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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Intriguing Croatian Archaeological Find Mentions Croatian Duke Branimir & Viking Land of Scania (Viking Contacts With Croats In Middle Ages?)

"Dolazak Hrvata na Jadran", (Arrival of the Croats to the Adriatic) by painter Oton Iveković - 1905. Based on historical sources that refer to the Croatian tribes arrival to ancient Dalmatia, Pannonia and Illyricum from areas north of the Danube in the 6th-7th century. Archaeological discoveries from the 19th century especially have given much more insight into the formation, beginnings and structure of the early organized Croatian states and their coterminous geopolitical history in Central Europe, and the Bribir area has become notable as one of the prime Croatian archaeological sites. 

I haven't done a rare Croatian archaeology topic post in a long time, and only did a few anyway, so this recent discovery news is quite interesting and definitely belongs here. (And for regular readers don't worry I'm not on a Sweden kick because of my previous post, it's just coincidence and worked out that way, actually there's lots of pretty cool archelogy related websites all over the internet these days, and I'll tell you lots of the women archaeologists sure don't look like the stuffy thick-spectacled octogenarians with their fancy archeologist moustaches, uniforms and hats like in the movies that's for sure, lots of them I would include in my bikini themed posts without a problem, I think there's something cool and intriguing about women who have no problem getting sweaty and dirty digging, their hardened sinewy limbs glistening while digging up old items, bones and corpses, it's very admirable, and I read somewhere they have really good bbq's and archaeologist keg parties too and know some really good archaeologist jokes). This recent news was even being described as "sensational" in some of the newspaper articles and some other sites I came across, that would be because it concerns not only Croatian history, but also has important connections to European and even world history. (Considered important to European and even world history because one of the inscriptions found along with the fragment mentioning Duke Branimir also mentions "Skania Inferior" in Latin (ie: Lower Scania), which is the Scania peninsula of southern Sweden, and it was specifically during that time when the Vikings ruled those lands (ie: Scandinavia, as well as spreading fear and trembling in the hearts of many across large parts of Europe, to Britain, Ireland, Scotland and even into France and towards the Byzantine empire). Heck, this news is as intriguing and interesting as finding an inscribed stone remain epigraph concerning Jonah himself, from the Jonah in the fish for 3 days times, or even an inscribed stone in the desert saying "Moses was here" or "Jacob wrestled God here and won, best headlock ever" etc. Actually this recent Croatian archaeological find is equally as important and relevant and probably even more so because it's real verified facts.

We've already unearthed medieval Croatian warriors helmets that bear striking resemblances to Viking and Gothic helmets, as well as Vikings and Carolingian era type-K swords found over the years, used in medieval Croatia with a number of them metalworked in Croatia, from the Croatian Littoral, coastal areas and up to the Northern Pannonian basin and plains near the Hungarian border, as well as dated to the Carolingian period during Branimir's reign. There's also the matter of names of medieval Croatian Royalty, Dukes, Princes and Kings such as: BranimirMuncimirTrpimirVojnomirKrešimirZvonimirSelimirGodemir being similar to East Frankish Duke Marcomer/Marcomir, the great-grandson of Merovich, Merovingian King Chlodomir, and to Gothic names such as Telefus, Gradivus, FilimerTheudemirValamirVidemir and Vithimir that were mentioned by the 6th century Roman writer Jordanes, and other similar topics. (Probably even J. R. R. Tolkien's Boromir and Faramir were actually Croats)

(Interestingly, we also know that the word for King in Croatian and some other languages is "Kralj...Kraly/Kráľ/Kral/Král" and that it derives from the name of Frankish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (742–814; Latin name Karolus Magnus), that the Croatian word Knez (also Kniaz/Knyaz/Kníže variants) which means Duke/Prince as well as King at times in the early middle ages, is originally from the Gothic word "Kuningaz" which had the same meanings, and that the Croatian word for Knight is Vitez, which derives from the older used Gothic word "Vitegil" which denoted Vikings, the etymological connection of the Croatian ethnonym to the Harvaða mountains, which was an older name for the later Latinized version Carpathians mountain ranges in the early common era, it's all a part of the historical intrigue and historicity matrix phenomenom)

