1907/1908 – Luka Jelić
The earliest excavations were carried out near the remains of an ancient tank (so called ”tamnica”). Remains of pillars and architrave, approximately ten decorated stone fragments, two fragments of a sculpture and two inscriptions were found at the time. Coins (from the periods of Nero and Vespasian’s reign), and fragments of tiles with stamp (solonas and pansiana) were discovered as well. Jelić frequently led archeological excavations, mostly taking down notes on what was found by the locals (e.g. J. Šikić found pavement plates at the depth of 1,5 m on the parcel 4517/3; J. Jadrešić called Bajok found 15 cm long golden angel).
1966.-1973. – Duje Rendić Miočević – Aleksandra Faber
After almost six decades, the first systematic archeological excavations took place, and lasted for couple of years with occasional gaps. While the results related to the remains of architecture and urbanism got published, small finds (ceramics, glass, etc.) have remained unknown to the public. On that occasion a total of 16 architectural complexes (some of their walls stretch below the sea level), and at least one street were defined.
Šibenik City Museum – Ivan Pedišić
Another campaign was undertaken south of ”tamanica”, however it was on a smaller scale. The results were published only preliminarily. It was this excavation that resulted in the discovery of a large bathtub with a single step, and an area covered with black and white mosaics in front of it. A grave and remains of sewage system were discovered as well.
Protective archeological investigations using ground-probing radar were undertaken on the parcel 4571/316 between September 16th and October 22nd 2008, after Vipnet’s intentions to install a transmitter in the middle of the Gradina archeological site were made public. Archeologist and curator of ancient art collection in the Šibenik City Museum, Toni Brajković, served as the expert research manager. Considering the versatility of discovered objects, it was concluded that the site within dimensions of the settlement of Gradina was continuously inhabited between prehistoric and Roman periods.
Željko Krnčević, archeologist from the Šibenik City Museum, lead the most extensive archeological excavations in the last fifty years, which had remarkable results. One of those results refers to the seaside villa, also known as ”maritimna” or ”maritime” villa. The research confirmed that this villa was a large building constructed in several phases. It was approximately used between the 1st and the 5th/6th centuries A.D., although some traces reveal it might have been used even in the Middle Ages. Even though it was found to be almost 100 meters long, its width remains unknown as it is still hidden below ground. However, based on what can be observed, it must be at least 25 meters wide. Some rooms were covered in mosaics. Many fragments of ceramics and roof tiles were found as well. Archeology Department students from the University of Zadar, together with their professor Irena Radić Rossi, PhD., took part in examination of the underwater segments of the camp located along Gradina’s western coast, towards Marina Hramina. Important discoveries on the ancient harbor of Colentum were made. It was located on the northern part of Gradina, and served as a haven for ancient sailors especially in case of bad weather caused by sirocco. Elements of wooden construction that might have been a part of an ancient dock were found in front of a small bay, just before the last cape. It consisted of vertically inserted poles and pillars, and horizontally laid beams. This research managed to prove earlier statements on wall fragments and heaps of ballast stones. Large amounts of amphora corks, and various fragments of amphorae and ceramic ware were discovered as well. What stands out the most are cannon balls and an almost entirely preserved ceramic oil lantern.
Each year brings new efforts in protection and valorization of Colentum archeological site, either in terms of excavations, projects or various activities. Together with the Šibenik City Museum and the Municipality of Murter-Kornati, NGO Argonauta invests its resources into archeological researches of the site, and conservation of some of its elements.
Apart from supervising the archeological site, the Šibenik City Museum also contributes by providing their experts in archeology and conservation. Their staff is in charge of excavation management, and coordination of voluntary and other activities, with the aim of ensuring appropriate control over the site.
Excavations were undertaken on the area of the maritime villa, along its inner walls, ending with Liburnian fortifications. Another significant excavation was a part of 15-day archeological campaign on the same area. During this campaign, around ten new walls were discovered, cleaned, and documented. Majority of them are positioned perpendicularly to the sea, apart from two already known walls stretching horizontally. These revelations showed that the villa was much longer reaching the Gradina Cape. Based solely on its dimensions, it does not belong to the most important villas discovered on Istrian and Dalmatian coast, but its position does make it rather interesting. Position puts it in the group of maritime villas located on the very seacoast. This type of villa does not have a central peristyle, and is in most cases characterized by elongated architectural design with floating porticos opening out to the sea, and allowing unhindered movements. Similar to other villas, maritime villas also combine residential and commercial quarters. What we can actually encounter in this type of villas, including this example from Murter, is a greater number of storage rooms, and a quay taking a major part of its size. The latter corresponds perfectly to the need of exploiting the coastline within the bay, already protected by numerous small islands. Residential quarters could have been located in the part of the villa that has been researched so far, i.e. the part closer to the local cemetery. The reason for that lies in numerous tesserae, i.e. small stone cubes used for mosaics that were found there. Decorating floors and walls with mosaics is typical for triklinia, peristyles, and other reception rooms. It is in storages and workshops where we can normally find plastered floors with fragmented bricks used to create kind of a cobbled pavement. Not a single example of mosaics has unfortunately been preserved in situ, but frequent appearances of tesserae in certain parts of the villa eliminate any doubt about the usage of this type of decorating rooms.
Almost entirely black and white tesserae support the idea of simple two-color mosaics with geometric shape ornaments such as meander. Apart from tesserae, plenty fragments of marble tiles have been found as well. Whether they were part of mosaics, as it was common, or not, still remains impossible to determine. One of the most interesting elements of the villa is an apse that remains underwater for the major part of the year. In the early periods of the Roman Empire, its shape would normally indicate a bath complex or thermae, an integral part of the villas belonging to wealthy Roman citizens. Suspensura, a small cylindrically shaped ceramic pillar used in hypocaust (Roman combination of central and floor heating) was discovered near the apse. A large number of ceramic fragments with characteristic parallel indents must have been a part of tubuli – hollow ceramic pipes through which hot air passes from hypocaust to specific rooms. On the other hand, quantity of ceramic objects used in the kitchen, ceramic objects used for storing wine, or for any other purpose, is rather insignificant. The problem is mostly in the influence of the sea and rocks breaking, shaping, and crumbling delicate thin pieces of ceramics. Thicker pieces of the Roman roof tiles (imbrex and tegula) and the bottom parts of amphorae managed to resist such influence. „PANS[IANA]“ stamp can be found on one of the ceramic fragments, revealing it was manufactured in one of the Vibius Pansa’s workshops south of the Po River. This fragment can be used to determine the upper limit in establishing the chronology of the villa since the roof tiles with such stamps were no longer in use after the reign of Emperor Vespasian. Recent excavations haven’t resulted in significant number of tesserae, marble tiles or tubuli. Findings mostly included larger fragments of amphorae and ballast stones. Pieces of broken amphorae were most probably thrown off the ships once they docked at the villa’s quay. Ballast stones can be seen as an interesting finding testifying on Ancient Rome’s maritime practices – once the cargo was unloaded, ballast stones would be loaded into the vessels in order to increase the burden, and to subsequently achieve the balance. Today, water ballast tanks are used instead.