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Exchange and mobility dynamics at Ljubljansko barje: Late Copper age pile-dwelling Špica in Ljubljana

  • Principal Investigator at ZRC SAZU

  • Original Title

    Dinamike izmenjave in mobilnosti na Ljubljanskem barju: poznobakrenodobno kolišče Špica v Ljubljani

  • Project Team

  • Project ID


  • Duration

    1 November 2021–31 October 2023
  • Project Leader

    dr. Elena Leghissa

  • Financial Source


The proposed project will focus on the recently excavated pile-dwelling settlement of Špica, which is the oldest settlement on the territory of the city of Ljubljana. It will also undertake a modern approach of interdisciplinary research that complements the typological and chronological comparative analysis of the pottery finds.

In the first part of our research the excavations of the Špica pile-dwelling settlement in Ljubljana, which took place in 2009-2010, will be analysed. The Špica pile-dwelling is the only pile-dwelling settlement on the territory of Ljubljansko barje that has been extensively investigated by modern excavations in the last almost 150 years. For this reason, the study of the overall picture presented by this pile-dwelling settlement is of crucial importance for better understanding and interpretation of the 3rd millennium BC at Ljubljansko barje. The stratigraphic data of the site will be reviewed and critically evaluated. Due to an exceptional quantity of finds - more than 200.000 pieces of pottery were discovered during the excavations - we will concentrate on a selection of about 500 finds. These will be macroscopically examined and typologically-chronologically evaluated, taking into account the stratigraphic situation on the site. In addition, an attempt will be made to evaluate the results of dendrochronological analyses in a selected area of the pile-dwelling settlement. The aim of the first part is to produce a critically evaluated catalogue of the stratigraphic units of the site and a summary overview of the stratigraphic situation. We will also prepare a catalogue of the selected pottery finds and present the results of the macroscopic and typo-chronological analysis. In this way, the new chronological-cultural study of the Špica will become a reference study for the period of the 3rd millennium BC for the entire area of the Ljubljansko barje and also wider, south-east Alpine region.

Figure 1: Distribution of pile-dwellings in Ljubljansko barje, dated to the first half and the middle of 3th millennium BC, mentioned in the project proposal.

The second part of the project will be devoted to interdisciplinary analyses of pottery finds. The aim of these analyses is to broaden the framework of typological-chronological research and to gain new insights into the production methods of ceramic vessels of the 3rd millennium BC. Approximately 50 samples of pottery vessels will be selected from contemporary sites in the Ljubljansko barje: besides Špica, these are the pile dwellings of Deschmann near Ig, Parte, Založnica and Dušanovo. Selected ceramic fragments will be studied by optical microscopy, X-ray powder diffraction, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray computer microtomography (microCT) and Promt Gamma Activation Analysis (PGAA). The aim is to study the vessels-forming technique, to characterise their pastes and to identify similarities and/or differences between the studied pile-dwellings. At the same time, it will be determined whether some vessel could have been imported and would indicate an exchange of objects between pile-dwelling settlements or even within a larger area. In this way it will be possible to study the dynamics of contacts and exchange between pile-dwellings at Ljubljansko barje.

Figure 2: MicroCT virtual renderings and sections of a selected bowl from the Deschmann’s pile-dwelling.

With a comparative analysis that takes into account both typological-chronological and archaeometric studies, the Špica pile-dwelling settlement will be placed in a broader picture of the south-eastern Alpine region. The dynamics of relations between contemporary cultures between Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Italy will be revealed. We will present the results of the first and the second part of our research project in scientific articles and at international and national conferences.

Project Stages

Timetable of the project

Research Project