The oldest military fortification in the region of the Timok River called Timacum Minus (lat. Timacum – the Timok, hydronym; lat. minus – “smaller”) was built in the Beli Timok valley in the vicinity of village Ravna, not far from Knjazevac. The archaeological research of this site showed the continuity in living there from Prehistory to the Middle Ages. This settlement reached its peak in Ancient times as Timacum Minus being a significant mining and smelting center.
Timacum Minus is located in the place where the roads to the Danube region, the Morava region, the Adriatic and Aegean Sea crossed. It is located in the fertile valley of the Beli Timok River in the vicinity of fertile edges of Balkan Mountain. Its location enabled favorable conditions for the development in the entire Antique Period. Numerous ore deposits (gold, silver, copper, lead and iron) on Stara Planina Mountain determined the city economy of Timacum Minus. Epigraphic inscriptions confirm that it represented an important administrative center for the wider area. It was destroyed on several occasions in Barbarian invasions from the middle of III to the middle of V century.
The Roman Fortification
The Timacum Minus fortification was built on a relatively flat terrain. Its base is rectangular, dimensions: 144 x 112 m and the total area of about 2 ha.
The construction of the first earthen fortification is located in the period from the middle to the end of I century (Phase I). The remains of the oldest fortification with wooden towers are registered in the Wastern Gate Sector. It was built by the members of Cohors I Thracum cohort and it was made of earth and palisades. The oldest fortification was surrounded by a defensive trench – fossa. The remains of the trench have been found along the eastern rampart of the fortification. The eastern side of the fortification is also the closest to the Timok River.
The first stone fortification with a rectangular base was built at the beginning of II century, and its remains were registered at the Western Gate sector, at the north-western and north-eastern corner of the fortification. The fortification itself was designed as a rectangle with rounded angles, dimensions: 144 x 112 m (Phase II). It was built of stone and river pebbles bonded with mortar. Rectangular towers were built on the inside part of the rampart. The western gate of the fortification (porta principalis sinistra) has also been explored, and it is 3m wide. The entrance was guarded by two square towers placed on the inside part of the fortification. Along the lines of the eastern and western rampart there were the same square towers between the corners and gates of the fortification. The construction of this fortification is related to the architectural activities of Roman Emperor Trajan (98 –117 AD). There is also evidence of the presence of cohort II Aurelia Dardanorum, founded most likely during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161–180 AD).
The next phase in the construction of Timacum Minus is related to the reconstructed fortification with newly built defensive square towers (Phase III). The period of its construction is connected to the renewal of the fortification after the first Gothic intrusions into the territory of Upper Moesia province in the middle of III century during the reign of Emperor Trajan Decius (249 – 251 AD). This layer was registered in the sector of the western gate, along the western rampart and the southern gate sector. The archaeological material from this layer is typical of the period of III and the first half of IV century. The newly built defensive towers are protruded on the outside part of the rampart line. The main characteristic of this phase is building the rampart by grey sandstone blocks and spolia, architectural marble elements taken from older structures. Owing to the urgency and lack of good quality stone for strengthening the fortification ramparts, even the gravestones from the older necropolis were used (II–III century). In this phase there is evidence of the reconstruction of the western and southern gates of the fortification. The results of the archaeological research on the western and northern rampart and also the northwestern corner indicate that in this phase there were 16 to 20 towers to defend the fortification. The southern gate (porta praetoria) was built of big sandstone blocks and dry stone technique. It has been preserved to the height that enables a successful reconstruction. The fortification crew still consists of soldiers from Cohors II Aurelia Dardanorum cohort up to the last decades of IV century.
The last renewal of the fortification occurred at the end of IV century. The new fortification with reinforced ramparts and protruded ramparts made in opus mixtum technique belongs to the period of the reign of Valentinian and Valens (364–375 AD). The renewal was registered on the northern, western and southern rampart and also on the fortification corners. The traces of renewal can also be noticed in the collected archaeological material. The fortification gates were closed by newly built big towers (Phase IV). A new rampart, 2 meters wide, was placed next to the existing stone rampart. The fortification was destroyed probably during the invasion of the Huns in the year 441. The archaeological research to this day has not registered the renewal of the fortification after this destruction.
