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The Secrets of Fizine

Conceptual design: Snježana Karinja, Andrej Gaspari; Exhibition project coordinator: Snježana Karinja; Authors of the texts used at the exhibition: Snježana Karinja, Andrej Gaspari, Rene Masaryk, Matej Draksler, Verena Vidrih Perko, Jaka Bizjak, Iris Bekljanov Zidanšek, Ajda Purger, Mojca Fras; Associates:Veronika Bjelica, Maruša Bizjak, Blanka Štibilj, Ajda Purger, Daniela Milotti Bertoni, Damjana Kodarin; Slovenian sign language interpreter: Maja Kuzma Ganić; Photos: Andrea Kiss, David Badovinac, Arne Hodalič, Andrej Gaspari, Miran Erič, Matic Perko, Borut Slokan, Mihael Huszar, Danijel Germek, Jasna Štajdohar, Andrej Blatnik; Drawings: Matej Draksler, Petra Jendrašić, Rudi Krže Volčič, Ilonka Hajnal; Bathymetric imaging of stone structures and maonas: Sašo Poglajen; 3D modelling of archaeological situations: Tomaš Kiss, Zavod za Podvodno Arheologijo; Pedagogical learning corner: Veronika Bjelica, Ajda Purger, Snježana Karinja; Layout and preparation for printing: Milena Oblak Erznožnik   

With the exhibition The Secrets of Fizine we would like to draw your attention to the importance of underwater archaeological research, the discoveries made and their interpretation, the great development in terms of techniques and methods of documentation, the protection of archaeological monuments and of cultural heritage in general. Several thousand small finds were discovered at Fizine, which are now kept in the Maritime Museum Piran and some of them are also on display in the permanent exhibition. Many of them may seem somewhat insignificant or mediocre, but with their origins on the distant shores of the Mediterranean, they show time and again that it is the sea that connects and provides a great window into a larger world.


The ancient settlement complex, which includes a harbour and a fish farm at Fizine, is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites on the coast of Slovenian Istria. The area, which stretches between Cape Bernardin and the salt warehouses in the western part of Portorož Bay, was inhabited from at least the second half of the 1st century BC to the 6th/7th century AD, mainly due to its location at the foot of the sun-facing slopes of the ridge below Šentjane and Beli Križ, which was well protected from north winds.

Already during the first underwater explorations and excavations carried out in 1963-1964 by the Maritime Museum Piran (formerly the City Museum) in cooperation with the Underwater Research Centre under the direction of archaeologist Elica Boltin-Tome, numerous ceramic artefacts were discovered, including almost perfectly preserved amphorae. The underwater survey and test excavations were carried out by Mihael Huszar, the museum preparator and diver. This was the time when the excavations of a sunken Roman ship were being carried out in the Bay of Piran near Savudrija under the direction of the Archaeological Museum of Istria, and when modern underwater archaeology really began to make its way. Some employees of the Maritime Museum also took part in these excavations, gaining knowledge and experience.
The underwater site at Fizine was resurveyed in 1984 and 1985 by the Maritime Museum Piran in cooperation with a diving group of the Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana University. The survey yielded further evidential findings and supporting observations. Knowledge of the structural features, extent and chronology as well as the function of the installations beneath the sea surface was further enhanced by the investigations implemented in 2004 and 2005 by the Underwater Archaeology Group. Sonar survey, structural survey and geodetic measurements of the stone walls and their ruins were followed in 2005 by the excavation of a trench in the corner of the eastern part of the site. Additional and more precise data on the extent and shape of the seabed in the wider area of the site was provided by the multibeam sonar survey carried out by Harpha Sea in 2006.


Preventive underwater excavations carried out at Fizine by a team of the Underwater Archaeological Consortium led by the Institute of Underwater Archaeology in May 2017 and between October and December 2018 due to the renovation of the pier in the western part of the bay, yielded unexpected finds testifying to the ancient use of this stretch of the coastline, clearly indicating that during the heyday of the coastal settlement in the 4th and in the first half of the 5th centuries the harbour was extended to the previously unoccupied section of the north-western part of the bay, where additional berths were eventually built in front of the new embankment.
Underwater archaeological research resumed in 2021 due to the planned expansion of the pier and reconstruction of the Aquatorium. From September to November, the excavations were again carried out by a joint team of experts from institutions associated with the Underwater Archaeological Consortium, which was joined by the Preventive Archaeology Centre of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia.

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