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Zelena pećina, a prehistoric cave habitation in Blagaj, the archaeologial site

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Status of monument -> National monument

Published in the „Official Gazette of BiH“ no. 29/08

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 20 to 27 November 2007 the Commission adopted a






The archaeologial site of Zelena pećina, a prehistoric cave habitation in Blagaj, City of Mostar, is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument consists of the archaeological site of Zelena pećina, a prehistoric cave habitation, and movable artefacts found at the archaeological site and now housed in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, where they are listed in the museum's inventory records.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 3784, part 966/1, title deed no. 633,  cadastral municipality Blagaj, City of Mostar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The provisions relating to protection measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02 and 6/04 ) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of the Federation) shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve and display the National Monument.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter: the Commission) shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with basic details of the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument on the site defined in Clause 1 para. 3 of  this Decision, the following protection measures are hereby stipulated

  • all works are prohibited other than research and conservation and restoration works, including works designed to display the monument, subject to the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and  Herzegovina,
  • the zone is an archaeological site, and consequently all works that could in any way have the effect of altering the site or endangering the monument are prohibited,
  • the site of the monument shall be cleared, and shall be open and accessible to the public by laying an access path to the cave.




The removal of the movable artefacts referred to in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision (hereinafter: the movable heritage) from Bosnia and Herzegovina is prohibited.

By way of exception to the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Clause, the temporary removal from Bosnia and Herzegovina of the movable heritage for the purposes of display or conservation shall be permitted if it is established that conservation works cannot be carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Permission for temporary removal under the conditions stipulated in the preceding paragraph shall be issued by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, if it is determined beyond doubt that it will not jeopardize the movable heritage in any way. 

In granting permission for the temporary removal of the movable heritage, the Commission shall stipulate all the conditions under which the removal from Bosnia and Herzegovina may take place, the date by which the items shall be returned to the country, and the responsibility of individual authorities and institutions for ensuring that these conditions are met, and shall notify the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the relevant security service, the customs authority of  Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the general public accordingly.




All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are hereby revoked.




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federation heritage protection authority, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II to V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba) 




Pursuant to Art. V para 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisions of the Commission are final.




This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH.


This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović, Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.


No: 05.1-2-135/07-5

21 November  2007



Chair of the Commission

Ljiljana Ševo


E l u c i d a t i o n




Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

On 18 July 2007 Mr Sulejman Demirović of Mostar submitted a proposal/petition to designate the archaeological site of Zelena pećina, Blagaj Municipality, as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Pursuant to the provisions of the law, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V para. 4 of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.




In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

  • Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land register entry)
  • Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.
  • Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.


The findings based on the review of the above documentation and the condition of the property are as follows:


1. Details of the property


The prehistoric cave habitation known as Zelena pećina (Green Cave) is located in an almost inaccessible position above the source of the river Buna, in Blagaj, some 10 km to the south-east of the city of Mostar. The remains of the historic fortified town of Herceg Stjepan – mediaeval Blagaj – lie to the west of the cave, on the slope itself.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 3784, part 966/1, title deed no. 633, cadastral municipality Blagaj, City of Mostar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical information

The geographical location of Bosnia and Herzegovina, between the eastern Adriatic coast and the central Balkans, together with its geomorphic features, were among the factors that have dictated its cultural and historical evolution over many millennia, but perhaps most markedly during the Neolithic period. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a coherent geographical entity, though neither are there any abrupt changes; geographically speaking, it may be divided into the following areas: the central region, the Dinaric karst region, Herzegovina, the eastern Bosnian region and the Bosnian foothills and plains area. The tendency of these regions to gravitate towards other parts of the Balkans with which they had natural links had a marked impact on their cultural and historical evolution and on the formation of different cultural zones with clearly differentiated features.

Herzegovina is the most distinct area of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two great sweeps of the Herzegovina karst area and several smaller ones run down towards the sea following the line of the long Dinaric plains and depressions. This entire area is linked together by the Neretva valley and its tributaries. The natural tendency of Herzegovina to gravitate towards the eastern Adriatic coast dictated its development throughout the Neolithic period. In the Early Neolithic, Herzegovina was involved in the creative endeavours of the people of the Impresso culture(1), whose habitations have been found in the area from east of Berkovići as far as Vir near Posušje to the west.

The area's links with the eastern Adriatic coast remained a feature of its cultural and historical development in later periods too: the Middle Neolithic is characterized by the Danilo culture(2) and the Late Neolithic by the Hvar-Lisičići culture(3), which not only kept pace with coastal developments, but even enriched the entire expression of this culture.