The most recent site horizon in the Ravna site is a medieval settlement, probably from X century. This was established based on graveyard findings from the nearby necropolis on the Slog site. The archaeological materials and anthropological analyses show that it was the burial place for Slavic people in the period from the end of IX to the end of XI century. The recorded findings of broken ceramics from the inside of the Timacum Minus fortification indicate that this settlement was renewed in the XII – XIII century period.
The explored objects
Granary Building (horreum) in the Central Part of the Fortification
In the central part of the fortification there is a building with rectangular base which, by with its southern façade, faced the northern portico of the main street in the east-west direction (decumanus). It was built in opus mixtum technique, by combining stone and rows of brick bonded by lime mortar. The walls of the are reinforced by pilasters which supported the upper floor. The orientation of the building is east-west. The role of the building is still not certain, but it is presumed that it was a barn (horreum). Considering the results or geophysical prospection of the unexplored parts of the building, it is not unlikely that the building was the administrative and military center of Timacum Minusa (principia). The building was built in IV century.
Circular Structure Associated with Metal Processing
A circular building with a circular pool in the middle 6m wide was explored in the northeastern corner of the fortification. The object was made of stone bonded with lime mortar. The floor made of hydraulic mortar was also registered. The purpose of the Ravna fortification is related to metallurgical activities and it is assumed that this object (cisterna) was used for the flotation of ores and separation of silver and gold. Preliminary archaeo-metallurgical analyses of the samples confirm this presumption. Traces of metallurgical activity, casting and forging iron were also traced in the sectors of northern and southern gate of the fortification.
Southern Gate (porta praetoria)
The most interesting in the architectural sense is the southern gate of the fortification has been preserved to a great extent and it possesses all necessary elements for the reconstruction. Besides being well preserved, it is also characterized by the special construction technique. It was made partly of monumental sandstone blocks in the dry wall technique which indicates that it was built by local masons. This unique Roman gate consists of four construction phases. The gate flanked by towers of rectangular basis was built, most likely, at the end of III century. The most recent life phase in the southern gate sector of the Timacum Minus fortification ended in the middle of V century.
Roman Bath (Thermae I)
Northeast of the fortification, on the bank of the Beli Timok River, the object Thermae I has been explored. This Roman bath contains the apodyterium – changing room on the eastern side of the building. It is followed by a slightly heated room (tepidarium). On its right side are two more intensely heated rooms (caldaria) connected to the furnace (praefurnium). On the southern side of the object is a cold bath (frigidarium) with a pool. Thermae I are built of broken stone and river pebbles bonded by lime mortar. The bath was built in II century, and was in use until the end of IV century.
Building with hypocaust (Thermae II)
A building construction with floor heating system has been partially explored. It is located to the south-west of the fortification. The construction has not yet been fully explored and it is not possible to exactly define its function. It is supposed that this is another public bath. On the southern side of the object, two apses have been discovered (the bigger and the smaller), made of stone and pebbles bonded by mortar. Since it has been partially explored, it makes it hard to date this object more precisely, but a general opinion is that it was built in II or III century.
Research of Timacum Minus
The fortification on the bank of the Beli Timok in the vicinity of the village of Ravna not far from Knjaževac was equaled with the Roman Timacum Minus built in the middle of the first century A.D. The first data about it was recorded by Doctor Stevan Mačaj, the physician of the Knjaževac region. In his work called „Materials for the topography of the Knjaževac region“ from the year 1866 he mentions the antiques in Ravna. In addition to the fact that he left the first written data about this fortified city, Mačaj attracted more antique researchers towards Timacum.
