Gradina Archaeological Site Jelica Mountain

Gradina Archaeological Site Jelica Mountain

Archaeological site of Gradina had been established possibly during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, and is located in Dragacevo area on the mountain of Jelica, 8 km south-west from Cacak on the altitude of 846 meters. The dominating peak of Jelica Mountain is easily visible from the spot and was populated in the prehistorical and early Byzantine and the Medieval periods and was used as the permanent habitat with workshops and cattle stables. The location chosen for the Gradina stronghold provided excellent conditions for visual control of the surroundings – the West Morava River, Dragačevo and wider area.

The archaeological site of Gradina on Jelica Mountain is first mentioned in 1865 in reports of Janko Šafarik, the pioneer of the Serbian archeology. After explorations of Safarik and some accidental excavations carried out on this locality, from where artifacts were taken away and some of them kept in the Cacak Museum. Unfortunately the heaviest destruction of the archaeological site of Gradina happened in the 50-ties of the 20th century when the stones from the site were used for construction of the road from Čačak to Goračići. Then the number of stone plaques with inscriptions with the name of the fortified city /which is still nowadays secret/ were broken and taken away. At the present the part of the movable excavated artifacts are exhibited in the National Museum in Cacak. Since the middle of the 20th century and at present excavations are carried out by Dr Mihailo Milinković from the Philosophic Faculty from Belgrade. Until today only smaller part of the Gradina archaeological site is explored which designates it the protected Monument of Culture. The Gradina locality is a multilayered site with remains dated to the Early Iron Age (8th-7th cen-tury B.C.), early Byzantine (6th-7th century A.D.) and early Medieval period (second half of 7th – beginning of 10th century A.D.).

It is evidenced that the first settlers of Gradina archaeological site settled here some time about 7 century BC according to the present day excavated finds and artifacts. Some artifacts of the Gradina site date from the 3rd century AD and the period of the Roman Empire. Up to now the most significant horizon of Gradina archaeological site belongs to the Early Byzantine period from the 6th century AD. During the reign of Emperor Justinian /527-565/ the new town has been built and the old town structures were rebuilt in the whole Empire to prevent Barbarian and German and Avarian and Slovenes attacks. During those migrations ancestors of Serbs also arrived to those areas. By excavations in Gradina archaeological site the remains of fire were discovered what marks the destruction evidence of the settlement in big fire. An arrow that was used by Avars was found as well.

The excavated remains testify that Gradina site was important center of this part of antique Serbia which existed as the settlement on Jelica Mountain for quite a short period. The walls surrounded the Gradina fortification stronghold which spread on the surface of several hectares, but the site also comprises the surrounding slopes with the churches and graveyards. Up to now there were 68 graves excavated at the Gradina site – male, women and children, mostly concentrated around the church. Graves were usually dig without special construction, oriented in direction east-west. In the complex of Gradina there were two churches of whom one was located on the top of the hill and is excavated by the finished research. That Gradina church was visible from the large distance. In the Lower part of the town there was the Church with the Baptistery with preserved frescoes dating back to the 6th century which are nowadays exposed in the National Museum in Cacak. Besides frescoes the number of carved stones were found. The residential building was found close to the church. Carved stones, decorated object, capitols and parts of columns were found on that spot. The archaeological researches testify on the presence of antiquity artisans with their workshops. Amphora of the Mediterranean origin determines well-developed merchants connections and needs for improvement their way of lives which is directly connected with usage of wines, olive oil and delicatessen food. It is also evidence of the good quality of life of Gradina inhabitants who were most probably members of church and administrators, as well as merchants and officers. It is assumed that Gradina was the Episcopal Seat. In front of Gradina walls the remains of three churches exist that are surrounded with number of graves. There are numerous artifacts in Gradina site connected with Germans that testify on the symbiosis of Romans and Germans who were most probably in military service.

Gradina archaeological site on Jelica Mountain was surrounded with the series of small fortifications in the villages of Ostra, Lisa, Vica and Vučkovica. According to the accomplished excavations Gradina site took the prestigious title in this part of the region with the military administration and the merchandise and the church and the artisan roles. At the end of the 6th or at the beginning of the 7th century Gradina was destroyed in huge fire which was initiated by Barbarian attack. It was the end of the last traces of the ancient civilization in this region. After several centuries our ancestors used Gradina as stronghold and shelter. The evidences of pottery from the 10th and the 11th centuries document this suggestion. The archaeological excavations in Gradina site on Jelica Mountain are still underway whose future finds will widen and fulfill our knowledge on this significant archaeological site in Serbia.