In Layers of Time
From that small hill, on the former confluence of the Nišava and South Morava rivers, the most important roads in this part of Europe were controlled, through many millennia. The first archaeological explorations were conducted in 1935, and afterwards in the 1950’s. Since then, this site has been on the map of the most important sites from the Copper Age, and an entire archaeological culture was named after it (Bubanj-Hum). Meanwhile, under the influence of erosive and other forces, Bubanj almost disappeared. We visited a team of experts of the Archaeological Institute from Belgrade and the National Museum from Niš, who are very much in a hurry

Text and photographs: NR Pres

A few kilometers from the centre of modern day Niš, in the central part of Niško polje, in Novo Selo, there is a lone little hill Bubanj, only a few dozen square meters big. This is one of the most important prehistoric archaeological sites in Serbia, the ”key” that solves many questions related to the Copper Age in the Central Balkans. The little hill is situated on the former confluence of the Nišava and South Morava rivers. In the Copper Age, an intersection of the most important roads in this part of Europe was controlled through many centuries.
New, revision explorations of Bubanj began in 2008, organized by the Archaeological Institute from Belgrade and the National Museum from Niš. This year, National Review visited a small, but diligent group of architects, led by Dr Aleksandar Bulatović from the iz Archaeological Institute, who have been exploring this site for several years.
– The first excavations in this area – says Dr Bulatović – were conducted by the National Museum before World War Two, more specifically in 1935. It was clear even then that this site is extremely important for our understanding of the Copper Ager period in this part of Europe, namely ethnological and cultural permeations and mass relocations of former populations. The fact is that, in this area, it is possible to understand influences of peoples using copper objects, both to the south and east of the area of Niš ravine, in Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece, and to the north from here, in the Region of the Danube basin, in the Copper Ager (between the fifth and the third millennium BC). After pioneer research, big explorations in the 1950’s were conducted by professor Garašanin, an academician, who basically confirmed the significance of Bubanj and put this site on the European map of the most significant archaeological sites from the Copper Age. On this occasion, one archaeological culture (Bubanj-Hum) was named after this site.
On the other hand, since these first explorations – continues Dr Bulatović – the site has almost disappeared! Namely, after the war, Bubanj occupied an area of several hectares, but because of the construction of railway, highway and a few other anthropogenic factors, today it is preserved only on an area of 150 square meters. Based on some estimates, in 10 years erosion would take its toll and the site would simply disappear. Additionally, there is a problem with previous explorations – he adds – namely, the documentation and materials from the campaign from the 1930’s perished during the bombing of Niš in 1944, when the Museum itself was hit by a bomb, whereas the documentation of professor Garašanin is incomplete or has deteriorated during these six decades. As the result of all this, the Archaeological Institute from Belgrade and the National Museum from Niš have decided to organize a new project of exploration of Bubanj and to use the most advanced technological methods in order to obtain maximum of data and materials before the site completely disappears.


– Based on our estimates, n three to four years we could complete the exploration of Bubanj. This is the best method of protection of mobile cultural heritage from this site. Fortunately, the Ministry of Culture of Serbia and the city of Niš have realized the importance of this project, so that explorations are now being conducted in accordance with a plan, from year to year.
New archaeological explorations take place slowly and accurately, and entire material undergoes careful review and is separated and forwarded for analysis to many experts: archaeologists, zoologists, anthropologists, geologists, mineralogists, physicists and others. by now, we have uncovered remains of houses and architectural structures from the older Neolithic Age, older and younger Copper Age and older Bronze Age, as well as a small cemetery from the Middle Ages.
– The oldest artifacts found in Bubanj date from the middle Neolithic Age, when Starčevo culture dominated in these areas. In recent explorations we uncovered one dugout, with related objects – says Dr Bulatović. – many interesting archaeological artifacts come from the layers of the Copper Age, where we have uncovered residential and defense structures, as well as a large number of diverse artifacts made of ceramics, bone, stone and metal. Especially interesting are vessels covered with some of copper oxides or, which is even more interesting, vessels covered with a thin layer of gold dust. These findings are a testimony not only of the more advanced ceramic production, but of the wealth of population from the Copper Age, as well as their artistic aspirations. Additionally, several toms with jewelry from the Middle Ages were discovered.
If the explorations are completed in accordance with the defined project and timeline, Bubanj will not be reduced to artifacts in a museum – concludes Dr Bulatović. After the last exploration campaign, construction of archaeological park in Bubanj area has been agreed with the city administration of Niš. This park would include reconstructions of residential and other buildings from the time of Neolith and Copper Age. In this way, this important archaeological site would be presented in full light, which it deserves, and lives of people in the prehistory of our region would be presented to tourists in an easily acceptable way.


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