Claiming the sea: Bronze Age fortified sites of the north-eastern Adriatic Sea (Cres and Lošinj islands, Croatia)

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Published in: World Archaeology 2017, vol 49, issue 4, pp. 526-546 doi: 10.1080/00438243.2017.1341331

Author: Zoran Čučković


More than 1,000 Bronze and Iron Age hillforts can be listed for the eastern Adriatic region. These constructions left a mark on the landscape which is still perceptible today. In some cases, such as the island of Lošinj, this density is challenging to explain: almost thirty hillfort (or simply hilltop) sites were recorded on a rugged island with an area of 74km2. Different factors potentially involved in the formation of this settlement pattern are discussed (territorial control, surveillance, control of maritime networks), only to show that without considering some kind of symbolic display a plausible explanatory model cannot be devised. A new reading of the coastal seascape is proposed, inspired in part by costly signalling theory. Hillfort construction is interpreted as a discursive practice geared towards assertive display in front of potential seafarers.

Keywords: Bronze Age, seascape, costly signalling, hillforts, visibility analysis