The ethnographer and travel writer Filip Feliks Kanic visited Timacum Minus, together with Stevan Mačaj. On that occasion he recorded that he was convinced that he was standing in a Roman castrum. Kanic published his observations in 1892 in his book “Rӧmische Studien in Serbien” („Roman studies in Serbia”).
The pioneering epigraphic works in connection with the fortification in Ravna were published by the editor of Berlin “Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum” („Corpus of Latin Inscriptions “), Alfred Domaszewski, who visited Knjaževac in the year1866.
In his scientific work „The Knjaževac Region (with a map)“ (Gazette of the Serbian Learned Society, Book XLIX, Belgrade 1881, 53–124) general Jovan Mišković revised and amended data on the Castrum in Ravna left by Dr Mačaj in more detail.
At the beginning of XX century about „the town of Ravna“ writes the linguist and anthropologist-geographer Marinko Stanojević, born in Jakovac. In his book „Timok“ in 1940 he published data on the site in Ravna and other ancient monuments in the region of Knjaževac .
The key moment in the history of the research of Timacum Minus is the cooperation between Anton von Premerstein from the Austrian Archaeological Institute and Professor of Belgrade University Nikola Vulić (Fig. 5). In the period, between 1899 and 1902 the first archaeological research commenced in the Ravna fortification. The results of the research were published in the mid-twentieth century in magazine Monument of Serbian Royal Academy no XCVIII. Nikola Vulić conducted the research until the outbreak of the World War Two. The associate of Prof. Vulić was the director of the Museum of Niš Aleksandar Nenadović. The largest part of mobile archaeological material from this research is still kept in the Museum of Niš.
Beginning of Systematic Archaeological Research
After several decades break in the second half of XX century, the first systematic research of Timacum Minus started. Led by Dr Petar Petrović in 1975 the Archaeological Institute from Belgrade and the Homeland Museum in Knjaževac started the first campaign of archaeological research. Svetozar Jovanović, the curator – archaeologist of the Homeland Museum in Knjaževac, gave his great contribution to the realization of this research. The research was focused on ramparts, towers and gates of the fortification and also the research of the circular building inside the fortification. The research of the area outside the rampart in order to define the borders of the Ravna site and discovery of objects extra muros. Outside the fortification area the first Roman graves were registered with inhumated deceased people near the stream Ropinski Potok and the excavation of Roman Thermae commenced on the bank of the Timok River. Parallel with archaeological research, the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments in Niš systematically realized the conservation works with the aim of adequate presentation of this site to visitors and professionals.
Sometime later commenced the excavation of a building with hypocaust, which is located to the south-east of the fortification and also the exploration of the central object inside the fortification. Also, the research of the Holy Trinity Church on a nearby hill, west of the fortification was realized. In the foundations of the existing early Byzantine church of small dimensions traces of a pagan temple were registered and it was dedicated, probably to Jupiter. Among the mobile material from this area marble capitals (II-III century) and marble icon of Jupiter are to be highlighted. In this period the first aerial footage of the Ravna fortification was made.
At the beginning of 1990s the Department of Archaeology of the Faculty of Philosophy in Ljubljana, the Institute of Archaeology from Belgrade and the Homeland Museum from Knjaževac carried out the first geomagnetic recordings of the fortification. In this way a new chapter in the research of the Ravna site was opened by using modern, multidisciplinary and scientific approach.
In the year 1991 the research was realized within the framework of the project of international cooperation YU-USA “Metallurgy and military organization at Roman Ravna”. The associates from the US side were from the Universities of Michigan and Albany. The research was focused on the sector of the central building and the inside of the fortification.
In the period 1994 to 1996 the first protective excavations were performed during the reconstruction of the Ravna-Debelica local road. On the nearby hill called Slog a late Roman and medieval necropolises were discovered. Along with the exploring of the Ravna necropolis, there were the excavations of the southern gate of the fortification (porta praetoria).
