Archaeological site Doljani – Dubine, municipality of Čapljina in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A contribution to the research of the lower course of the river Neretva


Snježana Vasilj


From 2009 to 2011, in the foothills of Gradina in Doljani, at a site Dubine in a municipality of Čapljina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the remains of a larger ancient building have been investigated. During the investigation an interesting archaeological material was found which has confirmed the continuity of the settlement from prehistory to the Late Middle Ages. Especially
important are early medieval graves dug into the remains of an ancient building. In total, 5 skeletal graves have been unearthed. Apart from the fact that these graves are the southernmost early medieval burials in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia as well, the graves pointed to a number of interesting features. Among them, graves 1 and 4 proved to be particularly
significant. In the grave number 4, an adult female, in a half-sitting position, was buried directly into the ground. On the chest, between her hands, there was a ceramic vessel containing human osteological material: bones of an infant between 1,5 and 3 years old, as well as foot and hand bones of an adult. In addition, next to her, there were skeletal remains of two other
infants less than two years old. At the foothills of Gradina in Doljani, municipality of Čapljina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the ruins of a larger ancient building, early medieval graves were found. A total of 5 graves containing skeletal remains
of five adults and of three children were excavated. Due to the wall of the ancient building, instead of eastwest what was the usual grave orientation at the time, the graves were oriented north-south with a head to the south. In addition, specific architectural interventions were noticed on the graves. On the north side where the feet were located, the grave number 2 was
paved with stone slabs, fragments of tegulae, imbrices and amphorae. It was separated from the grave no. 3, which was mostly under it, by a layer of crushed stone and earth. These interventions on graves no. 3, 4 and 5 were related to the levelling of grave’s surfaces and a space next to the skull. Below the grave no. 3, bedrock was carved and bumps in graves 4 and 5 were
levelled by earth, stone and ancient building material. As far as the skull area interventions are concerned, they are registered on graves no. 3, 4 and 5. In all threecases, there were larger or smaller stones mixed with fragments of tegulae stacked in semi-circle above the skulls to the shoulder level. Out of all excavated graves, the grave number 1 proved to be particularly interesting. In this grave, an adult female in a half-sitting position was buried next to the bedrock under a foundation of the ancient wall A, in a corner between it and a partition wall B. In her grave, there were also the skeletal remains of two
infants less than two years old and a ceramic vessel, placed on her chest, containing foot and hand bones of an adult and bones of an infant between 1,5 and 3 years old. In this context a number of questions arise which, in this case, do not exclude the possibility of a particular family or a cult ritual in which an adult female was buried together with children in the ceramic vessel. Although group burials, and even those with children, are registered at some sites, this example seems unique. In this case, as in the grave no. 4, where besides the bones of the left hand, two animal bones (of some waterfowl and a smaller mammal) were found, it was not the case of a ritual offering for the deceased but more likely a particular cult act. Hence, the ceramic vessel, due to the nature of the content from it, cannot be regarded as an urn but as a vessel with ritual function.
This vessel, as well as the another one (almost identical) from the grave no. 5, proved to be very important finds since small amount of archaeological material was found (small lead artefact similar to spindle whorl from grave no. 5 which was found beneath a skull and it could be worn as a pendant and a recent gilded silver decoration in a shape of a strawberry
as a part of a temple ring which, although inappropriate dating material, indicates the continuity of the settlement). The vessel, asymmetrical in shape, made by hand without potter’s wheel and in a size larger than usual, opened the possibility to look at these burials, which are typical for the time period (in some segments they could be related to the type of cemeteries
with graves in rows), in the aspect of the earlymedieval pagan burial customs. Although these types of graves are dated from the mid-eight by to the midninth century, in my opinion, this find, given the set of circumstances, could be seen as somewhat earlier i.e. from 7th century. 


How to Cite
Vasilj, S. (2022). Archaeological site Doljani – Dubine, municipality of Čapljina in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A contribution to the research of the lower course of the river Neretva. Godišnjak Centra Za balkanološka Ispitivanja, (41), 113–134.