The main economic resource of the Neolithic inhabitants of Herzegovina was animal husbandry and hunting, with agriculture in third place. As regards the social structure of the Neolithic population, the widespread assumption that it was a matriarchal clan-based society centred on the family has been corroborated by observations from sites studied in Bosnia and Herzegovina (such as the large extended-family dugout house near Kakanj, indicating a clan-based society). On the other hand, bipartite houses such as those at Obre II indicate that some families carried out their own separate economic activities, suggesting the individualization of the family. The spiritual culture of the Neolithic population is harder to interpret, and many of its features remain hypothetical.

Sources providing information on their spiritual life are: necropolises and graves (particularly those with ritual burials), and cultural artefacts such as figural sculptures, altars and so on. A feature of the Neolithic in Bosnia and Herzegovina is individual finds of parts of the skeletons of adults and children (Zelena pećina, Lisičići, Ravlića pećina), and the separate ritual burial of children within the habitation itself (Obre I and II). The greater number of cult artefacts are associated with the fertility cult; of particular interest here are figural sculptures, especially anthropomorphic ones. In the early stages of the Neolithic they are few in number and associated only with the Starčevo culture, with highly stylized anthropomorphic sculptures. Anthropomorphic sculptures from the Late Neolithic are more numerous and of better quality than the older models; this is especially so of the sculptures from the Butmir culture. The ornamental motifs of a solar-lunar character, the rhyta (sing. rhyton) with four feet, and the use of red to decorate the vessels, suggest that the spiritual life of the Neolithic population in this part of the world was a symbiosis of two different religious systems. The first, associated with the eastern and northern Balkans, is also associated with beliefs in the fertility of the land and pastures, while the other – typical of the coastal region – is based on a distinctive attitude to natural features and phenomena.

The Neolithic in Bosnia and Herzegovina covers the period from the 6th to the early 3rd millennium (B. Marjanović, p.18, 1988).

Population changes at the end of the Neolithic and during the Eneolithic period brought with them changes to the spiritual and material culture, and indeed to the nature of the economy. Major changes came about with the introduction of the use of copper, which also led to the steady development of new activities, such as prehistoric mining and copper smelting, entailing in turn certain changes to the nature of trade in copper artefacts. It was then, too, that the matriarchal society became patriarchal. Widespread economic development, with greatly reduced dependence on agriculture, meant that the belief equating the fertility of the earth, as the universal mother, with that of the woman, was supplanted in the mind of Eneolithic man. An entirely new attitude towards the dead can also be observed, with the introduction at this time of grave goods in the true sense of the word.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina the Eneolithic lasted for most of the third millennium, and marked a break from the Neolithic period, dictated by the gradual degeneration of the Neolithic cultures, affecting all areas of life. One major cause of this was the great migrations that swept throughout the Balkan peninsula, leading to its Indo-Europeanization. The Neolithic cultures were unable to resist these pressures from the east (B. Marjanović, p. 20, 1988).


2. Description of the property

Zelena Pećina consists of two cave-shelters (abri), known as Velika and Mala pećina (Large and Small Cave). Both belong to the same system, and are separated by a small projecting rock-face.

The small cave at Zelena pećina was of secondary importance. It is 7 m deep on average, and 10-12 m wide. It faces south and south-west, but provides only limited shelter, and cannot have been used as a permanent habitation. The small plateau provides a few cultural remains indicating its secondary, occasional use. This part of Zelena pećina does not therefore require systematic consideration.

The basic cultural layer is in the large cave at Zelena pećina(4), which is well set back forming a true cave-shelter, facing south and south-west. It consists of a wide area to the front of the cave and a long, narrow rear area. Pieces of cave stone, some large, some small, cover the entire surface of the front part, but are absent from the rear. While it was being investigated, it was found that only this rear part was used as a prehistoric habitation. The central rock separating the rear of the cave from the wide entrance area played a major part in this. The stone is still in its original, natural position, and formed a kind of door or partition between the entrance and the living quarters(5). In the later stages, a hearth was laid behind it, since the angle of the rock provided excellent protection for the hearth. The living quarters were thus relatively small. The roof of the cave is very irregular in shape. The front part of the cave still has a fairly even roof, but in the rear of the cave the roof consists of a series of small but high cuttings formed by erosion as the water from the hill above seeped through cracks down into the cave. The innermost depths of the cave receive no sun; the central stone is roughly the furthest point reached by the rays of the sun.

Trenches A and B were opened during the first archaeological excavations, and trenches C, D, E and F in the second, so that the entire habitation was excavated. Trenches E and F revealed no cultural layer. The cultural layer itself is not very thick: 0.60 to 0.70 m in trench A, 0.80 to 0.95 m in trench C, and up to 0.40 m in trenches B and D. No fixed hearth was found anywhere in the cultural layer. However, considerable quantities of ash remained throughout the area, the remains of many years' fires. Since there was no fixed hearth, these would have been laid on the bare ground, with the minor exception of a hearth above the upper surface, right behind the central stone, which was quite large, since there were quantities of ash all around (all the way to trench C). This hearth belonged to the later stage of occupancy. The position of the fire at various stages of occupancy in Zelena pećina went from the deepest reaches of the cave towards the central stone, i.e. towards the entrance.