After a longer break in the archaeological research, in the year 2008 new protective excavations were realized on the site north-west of the fortification. On that occasion a part of a stone structure was discovered (foundation zone of a massive wall, possibly a rampart), as well as two graves of inhumated deceased people. The following year, when arranging the Archaeo-Ethno Park in Ravna, a research of the discovered necropolis with inhumated deceased people was realized
Owing to the successful cooperation of the Institute of Archaeology in Belgrade, the Homeland Museum in Knjaževac and Roman-Germanic Commission of the German Archaeological institute from Frankfurt on Main, in the year 2010 a geophysical prospecting of the site was realized. Significant data was obtained and they will influence the further research plans for Timacum Minus,
During 2013 and 2014 the protective explorations of the Slog necropolis were continued. The archaeological excavations of this late ancient and early medieval necropolis gave precious findings. A large number of personal items of the deceased was discovered, silver and bronze jewelry – earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces made of glass beads and bronze as well as a large number of ceramic and glass dishes which were laid into graves as grave goods.
The pioneering exploration works in XIX century and also the forty years long systematic research of this archaeological site offered significant material necessary for shedding light onto the cultural and historical picture of Balkan Roman Provinces and also the region of the Timok River.
Environmental Characteristics of the Timacum Minus Site
The area of wider environment of the archaeological site Timacum Minus belongs to the Timok Region, i.e. the central-Balkan region. The natural border in the east and southeast represents the massif of Stara Planina Mountain and in the west and northwest the area of Knjaževac is bordered by limestone mountains – Tresibaba, Ozren with Devica, Slemen and Krstac. In these terrains, therefore, karst phenomena are common: underground rivers, sinkholes, caves and ice caves. In the south of this region are mountains Svrlјiške planine, and in the north is Tupižnica Mountain (Lasovačka Mountain). The natural border in the north is Vratarnica gorge. The mountains that stretch on this area belong to the Carpathian-Balkan Mountains. These mountains are of various geological compositions, the results of which are numerous ores.
The relief of Knjaževac region belongs to the area of Upper Timok and represents a “chess relief” type in which ravines and valleys alternate with mountains. The Beli Timok valley is intersected by edges of Stara Planina, Tresibaba and Tupižnica Mountains. These mountains are famous for their hunting grounds.
East of the Timok is Stara Planina massif which represents a natural border with Bulgaria. At locations Kadibogaz (near Novo Korito village) and Sveti Nikola (near Ravno Bučje village) there are suitable notches, old crossings also used in earlier times to connect the Timok valley with big centers in Bulgaria (Ratiaria, a significant ancient center on the bank of the Danube, today Arčar, Serdica, today Sofia etc.).
In a broader sense, on the territory of Knjaževac two climate zones are present: Alpine climate in the Stara Planina zone and continental climate zone in the Timok valley. The climate in Knjaževac region represents the combination of Central European moderate climate and continental-steppe character climate. The major characteristic of such continental climate is that the summers are hot and dry and winters cold. Among the warmest parts is the Beli Timok valley in which the archaeological site Timacum Minus is located. The northeast and southeast winds have the most impact on the climate of Knjaževac region. Such climatic circumstances enable successful growing of a large number of crops (cereals, fruit and vegetables). As a result of a large number of sunny days this territory is very suitable for growing grapes.
The region of Knjaževac is characterized by a developed hydrographic network. The most important is the Beli Timok River on whose bank the Timacum Minus settlement was formed. The Beli Timok is formed from the Svrlјiški and Trgoviški Timok.
The fertile valley of the Beli Timok River was favorable for the early inhabitation of this region. In its hinterland palaeolithic settlements were found which confirm this fact. Moreover, on the area of Timacum Minus fortification, during the archaeological excavations, a prehistoric cultural layer was registered from the period of Copper and Iron Age. The composition of soil influenced the development of plant production, agriculture (farming), growing grapes and fruit.
The region of Knjaževac is characterized by diverse geological composition. That led to the study and search for metal and non-metal raw materials which directed the economy of these parts.
