Hillforts - Castellieri - Gradine

Bronze Age Kunci hillfort as seen from Labin (Albona)

[In his January 8, 1846 letter to Don Matteo Musina, Pietro Kandler referred to hillforts as castellieri or gromazze in Italian and as gradine or gradishte (gradište) in Slavic.]

The first scientific work to describe gradine as prehistoric settlements is thought to be that written by Richard Francis Burton, then British consul in Trieste, under the title 'Notes on the Castellieri or Prehistoric Ruins of the Istrian Peninsula' and published in London in 1874, in Anthropologia (Italian translation: Burton 1877). Travelling alone or with local researchers who directed his attention to the phenomenon (Tommaso Luciani, Antonio Scampicchio, Carlo De Franceschi, Antonio Covaz), Burton visited a number of Istrian gradine. In his opinion, evidence that the remains were prehistoric rather than Roman included the finds of pottery, stone weapons, and tools, dry-stone ramparts surrounding the settlements, and inside, levelled-off plateaux and distinctly black soil. He noted that the gradine were sited on the tops of isolated hills and on the edges of promontories, overlooking deep valleys, which had been artificially levelled and surrounded by ramparts. He drew ground plans and showed the details of construction of Kunci gradina near Labin (Burton 1877: T. 8) and of Monkaštel near Červar (Poreč) (Burton 1877: T. 5-6). He visited many other sites, which he described separately. [Harry Fokkens, Anthony Harding, The Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age, OUP Oxford, 2013.]

General articles:

By specific authors:

Recent media articles:

Specific hillforts:

  • Barban (Barbana) - Bronze Age hillfort.
  • Beram (Vermo) - one of the oldest continuously populated settlements in Istria. Explorations of the prehistoric necropolis on the south slopes of Beram have shown with certainty that during the Iron Age a settlement already existed here. A conical hill above a fertile valley was an ideal place for a hillfort type settlement which lasted until 8th century B.C., surrounded by a simple rough wall following the terrain configuration. Over the ruins of these walls Roman forts and medieval castles were later built. A radial street pattern founded in some ancient times has been preserved in Beram to this day. The Beram necropolis was explored in 1883 by three archaeologists, each working independently of one another: Carlo Marchesetti, Karl Moser, and Andrea Amoroso; who, combined, explored over 170 graves, and deposited their findings in the museums of Vienna and Trieste.
  • Brijuni (Brioni) Island - fortified Bronze Age settlement on the homonzmous hill north of Verige Bay, with preserved walls, entrance and necropolis. The hill-fort population buried their dead under the stone tumulus in a grave of stone slabs. Such graves with skeleton burials in a bent position were found on the surrounding hilltops Ciprovac, Antunovac and Rankun. In the middle of the Bronze Age (14th century B.C.) which is when the necropolis at Gradina is dated, cemeteries were located along the settlement fortifications, and beside individual burials in stone graves there are also family graves.
  • Brtonigla (Verteneglio) - a picturesque hilltop medieval town on the foundation of the prehistoric hillfort.
  • Buje (Buie) - hillfort of St. Peregrin.
  • Červar Porat (Cervera) - remains of a hillfort are above the town.
  • Ćunski (Ciunschi), on Lošinj Island.
  • Dvigrad (Duecastelli).
  • Gračišće (Gallignana)
  • Ilovik (Asinello) Island - on the hill of Straža.
  • Jelarji (Elleri) - near Muggia.
  • Koper (Capodistria).
  • Krkavče (Castel S. Pietro / Carcase) - just outside the village, remains of a prehistoric hillfort and the famous Carcase stele, on which has been carved the figure of a man, said to date from the La Tène period (2nd to first century B.C.). Non lontano dall'abitato paese si possono vedere i resti di un castelliere preistorico e una famosa stele, detta di Carcase, su cui è scolpita la figura di un uomo e che si vuole risalga all'età di La Thene (II-I sec. a.C).
  • Kunci (Cunzi) - near Labin (Albona).
  • Labin (Albona) - a Liburnian hillfort of which nothing remains visible. 308 Meters altitude.
  • Lim (Leme)
  • Marcana (Marzana) - ruins of a hill fort and ancient graves on Ovcjak hill, west of the village.
  • Medulin (Medolino) - prehistoric hillforts can be found on the hill Vrčevan and Cape Kašteja (Punta Kateja).
  • Monkodonja (Moncodogno).
  • Montursino - near Vodnjan (Dignano).
  • Mordele (see Picugi / Pissughi) - near Poreć, this former hillfort also lies next to Mali Sveti Andeo Stone Circle, a tholos (see below), but was destroyed when the Venetians quarried it.
  • Mutvoran (Mormorano).
  • Nesactium (Nesazio) - now Vizace.
  • Nova Vas (Villanova del Quieto) - approx. 3.9 km SSE of Brtonigla (Verteneglio). See: Ausgrabunden auf dem Castellier von Villanova am Quieto in Istrien (Deutsche).
  • Pićan Pedena).
  • Picugi (Pizuge / Pizzughi) - near Poreč (Parenzo).
  • Pula (Pola) - developed out of a hillfort dating 18th-10th century, B.C.
  • Roč (Rozzo).
  • Sv. Katerina (Santa Caterina) Island - in the archipelago of Rovinj (Rovigno).
  • Uvala Maric - 3 tumulus / zigurat / mound - on the estate of the Dragonera Roman Villa close to the coast.
  • Veliki Sveti Anđelo (Monte S. Angelo) - near Poreč (Parenzo).
  • Vrčin (Monte Ursino) - Castelliere dell’età del Bronzo, nei pressi di Dignano d’Istria. All’esterno del suo vallo principale esisteva un sepolcreto gentilizio formato da 20 tombe a cassetta, ricavate da lastre calcaree. Le tombe erano circondate da muretti di pietre quadrangolari, che limitavano una specie di piattaforma, riempita di pietrisco e terriccio. I cadaveri erano rannicchiati, in posizione seduta. [http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/monte-ursino/.]
  • Žamask (Zamasco / Zumasco) - near Motovun (Montona).
  • Zrenj (Sdregna / Stridone) - in nearby Salez (Sale) is the large hillfort of St. George (Opatija).
Regions near Istria:
  • Trsat (Tersato) Hillfort - Claustra Alpium Iuliarum (http://www.ars-cartae.com/claustra/claustra.htm)
    The Trsat hillfort  is just a few steps from the Church of St. George and bears witness to the rich past of the city of Rijeka (Fiume) which spread over both banks of the Rječina (Fiumara) River. It dates back to the Illyrian tribe of Yapod in prehistoric times, was passed on to the Romans who built their fort on this site, and passed on to numerous owners, each of whom left their individual mark on the fortification. The appearance and usage of the hillfort was shaped through the centuries by the Frankopans, the Habsburgs, the Captains of Bakar and lastly by Count Laval Nugent. The hillfort has a unique view of the town and Kvarner Bay. During the summer, it is the today the cultural and artistic center of Rijeka, hosting art exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances and other types of entertainment. An audio-cassette about the history of the hillfort is available on the site. (Source: http://www.grad-rijeka.hr/default.asp?ru=304&sid=&akcija=&jezik=2)

Other Prehistoric Sites

Dolmen: (a prehistoric monument consisting of two or more upright stones supporting a horizontal stone slab found especially in Britain and France and thought to be a tomb / burial chamber):

Portal tomb:

  • Tramuntana - near Beli, Island of Cres / Cherso

Tholos / cairn: a round building of classical Greek date and style, or a circular tomb of beehive shape approached by a horizontal passage in the side of a hill.):

  • Maklavun - near village of Brajkovici, Šosići, and Rovinj.
  • Mali Sveti Anđelo (Piccolo S. Angelo) - near Poreč.

Tumulus / zugurat / mound:

  • Barbarija (Barbariga) - eight tumuli, near village of Toranj, on the estate of the Dragonera Roman Villa close to the coast.
  • Pula, contrada Valdenaga - Sull'altura detta «monte di Lezzo»... due grandi tumuli, uno sulla cima del monte, l'altro più a settentrione. [per Bernardo Schiavuzzi, "Attraverso l'agro colonico di Pola", 1908.]
  • Stinjan (Stignano) - per Bernardo Schiavuzzi, "Attraverso l'agro colonico di Pola", 1908.

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Created: Thursday, September 24, 1999; Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2016
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