Viminacium Archaeological Site

Viminacium Archaeological Site

Viminacium is the amazing archaeological site of Serbia that was one of the prosperous Illyric cities in antiquity and the capital of the Upper Mezija /Mezija 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 organization in Constantinople /current day Istanbul Turkey/. Viminacium site is situated 4 km from the confluence of the Mlava River into the Danube River, and 12 km away  from the town of Pozarevac and about 90 km south-east of Belgrade. The most important remains of the Viminacium Roman town are 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 aqua-duct 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, as more than 13500 tombs were found in the 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 craft work 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. Viminacium mint which had been in production from the time of Gordian to the time of Gallenius, in addition to the bronze coinage of Col/onia/ Vim/inacium/ P/rovinciae/ M/oesiae/ S/uperior/ had also struck the bronze coins of the Provincia Dacia.

The Huns completely destroyed the city of Viminacium in the 5th century in 440, during their conquiring campaign of penetration. In 535 the Emperor Justinian I reconstructed Viminacium by 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 period of late antiquity /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, ocher 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.

The earliest scientific excavations on this extraordinary important locality started in 1882 by Mihailo Valtrovic. Excavations in Viminacium continued at the beginning of the 20th century by personal donation of Queen Draga Obrenovic who provided resumption of works. (Slavica Kaya Psodorov)

Nowadays some of the existing Viminacium remains, such are the marble sculptures, tombstones and sarcophagus, jewelry 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”. Viminacium Souvenir shops sells wine, souvenirs and various replicas of different finds excavated on numerous parts of the site such are pottery, jewelry, frescoes 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.

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 Viminacium layer of yellow sand, 27 meters above the surface. Paleontologists estimate according to the depth where the skeleton 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…

From its foundation until this day the Viminacium site 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 original recipe from the 3rd century, along with wines served in amphora. As the education of young and youth is one of the primary goals of the Viminacium site, there are numerous educational tour activities focused on entertainment while learning that best promote archaeology. Some of them are “Mystery of Emperor’s death” – in German, English and Serbian languages, and the „Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae“ /available in Serbian and English/. It was in 2008 at the Viminacium Domus when the special program of “Nauka za sve – Scienza per tutti” was organized in cooperation with Universities of Ancona and Bologna. The Children Science Camp is organized at the Viminacium site for children from 8 till 14 years since 2013 every summer. Professional team of animators closely cooperate with the Center for Promotion of Science of Serbia and educate children how to use and take part in the sciences. Besides the educational courses activities there is the Viminacium Adventure Park whose amazing elements with water obstacles and layers truly excite all young visitors. There is also a comfortable accommodation for children visitors – students at the Viminacium Hostel that contains multi-beds rooms with shared bathrooms. Thanks to such original and comfortable accommodation and food catering and educational facilities, the Viminacium Archaeological 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.

Special Serbia Tour

East Serbia Mystics

Serbia – Bulgaria – Romania Grand Tour

Danube Mystical Journey

Roman Emperors Route – Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae

Balkan Roundtrip

Intriguing Serbia

Serbia Kaleidoscope

Young Researchers and Archaeologists Tour

Roman Emperors Route and Wine Serbia-Bulgaria