Ore deposits are characteristic of the entire Timok valley. This region is rich in coal deposits and metal ores. The most common metals are: copper, gold, silver and iron. The Zaglavak area is characterized by the occurrence of gold-bearing quartz vein. The major part of the gold in the Timok drifts originates from old rocks concentrated on the Zaglavak territory (mountainous area between the Bulgarian border, Beli and Trgoviški Timok. The analysis of the slag from the fortification in Ravna showed a low percentage of gold and silver, which leads to the conclusion that the ancient inhabitants of this Roman settlement used a more advanced technology of processing metal. Based on the results of systematic archaeological research it is assumed that Timacum Minus was a center of this metallurgy area from the end of III to the middle of V century.
Traces of the oldest necropolis from the period I-III century were discovered to the west of the fortification on the site called Slog. On this site a part of late antique necropolis was explored from the second half of IV and first half of V century.
The inhumed deceased people were buried in several ways – in tombs built of bricks and pebbles encapsulated with mortar, in graves enclosed by large stones or they were freely buried into oval or rectangular graves. The findings in graves are numerous and varied: jewelry, belt buckles, footwear. Other items placed in graves were combs, iron tools ceramic and glass dishes, weapons and money. The registered dishes from graves indicate the ritual which provides the deceased the sacrificial food and drink. Coins as grave goods are evidence of the custom of paying the “toll“ in order to enter the underworld.
The necropolis of the inhabitants of Timacum Minus from the II–III century period has not been explored, but its tombstones have been preserved. In the middle of III century, in the time of a great danger from the barbarians and Goths who intruded the Empire territory, they served as building material to fortify the ramparts of the fortification
In the vicinity of the fortification, a small part of bi-ritual necropolis has been explored (the deceased were buried both by cremation and inhumation) from the end of III and beginning of IV century.
On the Slog site, in the layer above the ancient necropolis, the remains of a medieval graveyard have been discovered from the IX-X century period. The archaeological material found in the necropolis indicates that Slavic people were buried in it.
Religious beliefs and rituals
The ancient peoples left traces of material culture, and also traces of their beliefs and hopes. The analysis of archaeological materials from the Slog necropolis, which has been partly explored and is located in the vicinity of Timacum Minus fortification, provided data about funeral rites and existence of a cult of the dead among the inhabitants of late antique and medieval Ravna.
The Slog necropolis was used for a long period of time. The oldest explored graves are from the I-III century period. The residents of ancient Ravna continue to use the older space for cult rituals in the late ancient period during the second half of IV and the first half of V century. The most recent layer of this necropolis was made in the IX-X century period. The more recent archaeological research discovered an older horizon of medieval burials from VII–IX century period.
On the late ancient necropolis Slog skeletal burials prevail. The deceased are in a lying position, oriented in most cases west-east, with the head in the west. The burial pit base is usually rectangular or ellipsoidal. The gravestone constructions were unfortunately damaged by digging medieval graves. The analysis of the obtained data from the archaeological excavation of the necropolis confirmed three chronological phases of burials. In them one can notice the change of social and economic status of buried residents.
The first phase of the necropolis originates from the period of flourishing of the Timacum Minus settlement (350–380 AD). The deceased were buried with luxurious grave goods and personal items. The jewelry of the deceased, glass dishes and money as grave goods reflect this prosperous period. In the graves of women there was mostly jewelry – strings of beads, earrings and bracelets, made in the local workshop or a nearby bigger trade center. In the graves of men parts of belt sets were found, whereas in one grave buckles from military sandals, fibulas, glass dishes and money were found.
Besides the remains of the material culture, in the graves of the late ancient necropolis Slog there are also recorded the traces of funeral rituals. In the first phase of burial there was a custom of placing dishes into the grave. This custom is related to a pagan belief that the living people are obliged to provide food and drink for their dead ancestors. There are at the same time the items that the deceased is going to use after death. Ceramic and glass cups, ceramic jugs and pots were usually placed under the feet of the deceased. In this phase of burial, there was a custom of ritual breaking of dishes on the grave. The dishes were used during the funeral feast and the holidays dedicated to the dead.
