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Gradišče above Bašelj

The hilltop settlement of Gradišče in the foothills of the mountain Storžič had an exclusive value in the Early Medieval Carniola. Uncovered layers with numerous iron objects and ceramic fragments from the period between the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 10th century were found at the place.

Places to visit

Top of the Hill

A solitary hunting lodge, sheltered by high rocks, once stood at the top of Gradišče above Bašelj, under the mighty slopes of Storžič and Zaplata, where the view reaches over the vast Kranj plain all the way to the town of Kranj. It belonged to merchant Edvard Dolenc. In the 1930s many metal objects were discovered by the owner in the garden under the lodge. Among them were two chipped iron spurs, a fragment of a bridle bit, two arrowheads, scissors and a knife, as well as pottery shards. On the rock formation above the lodge, where precipitous rock faces descend into the Belica river ravine, a surprisingly large number of pottery fragments were found as well as animal bones, charcoal and even a fragment of a gilded bronze spur, a bronze finger ring, a bronze Roman coin and an iron buckle.29

The Gate into the Settlement

During the 1939 excavations, a gate filled with destruction material was discovered. The opening was 0.75 m wide. On the exterior side there were rectangular doorframe slots. On the interior side of the wall, a 1.5 m long charred pole and a man-worked tufa stone were found. They had probably been a part of the gate – the wooden pole had the form of a wooden pillar with a stone capital.30 Considering its size, this must have been a side gate, from which there was a good view of the access path across the relatively steep slope, while the main gate into the settlement was somewhere else.

The Stone Building

Outlines of several rectangular buildings arranged on the terraces and along the stone wall at Gradišče above Bašelj can be recognized on the surface. Only one building, however, has been confirmed by excavations and its interior has not been investigated. Next to the side gate, a building made of quarry stones that were bound with lime mortar mixed with brick fragments was leaning on the wall. The stones in the two faces of the wall are straight, slits were filled in and smoothed over. Two stone steps led to the north, towards the entrance into the building on the inner side.31

The Hoard

During the archaeological investigations of the National Museum of Slovenia in 1998, a hoard was found, containing pieces of horse and horseman equipment. An iron bridle bit, a pair of iron spurs and an iron stirrup were discovered. While many military objects were found together in a strongly charred layer close to the wall, the hoard was discovered in a clay layer in the interior of the settlement. The artefacts were placed 30 cm deep, close together; the iron bridle bit was entangled with the pair of spurs and the iron stirrup lay above them. The spurs have long necks and triangular heel band ends, their surface is decorated with slanting grooves. Richly decorated are also the stirrup with a wide foot pad and the bit of a bridle with a star-shaped mouthpiece and long sidebars.32

Nearby locations

St Lawrence above Bašelj

At the foot of the mountain of Storžič, above the village of Bašelj and west of Gradišče above Bašelj, rises the 892 m.a.s.l. high hill of St Lawrence with a church of the same name on a clearing below the hilltop. Archaeological investigations at several locations on the site have revealed pottery fragments from the Prehistoric, Late Antique and the High Medieval periods, two bronze fibulae from the 3rd and 6–7th centuries, pieces of iron slag, and settlement remains from the Prehistoric and Late Antique periods.33 The relatively large settlement at the northern edge is surrounded by a wall, several tens of metres long and about one metre wide, preserved up to the height of 0.5 m. Made of large stones, it is built in the dry-stone technique, typical for the Prehistoric period. Above it, there is a wall of different construction, made of slanting flat stones bound with mortar, belonging to the Late Antique period. A few metres lower, on a terrace on the north-eastern slope, another wall, about two metres wide, was discovered. Its inner and outer faces were made of large stones, while the interior was filled with smaller gravel. At the northern entrance into the settlement, the wall forms a semicircular area, while on the south-eastern slope, it is aligned with the still well visible path. It has been assumed that there were buildings on the terraces at the edge of the southern slope.34

Today, the church of St Lawrence with a Romanesque nave and a Gothic ribbed vaulted presbytery, surrounded by a low wall, stands on the top of the hill. Like Gradišče above Bašelj, it is a part of the Chamois theme trail. The easiest access is from the village of Bašelj, following the signposts to Gamsov raj (‘Chamois Paradise’). Near a small parking area on the macadam road, red and white blazes mark the path to St Lawrence. From the top of the hill, a path leads further to the mountain of Storžič, and to the mountain pastures of Kališče, Velika Poljana and Mala Poljana.

