Vane P. Sekulov, Trajce Nacev, Marjan Jovanov

Crveno Pole: Settlement and necropolis

(Vane P. Sekulov, National institute for protection of cultural monuments and Museum, Strumica; Trajce Nacev, National institute for protection of cultural monuments and Museum, Stip; Marjan Jovanov, University of St. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje)

Description of the site

The site of Crveno Pole (Red field) is located 37 km south-east of Strumica, at the endmost south-east of the Republic of Macedonia at the very border to the Republic of Bulgaria.

Situated high in the bosom of the Ograzden Mountain at about 1200m above sea level (fig.1), it is a separate micro-geographic region composed of several hills in a row, with south-east--north-west orientation (fig.2). The hills are connected among each other by mild saddles so that one gets the impression of a small plateau which is inclining to the south. Such a position, protected by the high peaks of the Ograzden Mountain and the inclination of the hills to the south, provides all-day exposure to the sun and at the same time offers protection from the north winds. In the proximity there are several fountains, as well as a spring which in certain periods of the year has the characteristic of a small river. The surrounding higher mountain ranges are grown in thick beech woods. All of these provided good conditions of living on this land. Even today several families spend the summer at Crveno Pole, breeding animals and growing potatoes and corn.

With the archaeological explorations done in the period 2003-2005 at this site there have been discovered a necropolis and a settlement of the Roman Imperial period.

The necropolis is located on the peak of the first hill in the row starting from the south-east and is known by the local population as Gusterova Cukarka (Hill of the lizard). From the north side the hill inclines steeply to the spring Belogazica, to the west via a mild saddle it is connected to the neighboring hill, to the east it is protected by a larger range of the Ograzden Mountain, whereas to the south via the deep valleys it goes down to the very foot of the mountain.

To the west of the necropolis, at a distance of about 300 meters, on a larger plateau which is divided by the spring Belogazica, there is a settlement of an open type, where by a superficial observation several dozens of buildings have been registered, three of which have been included in the archaeological explorations so far.

Results from the excavation of the necropolis

The necropolis comprises an area of about 5000m2, of which about 750m2 have been treated so far, including 81 graves, densely arranged to each other (fig.3).

In all of the graves the funeral rite with cremation of the deceased is employed. The grave pits are circled by stone wreaths to mark the grave on the surface of the ground. These constructions are most often formed by round stones, broken limestone and stone split from the sandstone rock which is the basis of the whole undersurface part of the hill where the necropolis is located. They are round, oval and rectangular in form.

The diameter of the round gravestone constructions ranges from 0.70m to 4m almost ideally formed round wreath. Within them the grave pits are most often rectangular or oval with length ranging from 1.30m to 2.45m and width from 0.70m to 1.10m. The oval stone wreaths are with length ranging from 0.70m to 2.90m and width from 0.95m to 2.00m. The grave pits are most often rectangular or oval with length ranging from 0.70m to 1.75m and width from 0.65m to 0.90m. There are only 4 graves with rectangular stone wreaths, with dimensions of 1.60 in length and 0.85 in width whose grave pits are always rectangular. The space enclosed by the stone constructions is most often filled by earth, but in certain cases it can be filled by one to three layers of stones. After removing the surface layer of earth or stones there appears the grave pit (fig.4). It is filled with thick concentration of ashes and coal, among which there can be found osteological remnants from the cremated deceased. Most often these lie upon bigger fragments of unburned beams which formed the basis of the pyre where the deceased was cremated. In a great number of examples the grave pit corresponds to the gravestone construction neither in form nor orientation. The gravestone construction of Grave 10 is oval in form with N-S orientation, but with the treatment of the grave it turned out that the grave pit is only in the center of the construction, and is rectangular in form with SE-NW orientation.

Of the 81 discovered graves, only in 9 cases the cremation of the deceased was not performed in the very grave pit. In 7 of them there were noticed osteological remains, but there were not any proofs that the cremation was performed on the spot. There were not any ashes or cinder. These graves lack the remains of the beams which formed the pyre for cremation of the deceased. In two cases there was burial in urns. In both graves there is a fragmented vessel in which cremation remains are found. In three graves the cremation, that is burial in the frame of the same grave circle, was performed twice. In one of them after removing the first layer of cremation there appeared a thin layer of yellowish sand under which again there appeared a layer of another, older cremation. Such a layer of yellowish sand separates another grave where in both levels there are artifacts as grave additions. In one case after removing the cremation and the cinder from the very bottom of the pit, there appeared an older stone construction with oval form filled with amorphous stones, within which another grave pit was dug, filled with the remains of the pyre together with the grave artifacts.