Besides these dishes intended for the sacrifice for the deceased, in the female graves toiletry sets were frequently placed. A glass bottle and a balsamarium were placed next to the deceased woman hoping that she will use them in afterlife.
The custom of putting coins into the graves was discovered in the first (350–380 AD) and the second phase (380–410 AD) of burials in the Slog necropolis. The coin in the hand of the deceased served to the deceased to pay the crossing of the Acheron River to boatman Charon.
During the second phase of burials in the Slog necropolis (380–410 AD), a custom of placing food and drinks into the grave remained. In two graves the traces of a cult of the dead were discovered in the form of placing an apple with coins stuck into it and an egg as grave goods. An apple is a symbol of eternal youth and resurrection and the egg of vital energy and the birth of a new life. As grave goods, the egg was often used as food which gives strength for the journey to the other side.
Besides the presence of the old funeral tradition during the second phase of burials we can notice certain elements of barbarization in the funeral ritual. This is explained by the presence of federates in the Roman army at the end of IV century. The military troops of federates were composed of Eastern Germans and Alans and they were also present in the Timok region. The ritual of placing three-layer combs made of deer horns next to the head of the deceased is linked with these newcomers from auxiliary units of the Roman army. The explored graves of the warriors in this phase reflect the turbulent historical events in the second half of IV century. Generally speaking, the grave goods in this phase are scarcer compared to the previous phase of burials, which corresponds to the general impoverishment of the settlement in Ravna.
The ritual of placing a snake into the grave was recorded in the first and second phase of burials in the late ancient necropolis Slog and also in the medieval necropolis Slog. The common attribute of god Dionysus is a snake. Dionysus, crowned with a wreath of snakes, offers his followers healing and resurrection. The snake symbol is also related to god Asclepius and Thracian deity Sabazios. Being the god of medical skills, Asclepius wears a stick with a snake around it. Symbolic animals of an oriental deity Sabazios are a tortoise, a lizard, a frog, a ram and a snake. By his characteristics he is close to god Dionysus and offers his followers the rebirth. In the Roman settlement Timacum Minus there is evidence of the presence of Thracian people. As the followers of Sabazios, the residents in the antique Ravna probably included into the funeral ritual some elements of his cult.
In the last phase of burials in the late antique necropolis Slog, originating from the first half of V century (410–450 AD), one can notice the clear change in the funeral rituals. The buried residents are mostly without grave goods, and that indicates that in this phase the population was Christianized and also that the Ravna settlement became a rural one. The pagan converts kept their old beliefs and myths in their spiritual culture. In the material remains of the last phase of the late ancient necropolis Slog there are no longer traces of the “barbaric” cult of the dead. The destruction by the Huns in the year 443 also occurred in Timacum Minus. The late ancient necropolis Slog was probably still in use for a certain period after this destruction.
The most recent layer of the necropolis originates from the IX–X century period. Being formed on an older cult area just above the older late ancient necropolis, the medieval funerals partly damaged the late ancient graves. The deceased were buried in grave pits without a grave construction. They were laid on the back in an extended position with differently positioned arms. They were oriented in the direction east-west with the head placed in the west. The population was buried with jewelry, ornaments for clothes and also with items which they used every day (tools, weapons, whetstone, and tinder). There is a striking presence of older, “Pagan” customs in the form of placing dishes with food and drinks into the grave. The family places the food and drink to make the journey of the deceased to the eternal home easier. The custom of ritual breaking the dishes above the grave which was also recorded in the late ancient necropolis Slog was discovered in the medieval necropolis as well. A common custom in the transitional rituals recorded within the Serbian mythology is the magical breaking of dishes, which is present in the funeral but also the wedding cult. The purpose of breaking of dishes is to break the evil and to provide peace and tranquility for the deceased in the afterlife. One of the explanations for this cult action is that by breaking the dishes the soul of the deceased is at peace and therefore it cannot harm the relatives. Another common custom for both necropolises is laying an egg into the grave. An egg is a symbol of the renewal of life offers hope in the resurrection. In Serbian traditional beliefs the egg is a protection against spells and is often used in the customs which are meant to improve health.