The settlement at St Jacob above Potoče near Preddvor

On the sunny southern slope of the Potoška gora (1283 m.a.s.l.), above the area where the Kokra river reaches the Kranj plain, lies the village of Potoče (540 m.a.s.l.). On the lower western ridge, visible from afar, a small village church of St Jacob (964 m.a.s.l.) was built. In its present architectural form, with frescoes in the interior, it is a gothic construction, while the remains of a small window in the south wall of the nave reach back to the Romanesque period.35

In the 1980s, remains of a Late Antique settlement were accidentally discovered to the west of the church. There was an investigation of the up to one metre high foundations of walls of rectangular buildings, arranged over the terraces of different elevations. A stone supporting wall was preserved on the steep and precipitous rocky slope near the access road. Destruction layers contained fragments of glass beakers, a bone comb, an iron arrowhead and fragments of a horse skull. Several charcoal fragments were discovered on the floors of the deserted buildings. A round metal mirror with an eye was also discovered on the site.36 The settlement at St Jacob was secluded in the safe mountain world. From the height, it had a view over and at the same time a connection with the valley of Kokra and especially with the town of Kranj, which indicates its character of a defensive and surveillance settlement.37

Today, a well-marked mountain path leads to the site, for the hill is a renowned tourist viewpoint. It can also be reached by the macadam road leading to Potoška gora.38

Ajdna above Potoki

At the southern foot of the mountain of Stol, above the village of Potoki and at the entrance into the Upper Sava Valley, rises the steep and almost inaccessible 1048 m.a.s.l. high hill of Ajdna. From the hilltop, the view reaches across the valley, far to the east and west, and all the way to the Bled area to the south. In addition to archaeological excavations in the mid-1970s, which confirmed the existence of a Late Antique settlement, conservation works were conducted on architectural remains.39

The settlement is comprised of about twenty masonry buildings, six of which have been excavated so far. The buildings are arranged on three man-made terraces. Two large buildings were excavated on the lowest terrace; one of them contained a cistern. The central area of the middle terrace was occupied by a church. Eleven graves were excavated in it and around it. Near the church, under the edge of the slope, there is a row of four houses and a larger building that has not yet been investigated. Outlines of six or seven buildings can be seen on the surface of the narrow upper terrace.40

Based on the small finds, both from the settlement and from the graves, it is possible to date the settlement in the 5th and 6th centuries. Numerous pottery fragments, a clay oil-lamp, a glass, a bone whistle, a bird-shaped fibula, pieces of a reliquary, iron tools and weapons were discovered. A female grave (Grave 1) contained jewellery.41 The settlement met a violent end in the 6th century, as proven by a layer of charcoal, discovered in the profile of a dwelling house on the lowest terrace. The building, which almost blocks the entrance into the settlement, was probably conquered in the second half of the 6th century, and was then burned to the ground. Two Byzantine arrows were found in the ruins right beside it, while on the outer side of the western wall, there was a skeleton with a spearhead between its bones.42

The settlement was at least partly revived at the beginning of the 9th century. A layer in the dwelling house on the lowest terrace revealed objects from the Early Medieval period with good analogies from Gradišče above Bašelj.

The ascend to the top of Ajdna, where Late Antique architectural remains are presented, is – at least in the last part – quite steep. Yet at the top, a visitor is rewarded by a magnificent view over the valley of the Sava river, from Radovljica to Bled, and along the Mežaklja plateau all the way to Jesenice.

