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Archaeological Rescue Excavations at Stari Grad Dubovac 2009-2010

Tatjana Tkalčec orcid id ; Institute of Archaeology, Zagreb, Croatia
Snježana Karavanić ; Institute of Archaeology, Zagreb, Croatia
Andreja Kudelić orcid id ; Institute of Archaeology, Zagreb, Croatia

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In winter 2009 and spring 2010, the Institute of Archaeology conducted archaeological rescue excavations at Stari Grad Dubovac. The Stari grad (Old Town) of Dubovac lies on an elevated position above the River Kupa, at the north-western edge of the wider area of the town of Karlovac. It consists of three round towers and one tower with a rectangular ground-plan that served as a watchtower. The walled fortification was erected on a prehistoric elevation, next to which, on the eastern elevated plateau, the remains of the mediaeval church of St. Michael can still be made out under the surface. On the basis of historical documentation, it has been concluded that near the end of the 14th century Dubovac came under the ownership of the noble Zudara (Sudara) family. In the year 1442, Dubovac was rented by Prince Stjepan Frankopan, who was Viceroy, and soon became the property of the Krk-Frankopan princes. Dubovac was owned by them until the middle of the 16th century, when the Zrinski family became its proprietors.
The first archaeological trial excavations at Stari Grad Dubovac were conducted in 1958. Rescue excavations with the aim of drainage and restoration 2008. In the excavations, a segment of a defence trench and the remains of an older wall that passed parallel to the trench were unearthed. In the eastern part of the courtyard, a cistern was cleaned and presented. The foundations of what is presumed to be an older Romanesque tower were also revealed. At a depth of approximately one metre, the well-preserved remains of houses from the early Hallstatt period were found. At a depth of two metres, finds from the Aeneolithic were unearthed. In the watchtower, layers of a modern-era cellar were excavated.
In the excavations conducted by the Institute of Archaeology in the eastern watchtower with a rectangular ground-plan, beneath layers of the modern-era cellar, a mediaeval defensive ditch was defined and all its fill layers excavated. Prehistoric and late mediaeval finds were unearthed in them. In sector F, between towers B and C, another segment of the defence ditch was found. It was discovered that the upper parts of the top of the eastern part of the ditch, i.e. the part closest to the centre of the hill, had not been preserved. They had been damaged by modern-era interventions. The western part of the ditch gave a clearer picture. It can be identified in layer SU 095. At its upper, preserved level, the mediaeval defence ditch was 4.80 m wide, and towards the bottom took on the shape of a funnel. The distance between the preserved top and the bottom is 2.5 metres, while that between the present-day surface of the soil and the bottom is more than 3.5 metres. The profile, workmanship, design and shape of vessels dug from the fills of the defensive ditch suggest material dating from the 14th to the 16th century. Typical forms from earlier periods – the end of the 12th and the 13th century (a time in which, as suggested by analogies, we might also assume the existence of a fortification on the site) have not been found, but it is possible that some atypical finds originate from the 13th century. Although the beginning of the construction of the defence ditch cannot be precisely determined before conducting radiocarbon 14C analyses, obviously at the time Dubovac castle was erected in its present form, the defence ditch had already lost its function, as it had already been filled in and the existing structures built on top of it. On the edges of the elevated hill fort of Dubovac, a late mediaeval defence wall has been identified, fortified by wooden palisades. The modern-era Renaissance castle is situated on the older mediaeval fortification, which in turn was erected on a prehistoric hill fort. In the late Bronze Age, the site served as a hill fort, but finds suggest an even longer continuity of occupation from the Aeneolithic, if not even from the Neolithic.
Prehistoric layers appear under the mediaeval layer SU 029. Traces of prehistoric structures can be made out in yellow clay, which we defined as SU 027. Under the same layer, west of the structure, remains of wooden beams and burned clay have been unearthed (SU 035). The orientation of planks in the probe is N-S (Fig. 3). It can be said that SU 027 is a fill of yellow clay above a layer with burned planks, its function being to additionally fortify the slope. In Probe 1, we discovered the margin of a late Bronze Age settlement with a bulwark and earthwork, in which the remains of a prehistoric house were discovered (Fig. 2 left and Fig. 3).
In SU 124 (part of the Bronze Age house), an almost wholly preserved portable hearth (SF 206) was found. Such hearths are frequently found in late Bronze Age settlements of the Ha B period. A similar hearth was unearthed in the Bregana-Kosovac settlement (Vrdoljak 1996), and another in the Sveti Petar Ludbreški settlement in Podravina. The remaining inventory of pottery finds matches the ceramography of the late Urnfield culture. Larger shards of bowls with an inverted rim were also found, decorated with vertical grooves at the edges. Such bowls also appear in other settlements of the Karlovac region, such as Belaj and Kiringrad, but are widely distributed and can be connected with necropolises of the Dalj group such as Vukovar-Lijeva Bara, Dalj and Batina (Vinski-Gasparini 1973), and also with Hungarian territory and the Vál group. Among older finds, we should point out the shard find of a Lasinja culture vessel, which confirms the Dubovac site was inhabited as far back as the Copper Age.


Stari Grad Dubovac, hill fort, fortification, castle, Copper Age, late Bronze Age, late Middle Ages, modern era

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