As part of the cult of the dead among the medieval inhabitants of Ravna there is a custom of funeral feast – “daća”. In the layer of soot above one grave the remains of pig and chicken bones were found which illustrate this custom. Another ritual, typical of Slavic medieval necropolises, and present in the Slog necropolis, is making ritual fires in the vicinity of the grave. A part of the funeral fire is laid into the burial pit. The fire with its flames purifies, destroys evil and protects against evil demonic creatures.
In some graves the ritual of enclosing the deceased by stones has been found. It was believed that in that way the deceased is protected. This custom was present for a long time in Slavic tradition. Stone, a symbol of imperishability, should guarantee eternal existence of the soul of the deceased. In the Serbian traditional religion there is also a cult of the stone for which it is believed that it is the dwelling place of a supreme creature or the soul of the deceased. As an impersonal deity, the stone has ambivalent nature and is related to chthonic and also revitalizing properties.
Ritual laying snakes into graves was also noticed in late ancient and early medieval necropolis Slog. The snake as a cult and chthonic creature protects the deceased and guards the grave area. By its ambiguous symbolism the snake unites in itself life and death. It is connected to the Realm of the Dead, but also with the idea of rebirth. In the Serbian mythology the snake is very significant. It possesses numerous magical powers – it protects the home, fields and cattle, wealth, it heals and guarantees fertility. Under the influence of autochthonous beliefs and Thracian – Dionysian culture, the medieval population buried in the Slog necropolis, although Christianized, preserved the old traditional rituals related to the cult of the snake.
As a special cult place, the necropolis, the graveyard, has always been the line between the other world and this world, the place of separation and last goodbye. The man’s belief and hope that life after death exists was expressed through the funeral ritual. These customs provide the rest of the soul to the deceased. The elements of the cult from the Slog necropolis illustrate the rituals that the inhabitants of the ancient and medieval Ravna practiced in order to send off for the last time their loved ones in a dignified and caring manner and make their “crossing” of the border between the two worlds easier.
The most significant ancient road which passes through the Timok region is Via Lissus–Naissus–Ratiaria. This road represents an important link between Danube region and the Adriatic Sea. Another important road which included the Timok valley is the road Naissus–Serdica. This road led to Nis from which it forked towards Bela Palanka (Remesiana) and Pirot (Turres).
The two most important road crossings in the Timok region are located at the mouth of the Timok into the Danube in the north and at the mouth of the Svrljiski into the Trgoviski Timok in the south. These crossings connected two major Roman roads Viminacium–Ratiaria and Naissus–Ratiaria. Near Prahovo (Aquae) in the north, the Timok and Danube roads connected. Near Knjazevac in the south, the roads forked into several directions: to the south and south-east (Niš and Pirot), north (the Crni Timok valley), west (the Morava valley) and east (Arčar).
- II–III century
- Bronze, cast
- Height 12 cm
- Ravna, fortification, southern gate
- Research carried out in 1996.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 745
Statuette of god Mercury in a standing position, resting on his right leg. Around the left arm there is a wrapped cloak and in the right hand he holds a bag. On his head there are small wings. The feet are missing.
Mercury or Roman Hermes is an ancient god of trade and protector of travellers In Greek mythology he has the role of the guide of souls (psychopomp) to the afterlife.
- II–III century
- Height 8.1 cm
- Ravna, fortification, northern gate
- Research carried out in 1980.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 251
Head of god Dionysius framed by a wreath made of grapes and vine.