Statue of Duke/Prince Braninir in the coastal town of Nin where he resided and kept his royal seat. Image:

However, after reading the articles it's nothing really new to me or anyone already familiar with these subjects and already discovered remains and information over the years, because I've already touched upon some of these facts previously. (so it's not really all that "sensational" like I said, sort of like how there was no shopping frenzy here either). It might be sensational news for some people unfamiliar or who had no idea, but it is intriguing and interesting. And now this recent archeological find just buttresses and validates what I explained before, as well as supports plenty of other written historical source information, official royal charters, documents, letters etc from those times and later. It's yet another evidence of one of the early Croatian rulers and the other intriguing connections to the early old Croats in antiquity in Central Europe and the geographically coterminous lands they inhabited, as well as the etymological, onymic, topographical and linear cognate naming custom connections and similarities during those times. It's sort of like watching or writing an episode script of Game of Thrones or Vikings in a way or some other similar themed series or movie. Below is an adapted condensed version from the news articles with some added facts by me for the benefit of the reader...

Front page of the local Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper mentioning the newest archaeological finds..

Article sources:

The oldest Croatian history did not inherit an overabundance of epigraphic monuments, so the discovery of every stone with an inscription, like at this latest archaeological site Bribirska Glavica, in this instance another example of the name of an important ruler from the first recognized Croatian national dynasty and written in stone, is a real sensation. According to the article from Split based news portal "Slobodna Dalmacija" and other sites, the find happened on the border between Ravni Kotari and Bukovica, (between Zadar and the Lika region around Knin), where unrecorded prehistory and known history has shown more than three thousand years of continuous life in this area in varying degrees, and today yet another stone fragment with the inscribed name of early Croatian Knez (Duke/Prince) Branimir.

Duke Branimir (Latin: Dux Brannimero) was a ruler of what is known as the Duchy of Croatia from 879 to 892, importantly attaining official recognition as a state on 7th June 879. He not only turned the Croatian realms into a country comparable to other western monarchies of the time, but he also raised Croatia to the front rank of other Central European states, a monarch, military leader, politician, strategist and visionary statesman as well. (in Croatian his name is literally translated as "defender of peace", or "protector of the realm"). During his reign Croatia retained its sovereignty from both Carolingian Frankish rule and from eastern Byzantine and Bulgarian interference and became de jure and de facto independent, during Branimir's reign even the Venetians had to pay taxes to Croatia and request safe passage for their ships. (although the first recorded name for the Duchy was "Land of the Croats" (Latin: Regnum Croatorum), the Latin word "Regnum" however was many times used in Europe for the word Kingdom also, and Kings and Monarchs were at times even termed Dukes in Latin, (Dux/Duce), so it could also technically have an early Croatian Kingdom connotations). The most famous stone Branimir inscription (Croatian: Natpis kneza Branimira) is so far the oldest preserved stone monument containing an inscription defining a Croatian medieval ruler as a leader and "Duke of the Croats – Latin: Dux Cruatorum." Interestingly, this also happens to be an extremely rare archaeological find from that European Medieval period that not even many modern day European nations can also lay claim to, even well after the time of Branimir in 879-892, ie: a permanent stone inscribed testament of the name of a ruler of not just a geographical area/territory, but also a reference to the people (Croats) from which the territory and later Kingdom received it's name from, pretty interesting.

(Interestingly since on the topic, during his reign Branimir and his wife Maruša (aka Marusa/Mariosa) appear in records as making an official escorted royal tour to Cividale to prove their allegiance in being a part of the new continental order and common terra nostra Europa, Cividale at the time was part of the Kingdom of the Lombards (in modern day Italy at the Slovenian border). And in the margins of the codex pages can be seen their signatures, in the codex pages can also be found the written names of other early Croatian Dukes and Princes and even a King, such as Croatian King Krešimir I, Duke Braslav and his wife, Duke Trpimir I and his son and Duke Muncimir/Mutimir, these also are so far the first documented examples of Croatian signature autographs in a Latin text. But interestingly also found written within the pages of the codex are the signature names of other visiting powerful ruling monarchs of Central Europe who are simultaneously important to Czech and Slovak history, such as Dukes...Rastislav of Moravia, PribinaKocel, King Svatopluk of Moravia with his son Predslav, as well as Carolingian Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig II of Italy and Charles III, Pabo, Richeri and Engilschalk who were significant leaders in the former Eastern Prefecture during the same time. Basically in a nutshell, Branimir and the others were top notch respected leaders in Central Europe and powerful reigning monarchs of their realms during that time).

