Archaeological Research in the Bay of Koper
27. 03. 2023 - 06. 04. 2023

In order to facilitate the development of international port of Koper, it is necessary to ensure appropriate depths at the harbor entrance. Achieving this requires dredging the seabed and relocating sediment. The proposed location for the excavated sediment is a wider area between Debeli Rtič and Izola. However, prior to undertaking this intervention, it is essential to conduct a smaller-scale test relocation to evaluate its potential environmental impacts. As part of the preparatory work for the test relocation of the sedimets, it is necessary to assess the archaeological potential of the area which will be done through non-invasive and minimally invasive archaeological research methods.

During the last glacial maximum, the northern Adriatic, like many other regions around the world, was land. The ancient coastline extended approximately along the line of Kornati (Dugi Otok) – Ancona. Within this 150-kilometer-wide region, which formed the shallower part of the northern Adriatic Sea, lay the so-called Adriatic Plain. The mighty river Po with its numerous tributaries ran through it, fed by the glaciers of the southeastern Alps, Apennines, and Dinaric Mountains. Interestingly, the delta of this grand river was located as far as 290 kilometers to the south of its present location. At the end of the Ice Age (approximately 10,000 years ago), the sea gradually flooded the plain and shaped the current coastal landscape.

Scientists suggest that the Adriatic Plain was characterized by a predominantly arid environment, comprising of grass steppe, low shrubs, and herbs. The slopes of the surrounding pre-Alpine hillsides were likely covered by conifers such as fir and pine. In addition to rodents and small mammals, herds of bison and deer roamed the plain, with wolves being the primary predators. Evidence of human presence in the plain, can currently only be sought through similarities in the lithic composition of stone tool discoveries at prehistoric sites.

Studying submerged landscapes requires an interdisciplinary approach in both research and interpretation, as it intertwines knowledge and methodologies from fields such as (pre)historic and underwater archaeology, paleogeography, acoustic remote sensing, seabed geomorphology, and sediment analysis.

The research involved visual examinations of the seabed, employing a circular technique. This technique entailed divers systematically surveying the ocean floor in concentric circles and lines at uniform distances from a fixed center. A total of 16 sectors were meticulously inspected. Each sector encompassed a comprehensive assessment of the circular area, with a radius of 17 meters. Inclusive of the test area, the overall surveyed surface area amounted to 15,426.82 square meters. To maximize the chances of identifying potential traces of past human activities, the chosen inspection areas were strategically positioned in regions where deep furrows had formed due to anchoring of transoceanic ships, facilitating the potential exposure of movable artifacts through the sediment.