Dionysius or Bacchus is an ancient god of vegetation to whom the entire nature is subdued. Immortal and mortal by nature, the god of the dead and augury. He is a mediator between the two worlds who offers his followers the hope into resurrection.
- III–IV century
- Bronze, cast
- Length 4.3 cm
- Ravna, fortification, southern gate
- Research carried out in 1994.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 683
Padlock in the shape of a bigger, massive ring with the lid in the form of a human mask
- I–II century
- Bronze, cast, enamel, gilt
- Length 7.5 cm
- Ravna, Thermae I
- Research carried out in 1977.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 160
Rectangular buckle made of three plates set stepwise. In the center there is a rectangular perforation with three connected oculi, of which the middle one is filled with blue and the two lateral ones with red enamel. The perforation is framed by four bearings filled with green enamel. The vertical sides of the plate are shaped as wavy sevenfold arches, whose middles are filled with red enamel, and next to each of them there are two circular bearings with blue enamel. The buckle is fastened over a button with a simple pin.
Openwork Fibula (opus interrasile)
- End of III beginning of IV century
- Silver, opus interrasile
- Length 4.9 cm
- Ravna, Ropinski potok necropolis, grave I
- Research carried out in 1994.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 682
Silver fibula of hybrid type – knee and cruciform, with a hinge mechanism on the head and two bulbs on the feet of the bar and laminar widening in the form of a palmette instead of the central bulb, with a vegetable ornament in the form of a tendril on the arch, made in opus interrasile technique. High pin holder. The pin and the foot are missing. The head is damaged.
This luxurious silver fibula represents a form of extraordinary medal to meritorious military officers.
In addition to the unusual shape, the fibula is characterized by an ornament on the arch made in opus interrasile technique. Only in a few fibulas, originating from the territory of the Roman Empire, this technique is present on the entire arch of the fibula.
Funerary Monument – Medallion
- II – III century
- h – 99 cm, R – 87 cm
- Ravna, horreum
- Research carried out in 1991.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. no. 513
A family, anepigraphic gravestone monument in the shape of a medallion made of limestone conglomerate. The medallion has a plastic frame profiled by a groove, a rectangular base with a pin. The busts of the deceased are presented in full relief. On the lower half of the medallion two men are presented on the right and on the left and two women in the middle. On the upper part of the medallion three figures are presented, a man on the right, a woman on the left and a younger man in the middle
- III – IV century
- dim. 89 x 192 x 29 cm
- Ravna, horreum
- Research carried out in 1991.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. no. 450
A stone gravestone monument made of limestone, damaged at the upper side, the base is missing. Embossed area is framed with vine tendrils. In the lower part two symmetrically placed horsemen are presented and between them is a man holding the horses by headgears. In the upper part of the embossed area the mother on the left and the father on the right side and the sister of the deceased is placed between the parents. On both sides of the inscription area are fluted columns on stepped bases with Corinthian capitals.
- IV century
- Gold, glass
- Length 3.4 cm
- Ravna, Slog necropolis, grave 134
- Research carried out in 1996.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 793
Two gold earrings with elliptical rings finishing in the shape of a loop with hooks for fastening. On the rings is a pyramidal pendant shaped as a stylized Hercules’ club with a bead of pearl at the end.
Necklace with Gold Beads
- IV–V century
- Gold, glass
- Length of beads: 0.6 –1.2 cm
- Ravna, Slog necropolis, grave 12
- Research carried out in 1994.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 654
Necklace made of dark blue and green glass beads and four gold beads in the shape of dishes
- End of III beginning of IV century
- Bronze, gilt, casting, carving, niello
- Length 8.2 cm
- Ravna, Ropinski potok necropolis, probe IX
- Research carried out in 1977.
- Homeland Museum Knjaževac, inv. 159
A cruciform gilded fibula, the arch of trapezoidal cross-section decorated with carved motif of a ”fir branch”. The foot decorated with the same motif, edges decorated with three pairs of peltas and at the beginning and end by volutes. The carved ornament is filled with black enamel (niello).