Viminacium Archaeological Site

Viminacium Archaeological Site

Viminacium is the amazing archaeological site that was the capital of the Upper Moesia /Moesia Superior/ Roman Province and the military camp of the Roman Legio VII Claudia Pia Fidelis in the period from the 1st until the 4th century A.D. This large city and legion camp was the transition point between the West and the East. In 323 A.D. Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire to the Greek town of Byzantium and established a formal culture of church and state to Constantinople /current day Istambul/. Viminacium is situated 4 km from the confluence of the Mlava River into the Danube and 12 km away  from the town of Pozarevac and about 90 km south-east of Belgrade. The most important remains of the Viminacium town lie on the right bank of the Mlava River where once there were the military camp and the settlement from late 1st century. Christ’s monogram from 2nd century was discovered in Viminacium archaeological site and represents the oldest proof of early Christianity in this region. In Viminacium there are Emperor Hostelian’s mausoleum, temples, thermal baths, the north gate of the Military camp, an aquaduct and recently discovered Roman Pantheon and Amphitheater. The Viminacium Mausoleum is square in plan and it measures 20 by 20 meters. It has been built of stone blocks and ashlars and decorated with columns. The main building is in the central part of the Viminacium Mausoleum. Its dimensions are 5 x 5 meters and it has been built of green schist bonded by plaster. The stone bases at the corners of the buildings carried columns.

A tomb is in the central part of the structure, since more than 13500 tombs were found in Viminacium Archaeological site. The deceased person was laid on a wooden support and cremated on the spot with all the accoutrements. It is very remarkable that after the burial, a thin layer of earth was cast over the remains and then the entire space was closed by stone and lime plaster. This form of burial, known as bustum, is generally very rare, and it was quite exceptional in the period to which the Viminacium mausoleum belongs. The individual cremated and buried in this place must have been a person of great distinction in the Roman hierarchy. The osteological material from the Viminacium Mausoleum has been sent for a DNK analysis.

The Viminacium Mausoleum was probably plundered immediately after 312 AD, after the Milan Edict, and its ashlars and columns were used secondarily for the construction of some 4th century tombs. About twenty gold objects and a gilded fibula have been found in the immediate vicinity of the place of cremation. The importance of Viminacium was its extraordinary strategic position for the defense of northern borders of the Roman Empire, the complex of transport communications and trade. There used to be small trading and craftwork settlements next to the Viminacium Military camp.

The settlement on the left bank of the Mlava River grew into a city in the first half of the 2nd century during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, whilst Viminacium become a colony during the reign of Gordian III. It was granted the right for copper coin minting in 239. The Huns destroyed the city of Viminacium in the 5th century in 440, during their penetration. Emperor Justinian I reconstructed Viminacium in 535 building an additional small military fortification. Traces of that settlement with wide streets, squares, theaters, baths, plumbing and city walls can still be seen.

The finding of fresco-painted late antiquity tombs has special place within the exceptionally rich fund of Viminacium. Mostly all fresco-painted tombs of Viminacium belong to the late antique period /except two tombs dating from the beginning of the 3rd century/ that were found in the late antiquity level of the necropolis, sole standing of within the inside and outside of memorial buildings. About ten of memorial buildings /memoraie/ of rectangular, quadrant, cross-shape and trilateral basis have been researched at the necropolis of Viminacium. A memoria (family tomb) with sarcophagi was discovered during the excavations carried out in 1985. The structure, now on the premises of the thermo-electric plant “Drmno”, has been conserved and it is open to visitors. The memoria is rectangular in plan, oriented W-E, with the entrance on the west side. It has been built of bricks bonded with lime plaster. All the walls apart from the western one were demolished by plunderers. The tomb was covered with a barrel vault and painted. The colors were red, black, blue, green, ochre and white. The motifs represented in Viminacium tombs were geometric and floral designs. The memoria contained five burials. Three bodies were laid in stone sarcophagi, one was in a lead sarcophagus, and one was a simple burial. The sarcophagi feature relief decoration and are of considerable artistic worth. All the graves of Viminacium were plundered, and the sarcophagi were considerably damaged on that occasion.

It has been possible to establish the order of burials and the phases of construction of the memoria based on the relationship between the graves. The burial in the lead sarcophagus was the earliest. The two burials in stone sarcophagi came next. After that, the tomb was built and the floor was made. This was followed by another burial in a stone sarcophagus, and the last burial was made in a simple pit dug in the ground. The Thermal baths of Viminacium are distinguished not only by their luxury but also by their architectural design. The long period during which they remained in use (1st-4th century) makes it possible to trace the individual stages in their construction. The archaeological explorations of Viminacium Archaeological Site have shown that there were five conchses, four of which were the so-called tepidaria (warm rooms) and the fifth one was a frigidarium (cold room). The remains of fresco paintings in baths testify to the luxury of the establishment. The large number of oil lamps found in the bath premises shows that they were used also at night.

Nowadays the only existing Viminacium remains, such are the marble sculptures, tombstones and sarcophagus, jewellry and pottery are exposed in the National Museums in Pozarevac and Belgrade. There are expert guides all year round to take visitors around the Viminacium Archaeological site – that was turned into the Archaeological Park – and a dozen of Roman carriages for those keen to take a “Roman ride”. At the Viminacium Archaeological site there is also a Roman tavern to have a drink or a true “Roman meal”. Souvenir shops sell wine, pottery, jewellry, souvenirs and brochures on Viminacium. Many tourists from all over the world visit Viminacium while cruising along the Danube, and take memorable experiences during the tour.

From its foundation until this day Viminacium makes one of the most significant cultural sites of Serbia, and the favorite tourist destination of the tours we operate. Recently we have widened our successful cooperation, by providing accommodation to our visitors at the Viminacium site, along with unique touristic animation to our customers, who are welcome to stay at the Attrium C of the site, in 4 single rooms, 6 double rooms and 3 triple comfortable rooms. VIsitors of the Viminacium site enjoy in authentic Roman meal which contains 2 kinds of meat in special sauce, prepared by the recipte from the 3rd century, and wines served in amphora. Thanks to those unique and pleasant accommodation facilities, the Viminacium Site provides thus best experiences of the Roman inheritance on the Danube Limes in Serbia for numerous researchers and visitors from all over the world.

Recently, just 300 meters from Viminacium Archaeological Park an extraordinary record of the whole postcranial skeleton and one part of skull of the fossil proboscidean Mammuthus sp was achieved. It is the oldest representative of genus Mammuthus (mammoth) – species M. meridionalis and belonged to a male Mammuthus that reached Europe from South Africa few million years ago. This finding in Viminacium Archaeological site – in 2009 – makes an important phenomenon not only for Serbia but also for the natural history of the whole planet. The female skeleton was discovered in the layer of yellow sand, 27 meters above the surface. Paleontologists estimate according to the depth where the sleketon was found that the animal had lived here between 400.000 and million years ago, and probably belonged to the species of Mammuthus meridionalis, that contains the oldest mammals in Europe. Three years later there have been seven more mammoth skeletons found at the Viminacium site…

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