The archeological discovery news broke out from a team of archeologists and the director of the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split, and the curator of the mentioned museum for Bribir, when they formally announced their findings for the forthcoming 5th Gunjačine Days, an international scientific colloquium named after the legendary archaeologist Stjepan Gunjači, and which will be held in the organization of the HAS Museum in Split (Muzej Hrvatskih Arheoloških Spomenika) and the Museum of the City of Šibenik at Bribirska Glavica on May 5th and 6th.

This recently found Bribir inscription is so far the seventh one found in this area since the 19th century that mentions Duke Branimir, and fortunately again for us today it was written in stone...INTERIBUS (during the reign/time)...B ... MIRO (of Branimir)...DUCE (the ruler). A fragment also mentions the name of the Abbot Theudebert, who was a traveling Frankish missionary and who was also mentioned in another Branimir inscription found in the town of Nin. It was written in Latin as was customary in large parts of Europe and especially Central Europe in the Middle Ages. (The most famous one is the Branimir inscription found in Benkovac about 30 km east of the modern day city of Zadar, and dated to the year 888). The Šubić nobles were one of the elite twelve tribes which constituted organized royal Croatian statehood in the Middle Ages and they held the county of Bribir (ancient Varvaria), as well as the later Zrinski nobles. The famous military leader Pavao I. Šubić Bribirski who was Ban (Viceroy/Governor) of Croatia from 1275 and Lord of all of the Bosnia after the political union of Croatia-Hungary in the 12th century, was also from Bribir and finally buried here.

This inscribed stone with Prince Branimir's name was found inside the church of St. Joachim and St. Ann at Bribirska Glavica, whose foundation stands on a roundabout that is dated to the 6th century by the archaeologists, which would make it the first of such type buildings in Dalmatia, predating the most famous roundabout of Zadar's St. Donat rotunda from the early 9th century. Many of these types of old medieval era buildings are remains after being largely destroyed or heavily damaged during the centuries of Croatian-Ottoman and Habsburg-Ottoman wars in Europe. During the research project they dug to the older bottom sections of the building and found the inscribed Branimir stones, and this is also when they came across another unexpected sensation, not just national importance but world-wide in it's significance.

Here is where they also found in a single inscription on two stones a Swedish toponym, specifically the name of the Swedish province "Skania Inferior" (meaning "Lower Skania"in Latin). Similarly to Croatian and other areas of Central Europe, the general population still remained largely pagan for centuries after its initial appearance and then spread on the continent, so it is no surprise to historians that the Vikings were long opposed to Christianization also. (Interestingly, many don't know that the whole Viking expansion phenomenon was actually the direct result of Christianity, as it was a quest for retaliation and considered payback against various European leaders for previous invasions and entering the Viking homelands and so against the new and any other foreign desert creeds, for this reason the first target of Viking raids was not the Frankish Kingdom or Central Europe, but Christian monasteries in England, the time of early Christianity in Sweden dates back to the 12th century and the Viking age in European history in general existed from about 700 to 1100 CE).