            There were very few stone and bone tools in Zelena pećina: in all, one stone knife, one stone axe, two stone hammers and two bone tools. The flint knife was found at a depth of 0.50 m in the western part of trench A. The stone axe, found at a depth of 0.80 m in the south-western part of trench C, is similar in shape to the so-called tongue-shaped axes, but does not match similar finds in Bosnia and Herzegovina in either thickness or roundedness. The stone hammer, found at a depth of 0.30 m in the western part of trench A, and worked on both sides, was probably originally an axe, reworked.  Part of a highly polished stone axe was found at a depth of 0.80 m by the western edge of trench C.

The bone tools are extremely primitive. A forked tool, slightly smoothed between the branches, and indeed simply broken off, could have been used to decorate pottery. The other, a long bone tool, is of somewhat better workmanship and has an annular hollow incised at one end. It could have originally been used as a dagger, and later, after being broken, as the handle of a pottery vessel.

Relatively few animal bones, too, were found. Most of the bones were found in the central strata of the layer, and almost all consisted of broken long bones of varying sizes, with the exception of a large deer tooth and an ox horn from the upper layer.

The bones of a child aged about 5 were found by the eastern edge of trench C, at a depth of 0.60 m.

The fact that so few tools and weapons were found would suggest that the finds in Zelena pećina do not correspond to those of other Neolithic sites of this nature, but pottery material was found in the usual quantities. The pottery was of various kinds, typologically distinct, and provided a mass of information for certain cultural and historical analyses. To facilitate the analysis of the pottery material, first the features of the cultural layer need to be explained. There are no clearly separate strata in Zelena pećina, which must have been continuously inhabited, at least to some extent, so preventing the formation of any sterile layers between the individual strata. In addition, the cultural layer is fairly shallow, and the constant laying of fires and moving around on the surface must have disturbed the layer. However, a meticulous record of every find makes it possible to distinguish three separate strata. At first glance, three different groups of pottery material can be distinguished, stratigraphically rather than typologically. The strata are numbered I to III(6). 

Zelena pećina I is the upper stratum, at a depth of 0.00 to 0.25 m in trench C, featuring mainly coarse, undecorated and poorly-glazed pottery, with an uneven, rough surface. Most of the pottery is light to dark grey in colour, with brown appearing on the surface in a few cases. The rim of most of the vessels was slightly curved inwards or formed a wide, flat inner rim; fewer vessels had a thickened rim, on the inside or the outside.  Typical of the former are semi-hollow handles below the rim or on the belly of the vessel. In a few cases this type of pottery also has some moulded protuberances instead of handles. The most significant find in this stratum is a fragment of pottery of the Slavic culture (A. Benac, p. 66, 1957.) The shape of the handle and the decoration using the furchenstich (stab-and-drag) technique matches this type of pottery (T.II, ). The remnants of white pigment on the shard indicate that it was incrusted, another feature corresponding to the Slavic culture. The ornaments on the other fragments were made using hollowing and stamping techniques. Of interest is a fragment of which the rim is turned inwards, corresponding to the pear-shaped vases of the Butmir and some other Neolithic cultures.

As a result of the disturbance to this layer, a few shards of black glazed pottery with incised ornamentation were found, belonging to Zelena pećina stratum II. It should be noted that there this stratum also contained also some  impresso pottery from stratum III, where it is more common.

The examples of Slavonic pottery date stratum I to the Early Bronze Age.

Zelena pećina II lies roughly at a depth of 0.25 to 0.40 m in trench C. The basic cultural artefacts of this cultural stratum consist of very well-glazed black (or in a few cases dark grey or brown) pottery. The vessels are tall, with prominent curved rims. One fragment only consists of the cylindrical neck of a tall vessel. The ornaments take the form of garlands, hatched semicircles or bands of various kinds, incised or hollowed out. The hollowed ornaments of this kind are filled with a red compound or incrustation. This pottery from Zelena pećina, both individually and as a whole, belongs to the type of pottery found at Lisičići near Konjic, making the position of this stratum perfectly clear: the basis of stratum II consists of Lisičići-type pottery, and the stratum therefore dates from the Late Neolithic Age (A. Benac, p. 68, 1957.).

