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Viničko Kale (Виничко кале)




Location: Vinica  Map





Viničko Kale is situated on a strategic hill overlooking village of Vinica in the eastern Republic of Macedonia. This is an important archaeological site those first settlements date back to the ancient times around 2200 BC. Some of the oldest Christian icons from the 4th and 6th century were discovered here. Today 25,000 square metres of the historic settlement still undergo exploration by the historians and archaeologists. Most of the artefacts discovered here are presented in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.




General features
It is located southwest of the town of Vinica, to the left of Grdecka Reka, on an irregularly shaped hill, elongated in the southeast-northwest direction, with an altitude of 400 m. It is surrounded by steep sides, with the exception of the southeast, which is separated from the adjacent height by a deep and wide artificial trench. It has an uneven peak, with a slope to the northwest, where the height difference reaches up to ten meters. The size of the space occupied by the remains of the fortification has approximate dimensions of 250 × 150 m, which is about 2.5 ha. According to the surface remains, the settlement spread on the slopes of the hill, as well as on the surrounding hills. With its height and position, the site dominates over the area of ​​Vinica, and has a beautiful view over the riverbed of Bregalnica.

Archaeological excavations
Vinica Fortress as an archeological site was discovered in 1954 by M. Grbiќ, under the name "Gradischte", and later, in 1958, M. and D. Garashanin introduced the term "Kale Bair". Interest in his research arose in 1978, when archaeologist C. Krstevski brought to the Museum of Macedonia five fragments of terracotta reliefs with iconographic representations, hitherto unknown, especially interesting for the study of the early Christian period. Thus, since 1985, archaeological excavations have begun that continue unabated to this day. Initially, the relative stratigraphy of the site was found as protective, and later systematically, with these excavations. According to the archeological findings, especially the ceramic ones, the life in the settlement took place in a long continuity, from the Neolithic period until the full Middle Ages, with the difference that the most numerous architectural remains from the late antique period (IV century-V century). Remains of walls of several buildings of a profane character were discovered, with organized porches, "benches" for sitting, warehouses, built of stone and lime mortar, which in some places have been preserved up to 4 m high. Swimming pool, prefurnium, plumbing installations and more were found in some of them. The buildings were erected next to the defensive wall, of which a part was discovered together with a semicircular tower. The wall is made of crushed stone and lime mortar, and its width is 3 m. It is important to mention that in the rubble between the walls was found a large number of whole and fragmented replicas of terracotta icons, with invaluable archaeological, artistic and theological value dimensions. Near the middle of the site are very poorly preserved remains of the walls of a small medieval church, much earlier excavated by "gold diggers" - gold diggers. A large number of samples of architectural plastic were discovered around the church, such as columns, bases, capitals, parts of the chancel, transes, floor tiles, etc., and fragments of ceramic vessels, bronze objects, iron and bone, then jewelry. , coins and more. A rich female tomb from the 12th century was discovered and excavated, in which 9 glass and 4 bronze gilded bracelets, 11 bronze rings (several gilded) and a bone object (needle) were found.

Discoveries and results
The results of the excavations, although still unfinished, clearly show that the fortified settlement of Vinicko Kale was permanently exposed to ups and downs, which is clearly seen through the construction interventions at the facilities. Of course, his location, which lies on one of the busiest economic ancient communications - the road from Stobi to Pautalia and Serdica - played a big part in all that. On this road, according to historical sources, there were several urban settlements, hence the idea that perhaps one of the cities of Armonia or Kalenidin was located on Vinica Fortress, which is expected to be confirmed by further research. There are traces of life in this site since early antiquity. In the IV century the city received a fortification which was restored in the VI century. It is probable that the town of Kelenidin, known from written sources as the episcopal see, is located here. An early Christian basilica was discovered in this site, residential and commercial premises in which the so-called Vinica icons.

Vinica icons
These terracotta reliefs contain iconographic representations of Christian themes as well as Latin inscriptions with liturgical content. They date from the 5th - 6th century and probably served as an application on the walls of the tomb buildings in the late antique period in the Vinica building complex. The terracotta icons from the Vinica Fortress that were discovered by the archaeologist Cone Krstevski are the only ones of this type with invaluable wealth of archaeological, artistic and theological value.