologists and scientists, but the finding was preceded by long and arduous work. Archaeological research in Lumbarda is over a 100 years old. For a while interest in Lumbarda historical sites faded, but since 2000 it was restored.
This piece of the Psephisma was found by accident, as is common in the most interesting stories, with archaeologists not specifically looking for this globally valuable and important document, although it was found in the same place as all previous parts of the Psephisma. They were in fact researching and restoring another Lumbarda historical attraction on Koludrt – a Hellenistic tank.
The Hellenistic tank, in which all parts of the Psephisma were found, is an exceptionally well preserved object with a current size of about 17×10 meters. As dr.sc. Potrebica claims, the tank will be an attraction of Lumbarda in the touristic, scientific and cultural sense. The Lumbarda Psephisma was broken at one point and then used as waste to construct a house in the already existing tank. The archaeologist who found the important piece is Miro Vuković, who at first did not notice it belongs to the Psephisma, until the sun cast a shadow on the carved letters. He says the feeling is indescribable.
The fate and future of the 2.300 year old stone is already known. In two days it will be transferred to a laboratory in Zagreb and will undergo the most modern scientific analysis.
“This is a popular monument known around the world so the feeling is somewhat weird, as if a celebrity is coming in for surgery,” explained dr.sc. Potrebica with a laugh. “Except being an epigraphic monument, the stone is also an archaeological find so we will use forensic techniques to extract all possible information from it. Afterwards it will be taken over by restorers and conservationists who will piece it together with the rest of the monument and display it in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb for generations to come.”
Potrebica points out the research was funded by the Ministry of Culture, but notes the support and understanding from the district chiefs who understand the importance of this sensational find.
“We are thrilled by this find. From the moment in 1877 when our villager Božo Kršinić found the first part of the Psephisma, Lumbarda entered the world of archaeology as a star. We recognized the potential and importance of such findings, so Lumbarda District bought out the land on Koludrt. We are proud of the success of researchers and can note the excellent cooperation with dr.sc. Potrebica and the rest of the team. We plan to withdraw EU funds, protect the location, create access roads and make the Hellenistic tank into a touristic and scientific attraction. As the pride of Lumbarda, but also of Croatia,” said Igor Kršinić, Lumbarda District Chief.
As dr.sc. Potrebica stated, research will continue soon, when funds are ready. Since the same location provided a legal document from the 3rd century B.C., a waterworks system as well as a multitude of clay and ceramic objects, archaeologists speak of the possibility of finding an entire ancient Greek town.
Translated from Slobodna Dalmacija, to see images of the newly found piece and for the original text click here.