References

29 Knific, Timotej, ‘Arheološko najdišče Gradišče nad Bašljem (The Gradišče above Bašelj Archaeological Site)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, pp. 60-61

30 Ibid., pp. 59-60

31 Ibid., pp. 55-67
Knific, Timotej, ‘Gradišče nad Bašljem (Gradišče above Bašelj)’, in Božič, D. et al., Zakladi tisočletij. Zgodovina Slovenije od neandertalcev do Slovanov, Ljubljana, 1999, p. 399

32 Knific, Timotej, ‘Early Medieval Hoards of Iron Items in Slovenia’, Archaeologia Adriatica, IV, Zadar, 2010, pp. 86, 91

33 Valič, Andrej, ‘Sv. Lovrenc pod Storžičem’, Varstvo spomenikov, 21, Ljubljana, 1977, pp. 188-189
Valič, Andrej, ‘Temeljne arheološke prvine okolice Preddvora (Archaeological Sources from the area of Preddvor)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, pp. 45–46
Josipović, Draško, ‘Bašelj’, Varstvo spomenikov, 24, Ljubljana, 1982, pp. 181-183
Bitenc, Polona and Timotej, Knific (eds.), ‘Od Rimljanov do Slovanov. Predmeti (From the Romans to the Slavs. Objects)’, Ljubljana, 2001, p. 48

34 Valič, Andrej, ‘Sv. Lovrenc pod Storžičem’, Varstvo spomenikov, 21, Ljubljana, 1977, p. 188

35 Valič, Andrej, ‘Poznoantično najdišče Sv. Jakob nad Potočami pri Preddvoru’, Arheološki vestnik, 41, Ljubljana, 1990, p. 431

36 Ibid., pp. 431-438
Valič, Andrej, ‘Temeljne arheološke prvine okolice Preddvora (Archaeological Sources from the area of Preddvor)’, in Roblek, Tone (ed.), Preddvor v času in prostoru, Zbornik Občine Preddvor, Preddvor, 1999, pp. 47 – 48
Bitenc, Polona and Timotej, Knific (eds.), Od Rimljanov do Slovanov. Predmeti (From the Romans to the Slavs. Objects), Ljubljana, 2001, p. 31

37 Valič, Andrej, ‘Poznoantično najdišče Sv. Jakob nad Potočami pri Preddvoru’, Arheološki vestnik, 41, Ljubljana, 1990, p. 437

38 Bremec, Rok, Arheološka topografija utrjenih najdišč med Begunjščico-Zgošo, Savo in Kokro (Archaeological Topography of Fortified Settlements in the Territory between Begunjščica-Zgoša and the Rivers of Sava and Kokra), Undergraduate Thesis, Faculty of Arts, Kranj, 2012, pp. 99 – 103

39 Leben, France, Andrej, Valič, ‘Ajdna’, Arheološki vestnik, 29, Ljubljana, 1978, pp. 532-545
Sagadin, Milan and Metod, Rogelj, Ajdna nad Potoki, Kulturni in naravni spomeniki Slovenije 190, Ljubljana, 1997
Vidrih-Perko, Verena, Milan, Sagadin 2004, ‘Gorenjska v antiki (Gorenjska in the Roman Period)’, Kamniški zbornik, 17, Kamnik, 2004, pp. 207-224

40 Sagadin, Milan, Metod, Rogelj, Ajdna nad Potoki, Kulturni in naravni spomeniki Slovenije 190, Ljubljana 1997, p. 12

41 Bitenc, Polona, Timotej, Knific (eds.), Od Rimljanov do Slovanov. Predmeti (From the Romans to the Slavs. Objects), Ljubljana, 2001, pp. 44-45, 81, 96
Vidrih-Perko, Verena, Milan, Sagadin 2004, ‘Gorenjska v antiki (Gorenjska in the Roman Period)’, Kamniški zbornik, 17, Kamnik, 2004, pp. 207-224

42 Ibid., pp. 219-221

Places to visit Nearby locations

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