So the archaeologists then wondered that since they have a Swedish toponym on the inscribed stone at Bribirski Glavica, even inscribed on the very stone fragment with the Duke Branimir epigraph, what does this mean and how will it affect the up to now most widely-held views about the Viking ties, namely Scandinavia and the early Croatian realms and rulers, as in what context was "Skania Inferior" mentioned?...travellers or emissaries to or from? some sort of political or other ties, explorers by land and rivers or by sea? economic or trade related or other? ("Skania Inferior" in Latin which is the Scania peninsula of southern Sweden, and it is widely accepted in old sources and by historians that during that time "Scania" was synonymous with being the Viking's lands. (aka Scandza/Scandia/Scatinavia ie: the origins of the word Scandinavia. As well as spreading fear in the hearts of many across large parts of Europe, to Britain, Ireland, Scotland and even into France and towards the Byzantine empire sacking Constantinople in 860 and 907, and coincidentally the remaining northeastern Croatian tribes are also mentioned in old sources as taking part in those attacks on Constantinople, most notably in Nestor's Chronicle about the history of the earliest Kievan Rus' principalities). These are the intriguing questions and data that the archaeologists, historians and scientists will now analyze further and have long discussions about to try to learn more and find more clues.

A promo from an interesting related Croatian Television (HRT) and Momentum Studio produced 7 part documentary series "Hrvatski Kraljevi" (Croatian Kings), which delves into some of the archaeological topics discussed here. The documentary series revolved around the arrival of the Croatian tribes from the north in the 6th-7th century, the following Croatian Kingdom dynastic  centuries to the 12th century union with the Hungarian crown. It was viewed by millions and broadcast to over 30 countries by the Swedish "History Channel" on the Viasat satellite television network.

We know that the Byzantine Emperor and chronicler Constantine VII stated in his foreign policy manual De Administrando Imperio that shortly later circa. the year 925, at its peak Croatia under King Tomislav which at the time included the Croatian provincial jurisdiction of Bosnia also, could raise a vast military force composed of 100,000 infantrymen, 60,000 cavalry horsemen and a sizable fleet of 80 large galleys and 100 smaller vessels, and we have no evidence of any Viking raids in this area before or after such as experienced along the western coast of Europe during those same times, the Ostrogothic Kingdom ruled the area starting in the 5th century (circa. 493–553) but not Vikings who appeared later in sources. This is what adds to the intrigue, why mention the Viking lands of Scania at all in the first place on a stone epigraph then? On the very stone with Duke Branimir's epigraph. (see video below). There must have been a good and propotious reason, travellers or emissaries to or from? by land and rivers or by sea? economic or trade related? travelling magicians and wizards to and fro? exchanging seafood and meatball recipes? time travel? We know that before and during Branimir's time as well as the following Croatian Kingdom and dynstic rule centuries, (and many centuies afterwards actually), there was no contact or dealings with Serb tribes located east of the Drina river, which was Bulgarian lands at the time, Alba Bulgarica became the later called Belgrade for the first time in sources even while it was still Bulgarian, and of course no stone carved epigraphs either such as in this instance. (This mentioning of the land of the Vikings during Branimir's reign could be related to information found regarding the simultaneously happening Kievan Rus' history that was taking place also, where Pagan Croat tribes are recorded as being part of Prince Oleg's forces that attacked Byzantine Constantinople at the turn of the 9th/10th century, the "Rus'" being another name used for the Varangians/Vikings in the east).

As mentioned earlier, a map of Vikings and Carolingian era and type K swords found over the years, used in medieval Croatia and with a number of them metalworked in Croatia by swordsmiths, from the Croatian Littoral, coastal areas and up to the Northern Pannonian basin and plains near the Hungarian border and all dated to the 7th-10th century. During the early Croatian state forming at that time, the weapons borne by the warriors consisted of double-edged swords, barbed spears and cavalry gear, 24 Carolingian era swords have sofar been found including the 13 type K swords. The vast majority were found in modern day southern and northern Croatia and a few in the border areas of the current Bosnia province, but which at that time was a part of Croatian state and crown lands and just a local Croatian jurisdiction anyway being that there were no such thing as Bosnian tribes. (this centuries before the much later bogomil heresy sect from the east appeared in the 13th century and then the Ottoman jihads and later other incursions). All the type K swords are dated to the Carolingian period during Branimir's reign and the Croatian Kingdom centuries era. So even before this recently unearthed "Scania" stone epigraph discovery, it's already been known for decades that there was some sort of connection previously, but interestingly in this case there are no evidences or written records of any Viking raids ever taking place as was common and experienced in the other locations.