Zelena pećina III occupies the deepest part of the layer (0.40 to 0.90 m), and is richest in pottery shards, the most numerous of which in stratum III trench C is impresso pottery, richly ornamented and of diverse kinds. Most of them are from coarsely-worked vessels, quite large in size, rough and often uneven on the outside, whereas the inside is somewhat more carefully finished, and in some cases glazed. None of the shards is large enough to provide a full profile of the vessel. The ornamentation is carried out by impressing (with the finger, nail or a tool of some kind) or stamping the designs into the still unfired surface of the vessel. Both techniques feature in equal quantities.

In addition to impresso pottery, stratum III also contained a number of monochrome glazed pottery shards, usually dark grey, but no pigmented pottery. In the entire stratum III only two shards of pottery with a red glaze (achieved by firing at a high temperature) were found. The basic feature of this stratum consists of its impresso pottery and the monochrome grey, or in some cases brown, pottery. It is the oldest stratum, belonging in part to the Early Neolithic and in part to the Middle Neolithic (A. Benac, p. 70, 1957.).

The ornamentation on the impresso pottery from Zelena pećina falls into three groups:

a)       motifs common to impresso pottery, regardless of area

b)       motifs solely or mainly confined to the western Mediterranean

c)       motifs mainly featuring in the southern and eastern Balkans and Hungary


The question is whether this was a permanent habitation, or used on a temporary basis, or a cult site. A. Benac is of the view that the cave was occupied only from time to time (A. Benac, p.65, 1957), since it was not used for all the purposes it could have if it were a true prehistoric habitation (no tools or weapons were made here, the remains of food suggest it was used only from time to time, and only the pottery suggests that people actually lived there).


3. Legal status to date

According to the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport, in 1961 the archaeological site of Zelena pećina, Municipality Blagaj, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was granted state protection as a natural rarity by the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works 

In the summer of 1955, P. Anđelić and Z. Marić conducted an archaeological reconnaissance of the area around Blagaj. They climbed up to Zelena pećina and observed a cultural layer with the remains of Neolithic pottery, which they took to the National Museum in Sarajevo.

Excavations were carried out on the site on two occasions: first, from 2 to 7 August 1955, by A. Benac and P. Anđelić, and again from 7 to 14 November 1955, by A. Benac, B. Čović and Đ. Basler.

Trenches A and B were opened during the first archaeological excavations, and trenches C, D, E and F in the second, so that the entire habitation was excavated.


5. Current condition of the property

No on site inspection was conducted, give the near-impossibility of reaching the site of Zelena pećina, necessitating a climb up along a lengthy cut; access from above is impossible because of the sheer cliffs. Several photographs were taken from below Zelena pećina.




Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03), the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

The Decision was based on the following criteria:

A. Time frame

B. Historical value

C. Artistic and aesthetic value

C.iv. composition

C.v. value of details

D. Clarity (documentary, scientific and educational value)

D.ii. evidence of historical change

D. iv. evidence of a particular type, style or regional manner

E. Symbolic value

E.i. ontological value

G. Authenticity

G.i. form and design

G.v. location and setting

H. Rarity and representativity

H.i. unique or rare example of a certain type or style


The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-          Copy of cadastral plan

-          Photodocumentation;

-          Drawings



During the procedure to designate the monument as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted: 


1988.    Marjanović, Brunislav, Neolitsko doba (The Neolithic Age), Arheološki leksikon (Archaeological Lexicon), p. 16-19, Sarajevo, 1988.


1988.    Marjanović, Brunislav, Eneolitsko doba (The Eneolithic Age), Arheološki leksikon (Archaeological Lexicon), p. 19-21, Sarajevo, 1988.


1957.    Benac, Alojz, Zelena pećina, Istorijat istraživanja i terenski podaci (Zelena pećina, Record of Investigations and Field Data), Jnl. of the National Museum, n.s., Vol. XII, Sarajevo, 1957.


(1) The oldest Neolithic culture in Herzegovina, and one of the two components of the earliest features of the Neolithic in central Bosnia: the Starčevo-impresso culture. Stylistically and topologically, this belongs to the early Neolithic.

(2) The culture of the Middle Neolithic, probably widespread only in Herzegovina; a less fully studied Neolithic culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, known in Zelena pećina, and in Čair near Stolac

(3) Widespread in Herzegovina during the Late Neolithic, this is a continental variant of the Hvar culture (Hvar-Lisičići culture). Major sites: Lisičići near Konjic, and Ravlića pećina (phase I a-c), Zelena pećina (stratum II), Gradac near Konjic and Popov do near Goražde

(4) From this point on the description of Zelena pećina relates to the large Zelena pećina.

(5) It consists in fact of the bedrock

(6) This is based mainly on observations in trench C, where the layer had been less disturbed than elsewhere

Zelena pećina (the Green cave)Archeological findings, pottery Archeological findings, stone Archeological findings, decoration

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