Doclea (Podgorica), Montenegro

October 2007

From 15-30 October 2007 a program of geophysical survey commenced at the site of Doclea as a joint research project between the British School at Rome and the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton (APSS).

Magnetometry survey in Area A, north of the forum and basilica (photo: L. Pett)
The survey was undertaken on behalf of the Mayor and Council of Podgorica under the direction of the Museum of Podgorica as part of the wider ‘New Ancient Doclea’ project, and carried out in collaboration with the Universita’ Degli Studi Di Urbino, who undertook the topographic and building survey.

The aim of the survey was to discover the extent of the remains of the ancient Roman town of Doclea through locating and mapping the presence of subsurface archaeological features, for the purpose of preserving and developing the site as a national heritage site, and where possible to help pinpoint potential areas for excavation.

Doclea lies 4km due north of Montenegro’s capital city Podgorica, at the confluence of two major rivers, the Zeta and Moraca, on a flat plain that is delineated by deep river-cut gorges. The first evidence for occupation at the site dates to the 1st century BC, and the town grew in importance and size from this point onwards, until it was awarded municipium rights some time in the 1st century AD, most probably by the emperor Vespasian. Doclea was also likely the centre for Imperial worship for Southern Dalmatia based on an extant inscription from the site that mentions the ara Caesaris. At its zenith it appears the town walls enclosed a settlement of approximately 24 hectares.

Despite the large scale of the site, previous research and excavation has generally concentrated on a small area around the extant remains of the forum and basilica located at the centre of the site. This survey was intended to extend our understanding of the settlement by defining the extent and limits of the built up Roman town and producing a plan of its layout.

To accomplish this, the magnetometer survey focused on two areas in the east and west of the site.

In the central portion of the west area our survey revealed clear evidence of the towns residential districts, locating one complete insula block, with inner courtyards and cortiles, and possibly the top portion of a second insula block. The strength and form of the signal suggested there was significant ceramic material surviving beneath the surface. The size and orientation of the insulae also meant it was now possible to begin to reconstruct the wider town plan.

The eastern portion of our survey area contained the most well preserved standing monumental structures, and immediately around these the survey revealed further remains including buried building complexes which lay directly to the east and west of the forum and a possible street which ran alongside the forum.

In the most westerly section of our survey area the results indicated the presence of a large area of undeveloped land located between the urban area of the town and the town walls and river gorges. Potentially this land could have been used for agricultural activity that took place within the walls of the town itself, a further insight which could shed light on how the town of Doclea functioned in antiquity.

At Doclea past studies had mainly focused on either the monumental public buildings of the civic centre or the outlying necropoli. This survey has begun to identify previously unknown domestic quarters and buildings, knowledge of which is vital to understanding the form and function of the municipio of Doclea during the Roman period. By comparing the results of our magnetometry survey with aerial and satellite photos of the site, orthophotographs and building surveys of extant structures, a potential town plan could now be reconstructed. For the first time our survey enabled scholars to get a real sense of the shape of the ancient town of Doclea.