The pyre was built in such a way that the thicker, bigger beams were set across the length of a previously dug grave pit, and upon them were arranged shorter beams across the width of the pit. In one grave we noticed existence of vertically set pickets in the corners of the pit to keep the pyre stable. After the cremation the osteological remains of the cremated person were covered by earth or stones, and then there was formed the round or oval gravestone construction which was visible on the surface of the earth. Because of that, although on a small area there is a large concentration of burials, very rarely there is entering and disturbing of older grave entities.

Of the total of 81 discovered and treated graves only in 5 of them there are not found grave artifacts. In all of the rest of graves there can be noticed artifacts, among which very frequent are the ceramic vessels (fig.5) and a great number of ceramic fragments, silver and bronze coins, weapons made of iron (a great number of spears, knives, axes and two swords), bronze jewellery (bracelets, rings, fibulas), one golden earring, pearls made of glass paste, bronze waist clasps and buckles.


The ceramic material is characterized by a great variety of form, quality and way of production.

In most of the graves there is at the same time ceramics made by hand and ceramics made on wheel. The handmade ceramics by its form and rough facture to a great degree resembles the prehistoric ceramics (bronze and iron period) (Д. Митревски 1997). Among the more characteristic findings there should be pointed out the cups with one handle or without a handle, as well as the deep plates with wart-like and tongue-like grip (fig.6) . The presence of handmade ceramics in these graves is certainly due to older traditions kept in this region.

The ceramics made on wheel is characterized by a much higher quality, but it is obvious that this is a matter of local production (fig.7). Among the forms dominant are shallow and deep plates as well as two-handled pots. Vessels of this form are frequent in the Roman Imperial period across a wide territory in the Roman Empire, and they also appear in a wide time range between I and IV century (В. Соколовска 1986, 119-123; S. Nikolić-Đorđević 2000, 11-225; O Brukner, 1981).


In the graves there are a great number of weapon specimens (fig.8). The most frequent are the findings of iron points of spears with a handle with varying length of the blade. Beside them, as part of the war equipment of the deceased there can be seen an axe, and very often long knives are present, whereas in grave 22a, beside the several spears and the knife a slender sword with bone coat on the handle was included. The sword is of the type Spatha, and appears in the armament of the Roman army by the end of II and in the course of III century (M.Feugere 1993, 147-156). As one of the most exclusive discoveries we certainly should point out the iron sword from grave 72, which is 70cm long. This type of sword with ring-like ending of the handle is known as  Ringknaufschwert, and appears by the end of II and in the course of III century in continental Europe and the areas north of the Black Sea (M.Feugere 1993, 15-161; Biborski 1994, 85-97). It is considered that it has Sarmatian origin; with the inclusion of the Sarmatians in the Roman army it came to their expanding out of their native Sarmatian territories to the wider regions across Europe, but never to the Mediterranean (A.V. Simonenko 2001, 217-245). For the time being, these are the only swords of this type discovered on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia. It is notable that most often the weapon is with curved points, or if it was not possible to curve them they were cut out.

The weapon from the necropolis of the site Crveno Pole has been discovered in a pretty much damaged condition, yet it can be noticed that it did not burn on the pyre with the deceased but it was additionally placed upon the still warm remains of the pyre. In the graves with weapon almost regularly there are bronze clasps or buckles, remnants of soldiers' belts (H. Ubl 1994, 137-144).

Jewelry (fig.9)

The most frequent forms of jewelryfrom the necropolis of Crveno Pole are the slender bronze bracelets with ends in the shape of snake heads. These bracelets can be found practically across the whole territory of the Roman Empire, most often in the II and III century ( . Koščević 1991, T VII, VIII, XIX; Б. Петровиħ 1997, 90-91)

A golden earring made of golden wire with overlapping ends is a proof that some members of this community, located in the heart of the Ograzden Mountain, could afford such more luxurious jewelry. These earrings with simple form are present to a great extent in the east Roman provinces, during the whole Roman period (В. Соколовска 1986, 125)

In several graves there are discovered several rings in a very bad condition as well as pearls made of glass paste.


The bronze and silver coins are a frequent addition in the graves of Crveno Pole, and of course the best element for precise dating of this necropolis (fig.10).

The oldest coins discovered here are from the second half of I century (silver denar from the Emperor Domitian), whereas the coins from Hadrian, Antonius Pius, Julia Majsa, Julia Mamaia, Mark Aureli, Prob and Aurelian are a certain confirmation that this necropolis was in use during II and III century.


To the west of the necropolis Gusterova Cukarka, at a distance of about 300m there is located the settlement which stretches on an area of about 2-3 hectares.

The settlement is situated on a slope that is moderately inclined from the north to the south separated by the stream into two parts. Across the whole area of the settlement, at many sections there are stones from ruined buildings whose bases are visible here and there.

Archaeological excavations have been performed on both parts and three buildings have been explored numbered as buildings I, II and III.

