Research archive

    Archaeological research on Riva in Split in 2006-2007

    Extracts from the photographic diary of Zoran Alajbeg

    Within the scope of the construction project on reconstructing the central part of the Riva, respectively the waterfront of Split, the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split has conducted some archaeological researches on the waterfront area, precisely on its part located right in front of the southern facade of Diocletian’s Palace. The researches have taken part on the area stretching from the so-called City Gate, namely the former south-western Palace’s tower, up to the entrance into the substructures – basement (so called Porta Aenea), in front of the lower objects reclined on the Palace walls.

    The waterfront is one of the most attractive and specific public places in the city of Split and as such, it presents an irreplaceable urban ambient together with the city harbour and other functional and recreational facilities in its surrounding. Diocletian’s Palace, as an inseparable part of the waterfront, presents the urban core of the town.

    Archaeological excavations have brought out four basic historical phases in the waterfront development in the area located southern of the Palace, starting with the Roman post-Republican and ending with the Venetian age, in the Late Middle Ages to the beginning of New Era.

    The oldest waterfront discovered so far dates from the 1st century BC and was a part of the antique settlement Spalatum, located by the waterfront itself. That waterfront consisted of smaller or bigger wooden piers, as well as of improvised stone moles and smaller plateaux by the seashore.

    The first monumental waterfront, on the area of the existing one, was being built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the very end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century. That waterfront had a long coastal wall and a platform, sloping slightly towards south. The wall was built in the opus quadratum technique, consisting of carved boulders from the Roman quarries on the island of Brač. It stretched in the distance of 12.40 meters from the southern facade of the Palace, possibly in the length line from the south-western to the south-eastern tower. Archaeological excavations have revealed its more or less preserved part, located western of the entrance into the Palace basements and stretching to south-western tower. The plateau southern of the wall was made in the Roman construction and casting technique, the so-called opus caementitium, and it served for practical purposes, such as cargo unloading or pulling out the smaller boats or rafts. First reconstructions of that plateau followed at the end of the late Antiquity and at the beginning of the Early Middle Ages.

    In the period of being a free mediaeval commune, the city of Split was using the existing Diocletian’s waterfront, where temporary and tentative constructive interventions occurred, which possibly included smaller coastal ports.

    In the period after 1450, and before 1600, the Republic of Venice was the first after Diocletian that started performing some serious construction works on the same location in front of the Palace, and spreading even further to the western part by building the Castle (Kaštel), and later by building the eastern Lazaretto. A solid coastal wall towards the sea was also built in that period, and the area leading to the Palace was covered with trench rampart. The Venetian coast was a forerunner of the later waterfront development, namely, it was a base for its further stretching towards the south and west in the period of the French Marshal Marmont.

    Archaeological excavations revealed also the basis of the south-western tower of the Palace, destroyed in the 17th century. The southern part of its pedestal in its original width of 13.5 meters was also discovered. It was built from massive, rectangular boulders, with a moulded stone gutter at the bottom.

    Archaeological excavations were carried out dynamically, occurring simultaneously to extensive construction works and interventions on the waterfront reconstruction. Therefore, the photos taken by Zoran Alajbeg, a member of the research team, present an authentic testimony about those unusual events in Diocletian’s city located under the park-woods Marjan. They remain as a valid document, but also as a piece of art made by an extraordinary photographer for the existing as well as for the forthcoming generations.