Archaeological Survey of the Bay of Medulin in Istria

The archaeological survey of the bay of Medulin is part of the project »Archaeological Park Vižula« financed by the EU which was submitted in 2016 under the leadership of the municipality of Medulin (Istria, Croatia). The aim of the project is the preservation and expanded public presentation of the Roman architectural remains of Vižula, a so-called villa maritima. An important part of the project is the acquisition of a new data basis through integrated archaeological survey. The data is generated through a combination of remote sensing and geophysics and is the basis for the visualization needed within the framework of the new archaeological park. Furthermore, they provide a better understanding of the Roman landscape of the surrounding region.

The Vižula peninsula

The Vižula peninsula encompasses around 24 ha and is located along the western coast of Istria around 10 km south of the city Pula, the cultural and administrative center of the region in the Roman period. The peninsula offers a comprehensive view of the bay of Medulin stretching 8 km in length and the location of nine small islands. Today, Vižula has a terrain height of about 13 m above sea level and is connected to the mainland by a narrow land bridge. The peninsula is covered with dense Mediterranean vegetation and is used as a recreational and bathing area.

The Roman architecture of Vižula covers a length of over 1 km. Due to the increase in sea level since Roman times, the remains once located along the coast are now submerged. Systematic excavations since the 1980s have revealed numerous imperial and late antique building complexes on land and under water, including a luxurious villa, a pier, as well as remains of a Roman Road and a burial ground.

Archaeological research question

The present form of the Vižula peninsula is the result of a dynamic landscape development that at all periods was subject to changes. The rising sea levels had the greatest influence leading to the loss of the landscape context of the Roman architecture. In order to take account of this fact we began extensively surveying Vižula in 2014; the selected methods were intended to document the archaeologically relevant structures on land as well as under water. First, using a high-resolution motorized ground penetrating radar system we measured an area of almost 2 ha in collaboration with the LBI ArchPro Vienna. In spring 2018, the entire bay of Medulin was also surveyed through airborne laser scanning (ALS, also known as Airborne LiDAR). A green laser was used on the area measuring around 17 km² making it possible to capture the topography to a water depth of about 10 m with a resolution of 0.5 m. This led to a high-resolution, digital terrain model free of vegetation depicting Roman structures and landscape features both on land and under water.

The combination of the interpreted survey data with the contexts obtained through the archaeological excavations reveal new insights on the landscape development of the region which will be presented within the framework of the archaeological park.