Building I

This building is located in the south part of the settlement Papri, it is rectangular in form and in the south part it ends with a semicircle wall oriented N-S with a small declination from the axis and dimensions of 8.50x5.00m. It is composed of two parts: apsidal with width of 5.00m and depth of 1.50m and rectangular with length of 7.00m and width of 5.00m. The two parts communicate between each other without a separate entrance, that is there was not noticed a barrier wall between the apsidal and the rectangular space.

The building has been discovered in its foundation portions with the exception of a small part from the north-east corner and the semicircle wall where are preserved wall portions from the outside with height ranging from 0.30m to 0.45m and width of 0.55m, but in certain places there is a significant ruining and the foundation portions are missing as is the case with the west half of the semicircle wall. 

The entrance into the building is not noticed because of the poor preservation of the walls, it was probably placed in the west wall, but we do not exclude the possibility of its being placed in some of the other perimetric walls.

After the exploration we can ascertain that the building was made in the following way: on the rock where the prehistoric basis was placed, there were dug shallow foundations which were filled with stone and earth.  Then it was walled from the outside, which is how the basis of the building was formed. Because of the configuration of the land, which inclines by 0.80m in regard to the north and south circle wall, the inner part was filled with stone and earth until the satisfactory level. We can notice that the construction on the basis of preserved wall surface was performed in opus incertum with no obvious horizontal rows by using the local broken stone while the earth was used as an adhesive means.

Building II

The building is located in the north part of the settlement Janina cesma and it is rectangular in form, with N-S orientation with a small declination of the axis and dimensions of 4.50mx3.50m. The building has one room with inner dimensions of 3.30mx2.40m.

In the south part of the east wall is the entrance to the building with width of 0.80m and preserved portal with height of 0.60m in the north and 0.40m in the south.

By exploring the inner part in width and length there is noticed a floor of pressed yellowish and black earth. On the very floor there have been discovered 4-5 beams from the roof construction and a great number of nails and fragments of ceramic vessels. The beams are not destroyed by fire which is one of the facts that the building was not burned, but it was ruined.

The configuration of the land where the building is located is with a considerable inclination from the north to the south. That is the reason why before building it, first the overall surface were levelled and then the walling was begun.

The construction was done in two opuses: Opus implectum and opus incertum.

Opus implectum is present in the lower parts which are built of huge unprocessed stone blocks which form the outside and the inside face of the walls; it is characteristic that the blocks were framed with tiny stones, which form at the same time a horizontal layering.

Opus incertum starts above opus implectum and is accomplished with large stones without horizontal layering, while the space among them is filled by tiny stones and earth.

The means of adhesion with both opuses is earth.

Building III

The building is 4.5 m west of Building 1 (fig.11). It is founded upon a slate rock which is the basis of the whole land under the thin layer of humus.

With the excavations done so far five premises have been explored, in a cascade-like arrangement with difference of height between the floors of 1.5m and total area of 159.41m2. The central position belongs to the largest premise (Premise №1) to the west and south of which the other premises are arranged (fig.12).

It is a massive construction with stone walls and mud in the construction technique opus incertum. The thickness of walls ranges from 60 to 70cm. They are built upon the rock following its inclination to the south while some of the walls are dug into the rock to a depth ranging from 20cm to 50cm, which presents the foundation part because of increasing their static stability. This "founding" is made in Premise No1 because of its large area and in Premise No3 because of the existence of floors. The maximum preserved height of walls of the building is 1.11m.

For the wall construction there were used split and half-processed river stones, stones split from the rocks and a small amount of quartz stones. To the side of the walls there was formed a face of middle-sized stones, while the inside is filled with tiny stones. Beside stones, for building of walls there was used unbaked brick which is present in the walls on the upper floor and around the windows. Of the remains of the ruined parts built of mud plaster there are preserved whole units with dimensions of 22x14cm and thickness varying from 5 to 8cm. These bricks were made of red clay mixed with small parts split from the slate rock.

More solidly built are the walls of Premise No3 where the stones are more processed and thus more beautiful and we notice horizontal arrangement of the stones.

According to the excavated fragments of clay used to fill the walls, we can ascertain the existence of an upper floor in Premise No3, which was built of a light wood and mud plaster with width of beams of 4, 6 and 8cm. It is supposed that premise No1 also had floors because of its position in relation to the other premises. In all of the discovered walls there are preserved the door openings with width ranging from 1.10 to 1.20m which means that the entrances to the premises and the communication between them have been defined.

The floor finish in all premises is a layer of pressed earth with thickness of about 5cm except in the premise that we designate as a porch where we found a floor of arranged stone tiles.