I might as well throw in this also, a few type K sword examples found in Croatia and dated to the time of Branimir, the very times that Croatians were in some sort of varying degrees of alliance with Charlemagne’s empire and especially when they had the same common political goals vis-a-vis troublesome remnant armed barbarian nomads still present in the Central Pannonian basin, as well as the Byzantine empire aspirations on the continent. (all 24 Carolingian era swords including the 13 Croatian type K swords found so far are dated from the 7th-10th century, from a total of 60 type K swords found altogether in Europe), the most recent ones were unearthed in old Croatian graves just a few years ago, in the area of Koljane near the town of Vrlika by the Cetina river. Notice the very similar knotted interlace design motifs and pleter stylization that was already very common in many Croatian carved stone monument reliefs by then and very prevalent afterwards also. (a few other examples at croatian-knotted-stone-interlace-pleter). The greatest importance accorded to the sword's hilt was that it played a major role in swearing oaths, this would extend to all the swords from the time and not only type K swords, for this reason they wanted their personal sword buried with them. Here's another interesting fact regarding this topic, the 13 Croatian type K swords found amount to 22% of all the type K swords unearthed in Europe and the only country that discovered more is Norway at 17 swords, now to me that's sort of sensational and interesting. Images from the archeological report "Histria Antiqua" - Novi mač iz Koljana u svjetlu kontakata s nordijskim zemljama u ranom srednjem vijeku. ("Histria Antiqua" - A Recently Recovered Sword at Koljani near Vrlika seen in the Light of Contacts with Nordic Countries in the Early Middle Ages)

The monarchical realms and political landscape of Continental Europe during the early 9th century, shortly before the death of Charlemagne and simultaneous first permanent officially recognized and organized Croatian states and rulers since the Croat's arrival. (The Croatian tribes still remained largely Pagan up to that time)

We also know that during the reigns of Croatian Kings Peter Krešimir IV (1059-1074) and Dmitar Zvonimir (1074–1089) they had dealings with the Normans (ie: Norsemen/Vikings). Zvonimir even allied with the Normans who had already conquered southern Italy which was occupied by the Saracens and Moors at that time. King Zvonimir also sent ships from his fleet to aid the Norman Duke of Apulia Robert Guiscard in 1084 against the despot Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, contributing significantly to the wars against the encroaching Byzantine navy into the Adriatic sea and on land. (which was also strange, as the Croatian Kingdom at that time would have had plenty to plunder especially in the coastal city's and towns). However these well documented contacts and dealings with Norsemen (which is what Normans ultimately means) took place well after the time of Duke Branimir, actually more than 200 years later, and by that time they are known to have already built settlements after reaching the shores of North America.

Map showing some of the known major Viking/Varangians trade routes: the Volga trade route (in red) and the Dnieper and Dniester routes (in purple). Other trade routes of the 8th–11th centuries shown in orange. Scania peninsula can be seen in southern Sweden.

A large number of the archaeologists that are part of this project are students from Australia, Norway, Turkey, Romania and France. Archaeological excavations in the Bribir area have taken place since the end of the 19th century, today known as a project of international archaeological research from classical antiquity to the medieval era, the Varvaria/Brebirium/Bribir project - which were the names of this place through recorded history. A dozen archeology students from Sydney Australia pay for their accomadations to learn and apply their expertise in the field, along with a few of their colleagues from Norway and some from Turkey, Romania and France they all stayed as guests of the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments and the Museum of the City of Šibenik, who helped organize all of the above projects. The students will now have gained experience and have some exciting news to take back as well as having helped discover more evidence and intriguing facts about medieval Croatian history.

(There, at least now some readers will know that Croatians and Croatia didn't just all of a sudden pop out of the ground one day in the 18th or 19th century, along with the weeds, garden gnomes, those pink flamingos and dandelions, so that's good to know. I'll be back with my usual stuff after catching up on all the new viral Walmart people, mannequin challenge and salt & ice challenge videos which I may do a post about, I also enjoy these days browsing the local news mug shots and photos of shooting victims and suspects, because some of them look really fucko and are good for a chuckle, so I'll probably be quite a while)

More related information about some of the topics discussed here at:







Below are just a few images from the Bribirski Glavica archaeoligical site where the inscribed stone fragments were found a few weeks ago. Full presentations and more media/information will be available during the 5th Gunjačine Days international scientific colloquium taking place at Bribirska Glavica on May 5th and 6th. (Updated video at magazin.hrt)

Updated video from magazin.hrt.

