1,800-year-old statue of Roman goddess Venus in Zadar discovered at future hotel site
January 15, 2022 – A statue of the Roman goddess Venus in Zadar was discovered at the construction site of a future hotel. It is around 1800 years old.
A statue of the Roman goddess Venus was found on the site of a future hotel in the center of Zadar, about a meter high, preserved from the knees to below the chest, made of marble, and about 1800 years old, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.
“Academician Nenad Cambi, our foremost specialist in antiquity, believes that it is most likely a statue of the goddess Venus. Its total height was about two meters, and it probably stood on a pedestal in the atrium of this old city villa where we are now,” said Smiljan Gluščević.
A statue of the Roman goddess of beauty, love, fertility and sexuality was found at a depth of about two meters, and stone fragments of a large base, most likely a crown, were discovered in the immediate vicinity.
“Such examples of ancient plastic are very rare in our country. However, a similar remnant of a statue of Venus exists in the Archaeological Museum of Split,” Academician Cambi said, and Gluščević added:
“We have found a precious and rare statue, which will be better known after its cleaning and conservation.”
As soon as Venus was pulled from the earth, it was clear to archaeologists that they had discovered a “sensation”. It was immediately separated from the other artifacts and transferred to the Homeland Museum depot in Biograd na Moru. An agreement has been signed on the disposal of all finds at the investigation site.
Smiljan Gluščević points out that the statue is attractive and has several details.
“On the left leg is a broken part of someone’s hand, on the right thigh as if it were someone’s fingerprints. A few ‘fingerprints’ can also be seen near the groin and on the part of the body under the chest… Archaeological analysis Academician Cambi thinks that part of the hand on the left leg very probably belongs to the god Mercury, with whom Venus is often associated iconographically.
This is all, I emphasize, preliminary knowledge, but it is definitely a special find and statue that would be nice to display in a new building,” said Gluščević, who also interpreted the archaeological context in which Venus was found.
“So it was most likely one of the sculptures in the atrium of this ancient city villa. A marble floor of about 80 square meters was also found where the statue was discovered.
It extends to the east, south and north, so we do not know the true dimensions of this central part of the villa. But considering other discoveries – an 11-meter-long sewage channel, the remains of an ancient wall covered with gray marble tiles and the remains of a black-and-white mosaic covering an area of ‘about four square meters – we can say that it is a rich urban villa between the 2nd and 4th centuries, which most probably had one floor.
The location of the villa and the details of the mosaic coincided with the results of research by Professor Boris Ilakovac 60 years ago. Before constructing the neighboring building in Božidar Rašica, he searched for the foundations of buildings demolished during and after World War II.
Professor Ilakovac found two villas there in a row; they adjoined each other’s exterior walls and had identical mosaic decoration in the atrium. All this tells us that here, a hundred meters from the ancient Forum, several representative residential buildings were later, perhaps in the early Middle Ages, demolished and only now are revealed in all their beauty.
We also discovered several medieval walls, but it is too early to talk about their interpretation. Nevertheless, it is proof of the continuity of urban life on the Zadar peninsula. Apparently these villas were located in the ancient insula, possibly created before Christ, and divided by maps and decums where today’s streets pass in this part of the city, with an average size of 40 by 20 meters,” says Gluščević.
Other interesting finds are fragments of ancient and Byzantine pottery that probably arrived there between the 4th and 6th centuries. Fragments of luxury tableware from North Africa that do not belong to the era before the 3rd century have also been found, and some could be dated to the 4th and 5th centuries respectively.
If the owners obtain permits, and if they wish, these artifacts could be found in the window of the future hotel.
“It’s hard to talk about it because it doesn’t depend on me but on the curators and investors of this facility. But, as an archaeologist, I would like to see a hotel showcase with finds, to see the genius loci , the layering history of the place, and I think it would be appealing to visitors.
Also, I think the found remains of the mosaic could be taken out and presented somewhere because today there is a developed technique for such a thing,” he pointed out.
The last word will be given by the curators who will determine the conditions of protection of the site and the construction for the investors of the hotel establishment after the archaeological report. That is to say what will remain buried underground, and what can be presented.
“We archaeologists would always like everything to be seen, but we know that is not possible, especially in cities like Zadar, where you have an archaeological site on every inch of land,” concludes Smiljan Gluščević.
Smiljan Gluščević is the former director of the Archaeological Museum in Zadar, an expert in antiquity and one of the most important underwater researchers in Croatia. He conducted field research along the entire Adriatic coast and islands until his retirement five years ago.
Gluščević was the first professionally employed underwater archaeologist in the former Yugoslavia, head of the international team extracting Apoxyomenos from the sea near Lošinj, and the only Croatian member of the scientific committee “Archaeologia Maritima Mediterranea” , a renowned international journal of underwater archeology published in Pisa and Rome.
Three years ago, the crowning achievement of his research, pedagogical and academic work, he published the first Croatian university textbook of underwater archaeology. He worked in Požarište for the private archaeological enterprise “Arheologija Art” from Zadar.
Among the many pottery fragments found in the drainage channel, Gluščević discovered a larger amount of so-called tubules. These hollow ceramic bricks were used as “central heating” pipes in the old villas.
The tubules were arranged inside the wall and the hot air passed through them, which speaks volumes about the luxury in which the inhabitants of Zadar enjoyed their villas overlooking the sea.
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