The roof construction of the premises, according to the fallen remains in the interior of the building, was made of tegulas and imbrexes with varying dimensions, the dimensions of the tegulas being 83x45x2.5cm while the imbrexes had length ranging from 43 to 74cm and width ranging from 17 to 21cm, with standard thickness of 2.5cm. The remains of tegulas with a round opening in the middle are an evidence that there were fireplaces in the buildings, so that these tegulas arranged on the roof construction had the role of a chimney.

Following the organization of the premises and the way of their construction, it is concluded that premises 1,4 and 5 were built in one phase, while premises 2, 3 and the premise designated as a porch were added to them later. The building was expanding to the west and to the south.

The building suffered in a fire which can be seen from the thick layer of cinder and remains from unburned beams which are present in all of the five premises right above the floor level. The stratigraphy is typical of a fired building: above the layer of cinder there is a layer of the fallen roof ceramics and above them a layer of stones and unbaked brick fallen from the higher parts of the walls. The discoveries that we found are exactly between the layers of cinder and roof ceramics. The most frequent are the ceramic vessels: about twenty were found in Premise No1, all of which were made on a wheel, concentrated by the north wall (fig.13). Of the metal discoveries noteworthy are the bells for around the neck of animals. One gets the impression that they, together with the vessels and the other objects, were arranged on a shelf on the north wall which fell after the fire. By the wall, in the layer of cinder are also found remains of unburned planks. Especially frequent are the weighs for a vertical loom whose number in this premise is above 70. Most often they are made of stone of different size and weight, concentrated in bigger groups of about ten items. In Premise 2 the most frequent are the agricultural tools and the hand-made ceramic vessels (fig.14). In premises 4 and 5, that is in those parts of them which have been explored, 4 pitoi are found. Coins are relatively rare, only 10 items are discovered, all of which are very much destroyed by the fire. Especially interesting is the ceramic lamp with a motif of a cross.

Above the very floor of clay, in both north quarters of Premise 1, there is a fireplace made of a bigger tegular fragment and a stone tile.

Although not completely explored we can conclude that the five premises which have been explored represent the economic part and together with Building 1 which is 4.5m to the east are an entity of a bigger residential and economic building. According to the discoveries found in it, the main economic branches were breeding and agriculture. The great number of weighs may mean that Premise 1 was a textile workshop.

The space between buildings I and III

While exploring the space between the two buildings as well as the space inside them, there have been found a great number of pits dug in the very rock. The pits are different in form, dimensions and depth. There are pits with diameter and depth ranging from several centimeters to 2m, like the two pits in Premise 2 of Building 3. Although many of them look like bases for pickets from prehistoric hook in the present stadium of exploration this cannot be confirmed. The two pitoi in Premise 4 of Building 3 were dug exactly in such pits in the rock. The biggest concentration of such pits with varying sizes and forms is on the floor of Premise 1. Only in Pit 2 of Premise 2 there was found material, mainly fragmented ceramics. The pit was filled with cinder which may mean that it was not covered during the fire.

Between the two buildings there is a canal engraved in the rock with nort-south orientation, with length of 10.50m and varying width ranging from 0.35 to 0.50m and depth of 0.70m. The area where it ends has not been explored yet, so it is not clear where the canal leads and how it finishes.

For the time being it is not clear what the pits were used for. Although it is almost certain that part of them were pits of beams for wood constructions. Whether the bigger pits were used for storing of agricultural goods or the pits from Premise 1 of Building 3 were part of the textile producing process will be shown by further explorations.


The great number of buildings whose remains are noticeable on the surface of the land and the number of graves discovered so far as well as their concentration in the necropolis talk about the existence of a bigger settlement of open type and of numerous population that lived in this region during the Roman period. The ceramics, the jewelry, the weapon and especially the coins date the use of the necropolis by the end of I, or more certainly at the beginning of II century up to III century AD. Before the excavations from 2005 this dating was also applied for the settlement that is for the buildings explored up to this moment. But this year with the excavations in Building 3 and the discovery of the lamp with a motif of a cross in Premise 1 it turned out that at least the part of the settlement where this building is located continued to exist even later. This type of lamps typologically belonging to north African and early Christian are dated at the earliest at the end of IV century, with use during the whole of the V century. It is an upper limit which closes the life in the settlement.

The necropolis and the settlement at the site of Crveno Pole, in the bosom of the Ograzden Mountain, at 1200meters above sea level, are a new moment in Macedonian archaeology. The graves with round or oval construction where cremation was the only funeral ritual, so far have been known only from the excavations in the surrounding of Delcevo, east Macedonia. The abundance of artifacts in the graves of Crveno Pole, among which special attention rise the numerous discoveries of weapon, as well as the handmade ceramics, open new scientific questions to which Macedonian archaeology is still to give answers.


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На Растку објављено: 2007-12-14
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