During the archaeological digs at the Gomila site, nestled in the town of Zakotorac on Croatia’s Pelješac peninsula, researchers unearthed quite the find: a Greco-Illyrian helmet tucked away in a masonry annex near the tombs, clearly intended for ceremonial purposes.

This helmet marks the second of its kind discovered at the site. The previous one was linked to a tomb stocked with iron weaponry, likely belonging to a warrior.

Since the start of these excavations, alongside a trove of jewelry, clothing, and burial trinkets, this discovery significantly enriches our understanding of the funeral customs of Illyrian communities in the latter part of the first millennium BCE. It firmly establishes Pelješac as a pivotal archaeological hub along the Adriatic’s eastern coast.

Detail of the Greek-Ilyrian helmet discovered in Croatia
Detail of the Greek-Ilyrian helmet discovered in Croatia. Credit: Dubrovnik Museums

Interestingly, the first helmet, dating back to the 4th century BCE, contrasts with the latest find from the 6th century BCE, hinting at a nuanced timeline of ancient craftsmanship and societal influence. The rarity of such helmets in archaeological contexts makes their discovery all the more remarkable, especially finding two distinct Greco-Illyrian styles in the same locale.

Professor Hrvoje Potrebica from the University of Zagreb’s Archaeology Department remarks on the significance: The coexistence of two distinct helmet types at this site speaks volumes about the enduring power dynamics within each community. These helmets have always symbolized status and authority.

The archaeological team, led by Dr. Domagoj Perkić from the Archaeological Museum in Dubrovnik, along with curators Paula Knego and Vicenco Pijerov, collaborates with colleagues from various institutions, including the City Museum of Korčula, the Dolenjski Museum in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, and the Academy of Arts in Split, showcasing a collective effort to unravel the mysteries of Zakotorac’s past on Pelješac.

Coordinated by the Center for Prehistoric Research, this multi-faceted endeavor underscores the interdisciplinary nature of archaeological exploration, merging insights from the Faculty of Philosophy’s Department of Archaeology in Zagreb, the Institute of Archaeology, and the Museums of Dubrovnik.


Dubrovnik Museums

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