Straisce Fort: Is the System for Protecting Montenegro's Cultural Heritage Working?

By , 29 Apr 2018, 09:25 AM Travel

April 29, 2018 - The absence of a functional system for protecting Montenegro's cultural goods puts a site of an exceptional value in danger - for example, the prehistoric fort of Straisce at Cape Ograda in Žanjic Bay, which only last year was granted the status of protection at the request of the Bokobran Initiative, although it was recorded back in the 19th century in Austro-Hungarian cadastral maps of the Lustica peninsula. However, the mentioned status of this fort from the Bronze Age does not guarantee its survival.

Current DSL (State Study Location) Sector 34 (Arza-Mirista-Žanjic) foresees the construction of high category hotels at the location of the fort, while two of the nine planned villas have been built on the protected area of the site. The constructed objects, with more floors than defined by the document provided by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, also overtakes the rocks and part of the aquatorium where investors have built a private dock.

By granting the status of its previous protection, the fort is at least temporarily preserved, and the competent Montenegrin Cultural Protection Authority is obliged to organize research and the assessment of the cultural value of the site by September this year. Works are ongoing on the field that threatens to wipe out the archaeological heritage to build tourist facilities. Following the works near the fort Straisce, despite the status of previous protection, the Bokobran Initiative reported to the Directorate for the Protection of Cultural Property asking them to react towards the Inspection Directorate to establish what is happening on the field and to stop the works, which now seriously jeopardizes the facility itself, not just its immediate surroundings.

The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism has adopted the DSL Sector 34 in 2012, and archaeologists have not been involved in the work of this document, although it is known that Zanjic was one of the inhabited areas in Boka in prehistory. "This document does not address the layers of cultural heritage, except for the fortresses of Arza and Mamula, which by the realization of this plan will also be meaningless in their cultural value and characteristics in the context of the cultural landscape. This document in the very core of the fort includes tourist facilities," says archaeologist Milos B. Petricevic, who prepares a doctoral thesis on the topic of the prehistoric region of Grbalj and Lustica at the University of Ljubljana.

For the purpose of preparing the Spatial Plan, especially for the coastal area under construction, the Straisce fort was recorded as part of the work on the complementary Cultural Property Study - a document for which execution is done by the same Directorate for the Protection of Cultural Property, headed by the Art History professor, Anastazija Miranovic. 

On the Ograda cape, the construction works are ongoing, and so far, constructed objects have come out of the predicted dimension by the DSL Sector 34. According to this plan document, on the cape, construction is planned for eight villas of P + 1 flooring. The built objects have four visible floors, and a few cascading terraces made on the rocks at the seaside, where private docks were constructed, although the Law on Sea Activities states operations is not allowed. It is interesting that in the records of the Real Estate Directorate, almost the entire Ograda cape, cat. 1785/1 KO Radovanici, is owned by the state of Montenegro, and the right of use belongs to the Government. As per unofficial information, investors of the two constructed villas on neighboring parcels are citizens of Russia and the UK, and these parcels are neither registered with the Montenegrin Real Estate Agency in e-cadaster nor are visible at the geoportal of the Management Board.

The access road to these facilities was made near the ancient fort, while the way for cars for the planned buildings surrounds it. According to Milos Petricevic, the protection and valorization of this site of exceptional value should not only mean the reconstruction and presentation of the fort itself, but also the landscape context in which it is located, which is now being used for the built and planned objects.

"In the previous analyses, we found the existence of a fort on the Cape Ograda, which is extremely important for science in general, because forts at this low altitude and with such powerful fortification are mostly unknown. What is important to emphasize is that this fort has not only existed in prehistory, but its role was very significant in later periods," said Petricevic, who, having surveyed the Ograda cape, preliminarily concluded that there were at least four buildings on Straisce. 

"Object 1 was officially noticed in 1838 in the Cadastral Survey of the Habsburg Monarchy for Boka Kotorska, or KO Radovanic (Commune Radovanich). There is a possibility that those are the remains of an ancient observatory, i.e. the speculate used in later periods, as evidenced by the Austro-Hungarian cadastral survey according to which this object was still in use or visible, which means that the locality itself was in the center, we can easily say, from the Bronze Age to the late Middle Ages," says Petričević. 

The Object 2 archaeologist describes it as a recent construction similar to infantry screens, while Object 3, erected on the denuded mass of the fort’s walls, according to relative chronological indicators, originated in the Middle Ages. Facility 4 is located outside the prehistoric fort, along with its northeastern part. Dimensions and shape correspond to Object 1, explains the archaeologist and adds: "Unfortunately, there is no information system where we can check if the fort is protected. What we know for sure is that it enjoys previous protection and that the locality protection initiative has to be urgently enforced. What we have to bear in mind is that we cannot partially protect some archaeological site, and its integral part must be a protected environment," notes Petričević. "In this particular case, it was necessary to protect the entire Ograda cape, as this would preserve the authenticity and the site would be visible in a spatial context as it was from the very beginning. This is, unfortunately, lost in this case.

I wish the Ograda cape were recorded on the archaeological map of Montenegro because then we had the legal basis to protect it in the right way. This would include the possibility of sanction measures, regardless of what was done on the field."

The cause of the unenviable position of the cultural heritage in Montenegro, and even the heritage dating from prehistory, Petričević sees in the poor communication between the competent ministries and the institutions of the system, because they all overlap in their work. "We need to have a centralized system, from which institutions and individuals can extract data about protected facilities, locations, and localities. So I think that in essence, we have a systemic problem."

By ignoring the cultural and natural heritage, Montenegro loses its prospects in its primary economic branch, which is tourism. Places such as the Straisce fort have the opportunity to have their heritage upgraded for further development and valorization of such facilities as centers of cultural tourism.

"If we compare the fort Straisce with similar localities from the same period in Dalmatia, it is modest, but that does not mean we should pour concrete over it. This location can be valued in a way that can be conserved and accessible to tourists, who could see how something looked during the prehistoric period, find out the basic function of the building, as well as look at the environment around it. The location is priceless as per landscape layout because it offers a view at the very entrance to Boka, making it fantastic not only for cultural tourists but also for those who are interested in nature. I wish this site to be also protected for future generations, because through this kind of behavior towards our inheritance we will not know from what area we have grown and which civilization we inherited. Unfortunately, according to what we see today on our coast, I'm afraid that if we continue this way, the associations will only be found under the concrete," concludes the passionate scientist, activist of the Initiative Bokobran, who attempts to "save” a few more forts on the route from Rose to Djurasevici, which Petricevic discovered while working on his doctoral thesis.

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