At the same time that the restoration and conservation works were being done, between 1989 and 1997 systematic archaeological research was carried out on the museum itself, providing new information about life in Gradec since prehistoric times. Since the area was being continously colonised, many of the historical layers have intermingled, which made the work of teams from the Archaeological Institute of the Faculty of Philosophy, Zagreb University, considerably more difficult at this highly complex archaeological site. It is certain that by the latest at the turn of the 8th and 7th centuries BC, at the beginning, that is, of the Halstatt culture of the Early Iron Age, a settlement was constructed in this place the traces of which go on to the end of the 6th century BC. There is no material evidence relating to the next few centuries to bear witness to the continuity of settlement, right down to the 1st century BC, when this readily defensible site was settled by a population of the La Tene culture of the Late Iron Age. When the whole of the Zagreb area was more powerfully Romanised, life in this location faded, appearing again, according to the most recent dendrochronological analyses of wood found in the structure of the rampart, in the Early Middle Ages, that is, in the second half of the 7th century AD. Finds of residential architecture dated to the 12th century and finds from the Later Middle Ages are very important, for they bear witness to the way in which people lived in this location, and the continuity of human settlement. About 2000 square metres of the locality have been researched; the excavations went on, with brief interruptions, until the permanent exhibition was completed. Part of the locality, about 1700 square metres, has been conserved at the site, while in the eastern wing of the Museum an authentic archaeological locality is presented. Individual immovable finds are shown at floor level in a diagram done in an inlay of materials most similar to those found.
Finds in the northern courtyard
Archaeological research undertaken at the beginning of the 90s concentrated on the northern courtyard and the east wing of the one-time Convent of the Poor Clares. In these excavations the most important finds were three wooden medieval buildings and a shallowly dug in workshop from the transitional period between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.
Within these buried prehistoric buildings filled with soot, earthenware weights, fragments or ceramic pots and parts of clay daub were found. Outside the building there were shallow pits for the bearing beams of the above-ground construction. The oldest medieval building was found under the foundations of the western wall of the parlatorium. A small cellar area 3 x 3 m in size was covered with shingles that are still well preserved. Dendrochronological analysis has dated the building to the year 1171.
Two other medieval buildings were discovered under the foundations of the north wing of the convent. The cellar premises uncovered were 8.5 x 4.5 m in size with sides faced with wooden planking placed against the soil and supported on the interior by posts. The posts placed along the central axis of the building in all likelihood supported the floor construction of the ground floor. Archaeological material and dendrochronological analysis date the building to the 14th century.
An early iron age settlement
The north east plateau of the Upper Town was inhabitated by, at the latest, the end of the 8th century BC, and the archaeological material unearthed bears witness to the continuity of the inhabitation of the area until the end of the 6th century BC. The buildings of the settlement were devastated by being subsequently dug in, and preserved only in part or in traces. We can say with confidence that the houses of the time were above the surface of the ground, made in the wattle-and-daub technique, with floors that were laid with stone cobbles. Outside and inside hearths were used for cooking and space heating, and earthenware pots with shapes typical of the Hallstatt culture of the 7th and 6th centuries BC were in use for food preparation.
Some of the vessels were decorated with the incision of geometrical motifs, with strips of clay and moulded animal heads. That potting had reached a degree of precision and fineness is shown by the remains of a slowly rotating potter’s wheel. Many finds of ceramic weights for the loom and weights for the spindle show that weaving was very well advanced. The remains of weights for fishing nets lead to the conclusion that fish was an important part of the diet of the populace of the time. Parts of costume – beads, bracelets and brooches, some of which are preserved only partially – give vivid evidence that the inhabitants of the area were completely in tune with the culture and civilisation of their times.
Želimir Škoberne, Boris Mašić