Swiss and Macedonian archaeologists apply new research methods in Ohrid

Local news, 23.08.2018

Swiss archaeologists, along with their Macedonian colleagues, applied for the first time new research methods in their study of a prehistoric pile dwelling site in Ohrid. The pilot project between the University of Bern, the Center for Prehistoric Research in Skopje and the Museum of Ohrid, resulted in a novel understanding of this unique archeological site.

Bay of Bones, Gradishte, Ohrid © FDFA

This summer, new sophisticated archaeological methods were performed in the prehistoric pile dwelling settlement "Ploca-Micov Grad" (Bay of Bones) near Gradiste in Ohrid. Swiss and Macedonian archaeologists applied dendrochronology to determine the exact age of the wooden piles from the settlement, and better understand the architectural features and material culture of the communities that established the settlement. Besides dendrochronology, the Swiss archaeologists also implemented photogrammetry (visualization of the site in 3D format) and GIS modelling (precise digital location of each feature of the site). The findings provided an understanding of the site that had not been achieved so far.

Swiss Ambassador in Macedonia Sybille Suter Tejada visited the Bay of Bones in Ohrid during the research activities in order to get first-hand information about this Swiss-Macedonian cooperation. The host, Professor Dr. Albert Hafner from the Institute of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bern, explained the entire research process, expressing his surprise at some of the findings. “Although in its initial stage, this project already provides outstanding results concerning the quantity of piles used for buildings, their quality and their unusual large size. The dendrochronology can provide entire new perspectives in understanding this prehistoric site, not only in terms of dating, but also regarding the environment common to the period when this settlement was active,” said professor Hafner.

In addition to these field activities, the Swiss archaeologists also established a dendrochronological laboratory at the Museum of Macedonia in Skopje, where trained Macedonian experts will apply this method on other objects such as archaeological artifacts and wood structures, medieval icons, as well as instruments and household objects from the past two centuries.

Highlighting the constructive collaboration between the Swiss and Macedonian archaeologists, Goce Naumov from the Center for Prehistoric Research in Skopje, explained that this particular cooperation opened new opportunities for Macedonian archaeology and the possibility to integrate recent archaeological methods that were so far not available in the country. “The last research season of this pile dwelling at the Lake Ohrid went very well and provided outstanding new knowledge of the site primarily as result of the dedicated work and mutual respect of the Macedonian and Swiss archaeologists,” added Naumov.

In the next years, it is expected that the collaboration between the Swiss and Macedonian archaeologists will continue with additional projects. The collaboration on the prehistoric pile dwelling settlements at Lake Ohrid might even lead to a possible proposal to include the site in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Over 1000 archaeological pile dwellings in the Alpine region are already included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Of these, 56 are located in Switzerland, and the others are in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Slovenia.