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article imageSpectacular Roman finds under Europe's oldest public theatre

By Paul Bradbury     Dec 30, 2014 in World
Hvar - Renovation of a building housing Europe's oldest public theatre in Hvar, Croatia, reveals layers of secrets from the past.
Already blessed with a wealth of culture and heritage including its status as the only island in the world with four UNESCO heritages, Croatia's premier island of Hvar unearthed more treasures on December 30, 2014 with the presentation of preliminary findings of an archaeological dig under the oldest public theatre in Europe.
Excavation work in progress.
Excavation work in progress.
Eduard Viskovic
Renovation and restoration work on the impressive Arsenal building on the edge of Hvar Town's fabled main square has been ongoing, and the latest phase in October revealed some archaeological secrets under the building's floor which prompted the excavation.
Pre-excavation  the Arsenal was a multi-functional entertainment facility  including housing a Renai...
Pre-excavation, the Arsenal was a multi-functional entertainment facility, including housing a Renaissance banquet for 150 people, organised by boutique specialist, Hvar Tours.
Hvar Tours
Mentioned in Venetian documents as 'the most beautiful and the most useful building in all Dalmatia', the upper floor of the Arsenal is home to Europe's oldest public theatre, constructed in 1612, but the preliminary findings presented show a much older past for the location, as local archaeological supervisor Eduard Viskovic explained to Digital Journal.
The Hvar public theatre was built in 1612. and is the oldest public theatre in Europe  less than 100...
The Hvar public theatre was built in 1612. and is the oldest public theatre in Europe, less than 100 metres from the after beach parties.
According to Viskovic, as soon as the construction workers found archaeological layers, they stopped working, and the excavation began in the beginning of November. Hvar Town itself did not have a licence to carry out such an excavation, so the company NEIR was brought in from Split. A small team of Viskovic, fellow archaeologist Nebojsa Cingeli and Porin Kukoc from NEIR was formed, and they were assisted by well-known archaeologist Miroslav Katic, who had conducted smaller excavations on the site in 1994 and 1996.
The floor of the Arsenal as it is today  with centuries of history layered below.
The floor of the Arsenal as it is today, with centuries of history layered below.
Eduard Viskovic
The initial excavation lasted a month amid challenging conditions in mud and water, and the preliminary results, which have yet to be examined in greater details, have revealed three major layers of Hvar's past.
Some of the findings from the excavation  which will continue next year.
Some of the findings from the excavation, which will continue next year.
Eduard Viskovic
Of these, the oldest dates back to the late first and early second centuries, where a big room and some period pottery was found. Viskovic describes this as a 'sensational' discovery and one that he hopes will lead to greater discoveries in future excavations.
The second layer is dated between the fourth and seventh centuries and comprises lots of pottery and lots of rooms, which point to some serious settlement during this period.
Project participants Porin Kukoc  Eduard Viskovic and Nebojsa Cingeli.
Project participants Porin Kukoc, Eduard Viskovic and Nebojsa Cingeli.
Eduard Viskovic
The last layer relates to the Venetian Arsenal period, and the small team uncovered some walls, pottery, cannon balls of small calibre, as well as seven big balls some 50 cm in diameter. These big balls were probably ammunition for siege weaponry or ammunition for big cannons, known to exist in the later Middle Ages.
The excavation is due to continue in the new year. Once completed, the findings will be analysed and a detailed conclusion presented.
The discoveries come at a poignant time, as Croatia looks to develop its shoulder tourism seasons by diversifying its attractions away from the stereotypical sun and beach offer of its stunning coast and islands, and the country's rich heritage is a focal point in a new initiative from the national tourist board called Croatia 365. The Roman heritage of Central Dalmatia was also given a further tourism boost earlier this month with the opening of the first stretch of Roman roads for tourists.
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