Timacum Minus – Ravna Archaeological Site
Territory of present day Serbia was once the part of the huge Roman Empire. Three mining-metallurgical regions aboundant in gold, silver, copper, iron and lead could be distinguished in the Eastern Serbia: 1. the upper course of the Pek river, metalla Pincensia, 2. the area between Bor, Zlot, Crna Reka and Rgotina and 3. the area in the river basin of Beli Timok, two latter ones had been organized as territoria metallorum.
Many of the Roman emperors – 17 Emperors – were born in the area of present day Serbia where important archaeological sites are evident. Timacum Minus /Ravna, Kuline or Gradište/ is the oldest ancient military fortification in Timok River region. Timacum Minus archaeological site is located near the Ravna village, at the left bank of the White Timok River, 15 km north-east of Knjaževac, once Timacum Maius, on the south-eastern slopes of Tupiznica Mountain.
Timacum Minus – Ravna archaeological site derives its name from the name it had in antiquity, Latin Timacum after the River of Beli Timok that is formed by the confluence of the rivers of Svrljiski and Trgoviski Timok. Timacum Minus fortification and axillary settlement date from the 1st century AD and remains through the four reconstructions until the era of Emperor Justinian and his renewal of Empire in the 6th century. Timacum Minus was the administrative center of the wider region /territorium/ whose main economy was mining – copper exploitation and processing. This region which was the Imperial property was headed by the officer who lead the legion while works on the terrain was organized by the territory prefect with his quarter /officium/. Ore was dug from the valley of Trgovički Timok River as well as from the area of Stara Planina Mountain. The post-Trajanic fortification is attested in Timacum Minus in the Timok River Valley on the road between Naissus and Ratiaria which was garrisoned at least from the reign of Emperor Vespasian, notably by cohors I Thracym Syriaca in the period from Vespasian to Marcus Aurelius. A unit of auxiliary cavalry was placed in Timacum Minus, another likely site of a military base where a veteran colony was established under Trajan. The statue of Dionysos, the Roman god of wine was found in Timacum Minus. Records prove that Roman legions used delicious wines produced in this region before they started their battles. In the records of the ancient writers from the 3rd and the 4th centuries this region is described as the rich wine producing area.
Timacum Minus fort of rectangular shape /110×138,5 m/ was erected in the 1st century AD. Its walls were built from earth with wooden towers on the angles surrounded by trenches. Timacum Minus was mentioned in 78 AD as the seat of the Roman unit – cohort I Thracum Syriaca which was transferred to Moesia Superior when Cohors II Aurelia Dardanorum was assigned to the fort. When reconstructed the fort of Timacum Minus got towers with walls built from the monuments of the nearby former necropolis The stone Timacum Minus fortification with oval angles on the inner side where there were four-sided towers was built on the same surface and constructed from lime-stone and small river stones in molter. In the middle of the west wall there was the main gate 3 meters wide with 2 towers on both sides /porta principalis sinistra/ while the northern wall had a simple 2 meters wide passage /porta decumana/. Inside the Timacum Minus fortification there were various structures /horreum, principia/. The last reconstruction of Timacum Minus fortification was carried out during the reign of Emperor Justinian when Timacum Minus was the part of the Inner Limes Defense from barbarous attacks. Its feature is that walls of some towers form the triangle or five-angle with sharp end on the outer side. Such strengthens were usual in the other forts of that period where intense attacks were expected. Dozens of the Roman monuments with characteristic notes /sacrificial place, emperors honored notes, tombstones etc/ as well as numerous antique examples of bronze and marble sculpture, jewellery, glass, money and relief and objects of incomparable artistic and crafts values have been found in Timacum Minus archaeological site during the comprehensive scientific excavations. Large number of objects were found by locals during their usual agricultural works. During the Middle Ages on this place was the large necropolis. From preserved descriptions and plans it is clear that the strong fort with high well-preserved walls and towers had the dominant position. The axillary settlement on 20 ha comprising living quarters, villas, temples and baths was found in the close vicinity.
The archaeological complex of Timacum Minus – Ravna consists of the following parts :
Timacum Minus Fort /1st-6th century AD/ was used the camp of the Roman axillary units – cohorts that numbered from 500 to 1000 soldiers and horses. The fortification itself from its foundation was reconstructed several times what is still visible on its walls. The camp inside the fort was organized by the usual Roman rules /the right angles, gates on all four sides of the fort/ with only one building which was probably used for drinking water storage.
Timacum Minus Baths /termae/ date from the 2nd century and were reconstructed in the 4th century. They sit on the system of small colonnades on the floor between which the warm air heating rooms used to pass. The entrance to the baths was from the eastern side and used as the wardrobe with warmed rooms and two strongly heated rooms as well as the cold bath with small pool. This was the favorite place of solders. The baths of Timacum Minus are located at the bank of White Timok River, some hundred meters from the fort and on the south-eastern angle of it the remains of the next Roman bath were found.
Lapidarium of Timacum Minus – Ravna archaeological site is located in the school-yard of Ravna village and includes the collection of wonderfully carved Roman stone monuments found during the archaeological excavation in 1975-1990. Mostly those Roman stone monuments come from the walls of the Timacum Minus fortification or are gifts from the locals or from the private collection of Ljubisa Rajkovic-Kozeljac. Usually they are the tombs monuments all with inscription and beautifully carved decorations that sometimes present the whole family. They are very important source of research to understand Roman military and administrative and ethical and social and cultural and religious issues that are besides old written documents not very well known. Roman monuments with written inscription from Timacum Minus – Ravna archaeological site are exhibited in the Museum of Nis within the lapidarium of Nis fortification.
The archaeological complex of Timacum Minus – Ravna includes the Ethno-park with authentic structures of traditional architecture and related ethnographic objects from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century /wheat storage, home-made brandy production place/. The activities of the National Museum in Belgrade in the field of conservation, particularly since the creation of the Diana Summer School of Conservation and the founding of the Diana Department for Preventive Conservation, are especially recognizable, important and valuable in the field of preventive conservation. Those activities have provided a unique and recognizable tourist product of Serbia offering opportunity for Timacum Minus tourists and visitors to East Serbia to discover the cultural heritage by active participation in the workshops of the traditional manufacture of ceramics conducted by professional artists-potters. We are excited to promote and operate our tours which include such attractive presentation and reconstruction of the both archaeological and ethnological techniques and technologies of the intangible cultural heritage and workmanship in order to safeguard traditional manufacturing methods and provide our clients memorable experiences. Excitements are completed with the authentic food of East Serbia served on the spot !
The first archaeological excavations of Timacum Minus archaeological site date from 1899 carried out by Antun von Premerštajn and Nikola Vulić. In recent times excavations started in 1975 conducted by the Archaological Institute from Belgrade and the Museum in Knjaževac. The most important part of the rich collection of Timacum Minus archaeological site is kept in museums in Belgrade, Nis, Zajecar and Knjazevac. Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute from Nis takes care on Conservation and Restoration works. Archaeological excavation and conservation works on Timacum Minus – Ravna archaeological site are in process. Timacum Minus archaeological complex is located 280 km away from Belgrade.