Crossroads and Barriers on the Roman Border: Institutional Authority, Roman Heritage and the “Đerdap” Projects

  • Tatjana B. Cvjetićanin National Museum, Belgrade
research projects Đerdap, Roman frontier, interpretation, Romanization, archaeological heritage, presentation, institutional authority


Institutional authority, Roman heritage and the “Đerdap” projects Although “the archaeological research in the Đerdap area represents the most important crossroad in Serbian archaeology” (Bikić i Šarić 2017, 67), the role of the two large research projects Đerdap I and II in the development of the discipline and the local archaeological community remains to be thoroughly reconsidered. In search for the answer whether the vast corpus of archaeological material and information gained in the course of these projects influenced the shift in interpretation of the Roman past and in presentation of the Roman frontier on the Danube, the paper presents certain scientific and research aspects and the consequences of the projects for the interpretive framework of the Roman period. It may be expected that, just as the fieldwork itself was a large opportunity for professional training and growing, the huge amount of information on the Roman border collected during the projects became a constant source for further consideration and disciplinary growth. The innovations introduced – multi-disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, preventive conservation and integral protection of heritage – foreshadowed the space for testing of ideas. However, the archaeological record of the Roman period, approached from the culture-historical point of view, dominant at the time, is still principally interpreted according to the concepts formed in 19th century and significantly reconsidered over the last couple of decades. The majority of the recovered material is not published yet, the limited access to the “finds in boxes” obliges current researchers to work on the base of available publications, and the confidence in “discoveries” induces the transfer of ideas of original researchers without further reconsideration. The abandonment of the concept of Romanization is slow, mainly due to the institutional “keepers”, as illustrated by chosen examples, e.g. the monograph Vivere Militare est. From Populus to Emperors – living on the Frontier (Golubović, Mrđić 2018) and the exhibition Roman Limes and Cities in Serbia, organized on the occasion of the 24th International Limes-Congress, as well as the new permanent display of the National Museum, opened in 2018. It may be concluded that the constant affirmation of institutional authority, where the archaeological heritage of the Roman frontier acts as an academic symbolic capital, is more important than multivocal interpretation and presentation.


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