Kale Kresevica archaeological site – Damastion

Kale Kresevica archaeological site – Damastion

In the village of Krševica in South Serbia, in the upper basin of the Juzna Morava River on the plateau above the Krševica River, sections of the the urban settlement have been discovered whose oldest discoveries date from the end of the Bronze Age and from the Iron Age (12th – 7th centuries BC). Substantial layers with architectural remains and other large quantities of finds of the Kresevica site date from the beginning of the 4th century BC to the first decades of the 3rd century BC with evidences that the locality did not experience any violent destruction.

Damastion was an ancient city attested in Strabo whose history goes back to the 13th century BC as a settlement with elements of an urban acropolis, built after Greek models and which reached its peak at the time of Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Damastion or Damastium, in the Illyro-Paeonian region, possibly in the neighborhood of modern Kosovo and Metohija, and known for its silver mines. However, Strabo mentions Damastion without giving its position. There are number of hypotheses about its location. Damastion coins findings (that have inscription “ΔΑΜΑΣΤΙΝΩΝ”) originate from south Serbia, east Macedonia and west Bulgaria. The most recent location that was proposed was on slopes of Rujan Mountain, in the village of Krsevica, 15 km south-east of Vranje (southern Serbia) (Popovic, P., Kale-Krsevica excavations 2001-2004, Bulletin of the National Museum Vranje, 33: 25-49, 2005.). The city was inhabited by the Illyrian/Dardanian tribe of the Damastini, and was ruled at one time during the 4th century BC by their king Bardyllis. The city was known in antiquity for its silver mines, whose exact location, like that of the city itself, is today unknown. In the 5th century BC Greeks from Aegina had colonized the city. The circulation of the coins of Damastion included Dardania (Metohija and the Morava River valley) and beyond, and to the west the southern Adriatic coast. The city of Damastion and its silver mines were captured by Philip II of Macedon after he defeated Dardanian King Bardylis. After the 5th century BC and the Wars of Peloponese, Greeks from Aegina and the town of Menda have established the town of Damastion famous for silver coins and export of this metal dug from nearby mines. It is mentioned by Strabon who lived in the times from the old era towards the new era. In the vicinity of Krševica village, as testified by toponymes there were many lead and silver mines used from the oldest periods up to Saxons and later.

Damastion silver coins were found on the location of Krševica. In the settlement that have urban characteristics they experienced luxurious life. The examples of luxurious ceramics have been found confirming by amphora that wine and olive oil was delivered here from Thasos and town of Menda. As trading element silver was transferred back. The largest settlement was located on the slopes beneath the acropolis. Kale /the Turkish term for a fortification/ is located near Bujanovac on one of the last elevations that descend from the peaks of Rujan Mountains towards the Juzna /South/ Morava River and the Vranje Valley. It had an exceptional strategic position and the earliest finds on the plateau date from the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age. The most important remains and ramparts, buildings and abundant archaeological material all of which have characteristics of an urban settlement date from the 4th century and the first decades of the 3rd century BC. Its acropolis and suburbium which extended down to the Valley of Krsevicka River encompassed the area of around 4 hectares. At the foot of the hill are the present day village houses and gardens and ancient stone blocks taken from the nearby slope can often be seen in their walls. The settlement remains lay immediately beneath the present surface and according to many indications so do graves of the cemetery of the ancient inhabitants. The acropolis was protected on two sides by a wide ditch and rampart while the remains of structures dating from different building phases often disturbed by leveling horizons were discovered on the plateau. A complex of building dating from the latest horizon on surface of about 1000 square meters was discovered in the central area. The eastern and northern buildings consisting of several rooms had been built of stone and sun-dried bricks and covered with large roof tiles. The settlement also spread over the northeastern slope facing the Krsevicka River but because of the dense vegetation the investigation of this area is still in the initial phase. In the trenches excavated towards the southwestern periphery of the plateau and which the certain structures were encountered two silver drachmas of Alexander III and one bronze coin of Demetrios Poliorketes have been found. Yet another bronze coin of Demetrios was discovered in the central area also containing the northern building. Finds of coins of Philip II, Alexander III, Cassander, Demetrios Poliorketes and Pelagia correspond in general to the chronological span of the archaeological material discovered so far in the course of excavations.

The first findings on the Kale Krsevica site were recorded in 1966. The latest three years archaeologists research the lower part of the Kale urban settlement where several structures and massif defense from the river as the wall on the Krševicka river besides the water storage as well-preserved antique building was found. Nearly two and half thousands of years since the foundation of the settlement did a lot of changes. The lower part of the Kale urban settlement was leveled by layers of earth for hundreds of years. The numbers of bread stoves were found on Kale Krsevica archaeological site. Beside the western side of the water storage which is the oldest one and the best preserved antique structure towards the slopes, large pitos and stone blocks with variety of material were found. Those finds deserve future excavations. Excavation works in Krsevica near Bujanovac and archaeological research are underway.