Archaeological Potential of the Anchialine Caves in Croatia

  • Irena Radić RossiEmail author
  • Neven Cukrov
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 20)


Anchialine caves are a common phenomenon in the Mediterranean karst. Their entrances lie above sea level, and underground accumulations of fresh water in their interior float on top of the seawater, which communicates with the sea through porous carbonate rocks. The fresh water layer of such caves represents a significant resource of potable water for the ancient inhabitants of the eastern Adriatic coast. Due to the systematic work of a group of Croatian speleologists, more than 100 anchialine caves have been registered along the Croatian coast and its numerous islands. Submerged speleothems from two caves, situated on the islands of Krk and Lošinj, have contributed to the reconstruction of Late Pleistocene and Holocene sea level changes in the northern part of the eastern Adriatic. Archaeological finds have been observed in at least seven caves, but only one cave, Vodeni Rat on the Pakleni Islands near the island of Hvar, has been archaeologically researched. As with many other similar structures, there is evidence of human intervention on its rocky walls, and some Roman amphorae were recovered from the bottom of the cave. Another cave named Živa Voda, situated on the other extremity of the island of Hvar, revealed the presence of a great quantity of Bronze Age underwater finds, testifying to the intense use of fresh water from its interior, or maybe some other ancient function. Considering their distribution, accessibility, depths and position in relation to known prehistoric settlements, we can assume that the anchialine caves in Croatia have high archaeological potential that should be protected and researched.


Anchialine caves Cave archaeology Water resources Karst Speleothems Seafaring Prehistory Bronze age Classical antiquity 



Promotion of interdisciplinary research on the archaeological potential of the anchialine caves is supported by the Croatian Science Foundation, in the framework of the project AdriaS (Archaeology of Adriatic Shipbuilding and Seafaring, IP-2014-09-8211). We also thank Branko Jalžić for sharing his extensive knowledge of Croatian anchialine caves with us, and making available to us all the available documentation.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of ZadarZadarCroatia
  2. 2.Division for Marine and Environmental ResearchInstitute Ruđer BoškovićZagrebCroatia

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