Project title: Archaeological investigations into the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene of the Lim Channel, Istria (ARCHAEOLIM)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ivor Janković

Host institution: Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb

Duration: 2014 – 2017

Funded by: Croatian Science Foundation


James Ahern, Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming, USA

Fred H. Smith, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University, USA

Darko Komšo, Archeological Museum of Istria, Pula

Sanjin Mihelić, Archeological Museum, Zagreb

Jacobo Weinstock, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton, UK

Katarina Gerometta, Department of Humanities, Juraj Dobrila University of Pula

Rory Becker, Anthropology/Sociology Department, Eastern Oregon University, USA

Krunoslav Zubčić, Department for Underwater Archeology, Zagreb

Barbara Cvitkušić, Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb

Antonela Barbir, Croatian Conservation Institute, Zagreb


Project description:

The proposed project is aimed at archaeological research of four cave sites in the Lim Channel, Istria, where previous small-scale excavations and field survey documented human habitation during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. The project includes systematic excavations of two cave sites, Romualdova cave and Pećina kod Rovinjskog sela 1 as well as test pits in the Abri Kontija 2 and Lim 001 caves and underwater test pits in the Lim Channel. It is expected that this work will provide data for understanding a number of important issues regarding behavioral and possibly biological aspects of human groups during a time when Late Glacial hunter gatherers were forced to change and adapt to a changing environmental and other pressures. Presence of Mousterian artefacts at one of the sites, and Upper Paleolithic tool types at another suggests two populations (i.e. Neandertals and anatomically modern humans) were present in the region during the Late Pleistocene. Data from the proposed excavations may provide a basis to test some of the highly debated questions regarding the relation of biological population to behavioral aspects (e.g. whether Neandertals or anatomically modern humans were responsible for Early Upper Paleolithic, is there a sharp distinction in behavior and anatomy between these groups etc. Furthermore, at one site early Mesolithic is documented, while at another Late Mesolithic is present, allowing similar issues regarding behavior and other aspects to be tested, including issues related to the transition to Neolithic (agricultural) lifestyle. A comparison of data between all four sites could provide us with a basis for testing of issues related to changing lifeways, land use, movement patterns, site use, biological aspects (similarities and differences), contact zones, mobility, continuity, etc. at times of changing climatic and environmental conditions and thus help us to understand this crucial time period, in particular, and how humans respond to such changes, in general. Results from the project will also provide a basis for development of archaeology – based tourism and thus directly benefit the local community, and Croatian economy in the long run.

Romualdova cave is situated on the southern slopes of the eastern end of Lim channel, on 120 m of absolute elevation. It is tunnel-shaped and has total length of cca 105 m. This cave was excavated by several researchers since the late 19th century. In 2007 and 2008 revision excavations were carried out in order to collect samples for various analyses, especially radiocarbon dating. This yielded important new data, as the Middle Paleolithic sequence, unnoticed by previous researchers, was documented. This is of great importance, as it can shed light onto the Neandertal occupation of Istria and provide important comparative data.


During 2007 on the north side of the Lim channel an abri named Abri Kontija 002 was documented. It is a large abri with maximum depth of 7 m. A small test pit excavation was carried out in order to establish the presence of archaeological finds. Two small test pits, dimensions 40×40 cm, were excavated. Approximately 20 lithic artefacts, numerous faunal finds, as well as one marine snail Columbella rustica were collected. The finds indicate presence of an unknown archaeological site that could be broadly dated into Late Upper Paleolithic.


Pećina kod Rovinjskog sela 1 is situated on the southern slopes of the Lim channel. It is a large cave that consists of two parts. The entrance is in fact a large abri, which opens to an interior chamber on the south wall. Position and size of the cave, as well as several archaeological and paleontological finds, indicate possible human use of the cave during prehistory. Because of this, a test pit excavation was carried out. Preliminary analyses of archaeological, paleontological and malacological finds, as well as documented sediment and stratigraphic data, indicate that this cave was used by hunter-gatherers during the very end of Upper Paleolithic or Mesolithic. Planned radiocarbon dating should help to precisely date the period of occupation.

A small abri situated at the end of the Lim channel. The abri was documented in 2008. A small test pit was excavated. Approximately 50 lithic artefacts were collected, among them several trapezes, 15 perforated marine snails used as ornaments (mostly Columbella rustica), one stone point, a few bone fragments, a few fish bone fragments and exceptionally large quantities of marine mollusc shells. This site can be dated to the Late Mesolithic and is exceptionally important for understanding the transition from Mesolithic to Neolithic.

Publications and presentations


  • Project leaflet (link)
  • Current archaeological excavations in Croatia – poster (link)
  • Romuald’s cave – poster (link)
  • Romuald’s cave – poster (link)
  • Abri Kontija 002 – poster (link)
  • European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow 2015. (link)
  • European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow 2015. (link)
  • Prehistoric hunter-gatherers and farmers in the Adriatic and neighbouring regions, Kaštela 2015. (link)
  • Croatian speleological society, Ogulin 2015. (link)
  • Croatian speleological society, Ogulin 2015. (link)
  • International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences’s Inter-Congress World anthropologies and privatization of knowledge: engaging anthropology in public (link)
  • rad Bronze and Iron Age Finds from Romuald’s Cave, Istria: 2014 Excavation Season – Collegium Antropologicum (link)
  • International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences Inter Congress, Dubrovnik 2016. (link)
  • 20th Congress of the European Anthropological Association, Zagreb, 2016. (link)
  • Croatian archaeological society conference, Bjelovar, 2016 (link)
  • paper Arheološka istraživanja u Limskom kanalu 2014. i 2015. Lokaliteti Romualdova pećina i Abri Kontija 002, pećina kod Rovinjskog sela, Lim 001 i podvodni pregled Limskog kanala (link)
  • Archaeological workshop 2016. (link)
  • Geodiversity, geoheritage and geoturism in karst areas, Perušić 2017 (link)
  • 86th Annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (link)
  • Project presentation at the University of Wyoming (link)
  • Elevations Magazine – University of Wyoming (link)
  • paper Arheološka istraživanja u Limskom kanalu 2016. (link)
  • paper Keramički nalazi iz brončanog i željeznog doba iz istraživanja Romualdove pećine 2014. godine (link)
  • project exhibition, Archaeological Museum in Zagreb Gallery (link i plakat)
  • project exhibition, Gallery C8, Pula (link i plakat)
From the media




“ARCHAEOLIM” exhibition opening in Pula gallery C8 – RI TV from Institut za antropologiju


“ARCHAEOLIM” exhibition opening in Pula gallery C8 – TV Istra from TV Istra