As already touched upon, Bribirski Glavica is one the most important archaeological sites in Croatia. Located 300 meters above the settlement of Bribir, since the 19th century it has been a rich site for medieval findings and important building remains including four ancient Croatian cemeteries. Bribir and the surrounding area has been a source of many items dated to the Croatian presence period such as pottery, inscriptions, decorated architectural fragments, furniture, tools, weapons, fine samples of jewelry, drinking vessels, ceramics and coins, archeologists sometimes even refer to Bribir as the Croatian Troy. (ocassionally even flints and other items from neolithic stone age times have been unearthed). Known at first as Varvaria and part of the province of Liburnia since Greco-Roman times in classical antiquity since about 500 BCE, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom afterwards, then the Croats arrived in the 6th-7th century and set up their own realms including settling in Bribir. (No items have been found dated to between the Roman fall and Gothic eras to the Croatian presence so it was likely abandoned for a time). It was first officially mentioned under its present Croatian version name Bribir as one of the 14 counties of the littoral region of the Croatian Kingdom in the work of Emperor Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus, in his foreign policy manual De Administrando Imperio from circa. the year 950 he wrote that after the Croat tribes arrived to ancient Dalmatia, Pannonia and Illyricum from north of the Danube in the 6th-7th century, it soon became a local center for Croatian Princes and Dukes. (the Croatian Kings held their official residences and royal courts at other more strategic larger centers and fortresses...Knin, Zadar, Nin, Šibenik, Split, Klis etc). There are many documents preserved from those times which give evidence of the significance and richness of Bribir, there were as many as seven churches, a manor, lodgings, guesthouses and other buildings, the public notaries of that time, doctors, artisans of different occupations, servants and others are also mentioned in sources, testifying to the importance and high staus it once had. Bribir achieved its peak in the 11th and especially during the 13th and 14th century, a period when the members of the Šubić noble family from Bribir ruled over Croatia as the Bans (Viceroys/Governors) of Croatia after the political union of  Croatia-Hungary. The famous military leader Pavao I. Šubić Bribirski who was Ban (Viceroy/Governor) of Croatia from 1275 and Lord of all of the Bosnia, (as well as his brother Mladen I Šubić Bribirski) was from Bribir and he was finally buried in the cathedral in Bribirska Glavica. It started to lose it's political importance in the 15th century because of the approaching Croatia-Ottoman and Ottoman-Habsburg wars which caused it to be largely unhinhabited again. The first seriously thorough research began in 1908 and only about one-fifth of the surface area within the outer walls has been explored. I should note that its most recent achieved fame was after the Slovenian and Croatian democratic elections and independence referendums in 1991, when shortly afterwards it was under Serbian chetnik and armed Serb paramilitary occupation from 1991-1995, and used as a center for shelling and ethnic cleansing Non-Serbs in the area, the locally armed Serbs with support from the Serb church and volunteers arriving from Serbia used the Bribir highland to shell the nearby coastal town of Vodice and city of Šibenik, (Ironically a city first mentioned in a 1066 royal charter when it was a royal seat and official residence of Croatian King Petar Krešimir IV the Great, a King who coincidentally also made a point of reminding that Dalmatia was part of the Croatian Kingdom in a Latin written royal charter mentioning donating a part of the island of Maun in 1069..."nostram propriam insulam in nostro Dalmatico mari sitam, que vocatur Mauni" meaning "...our own island of Maun that lies on our Dalmatian sea"). Before the armed Serbs and Serb paramilitaries left they devastated and robbed a considerable number of finds. However since 2005 the European Union has funded the CARDS program for community archaeological excavations, reconstruction and protection of this site. Today Bribir is again a popular archelogical site and source of new discoveries such as this recent one. Today there are over 600 individual archeological sites in the whole Bribir, Šibenik-Knin County area of central Dalmatia, Croatia.

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