Ph. D. Djordje Jankovic
Kosovo And Metohia In The Middle Ages - Archaeological ResearchSenior Lecturer
Head of the Medieval Archaeology Department,
Philosophical Faculty, Belgrade
One of the justifications for the aggression of the West upon Yugoslavia has been found in the defense of the presumed historical rights of the Albanians, the so-called Kosovars, upon Kosovo and Metohia. The assertion has been that they are the native population of that area and were occupied by the Serbs in 1912, although in fact they were the colonists sent there by Turkey in order to prevent by force the Serbian liberation of those regions from the Turkish rule. Skillfully conceived scholarly propaganda attempted to prove the relations of Albanians to pre-Roman Illyrs through the Koman-Kruja Culture from the period between the VII and the IX centuries. More recent assumptions are that Albanians originate from Kosovo and Metohia, as summarized by N. Malcolm in his book Kosovo - A Short History, McMillan Publishing Co. London 1998. Those points of view, however, are not supported by the known archaeological evidence from Yugoslavia and Albania. In spite of the fact that in the Tito era the practice of non-investigation of medieval culture and population was established, numerous archaeological testimonies have been collected, that is, material ones and easy to verify.
About the middle of the X cent., the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus wrote that the emperor Heraclius (610-641) had assigned the province of Dalmatia to the Serbs, for the purpose of settlement (Constantine Porphyrogenitus De administrando imperio, Ed Gy. Moravcsik, English translation by R. J. H. Jenkins, Budapest 1949, cap.32). The opinion of the earlier scholars was that Metohia was a region in the easternmost part of the Roman Dalmatia, and that Kosovo Polje was within the province of Moesia Superior. In the course of the XI-XII cent., the general opinion in Constantinople was that Dalmatia began in Kosovo, inhabited by Dalmats, that is, Serbs (Anne Comnène, Alexiade - Règne de l'Empereur Alexis I Comnène 1081-1118, texte etabli et traduit par B. Leib, Paris 1937-1945, II, 147-148, 157, 166, 184).
The fact that Kosovo Polje belonged to the Serbian State in the IX-X cent. has been most obviously archaeologically proved by the most ancient Serbian and Slav administrative testimony found at the Cecan fortification near Vucitrn. It is a shard of a jug used for the payment of taxes in wine, marked to a volume of six measuring units, denoted by means of notches and Glagolitic letters (G. Tomovic, Inscription glagolitique de Cecan, Revue historique, XXXVII, Institut d'histoure, Belgrade 1990, pp 19). Cecan was probably conquered by the emperor Samoil in his war against Serbia in cca. 988, when the Serbian duke Jovan Vladimir, the saint whose reliques have been preserved in the Orthodox temple at Elbasan, Albania, was taken prisoner.
There are numerous archaeological testimonies of the continuous presence of the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohia since the Early Byzantine era, that is, since the VI cent.. The most ancient, definitively Serbian finds are "gromilas" on the mountain of Ostrovica, to the southeast of Prizren. Those are mounds from the times when the Serbs burnt the corpses of the deceased (Dj. Jankovic: Ravna Gora between Prizren and Strpce - the Oldest Known Archeological Find at the South of Serbia, Antiques of Kosovo and Metohija, Book X, Provincial Institute for Preservation of the Cultural Monuments, Pristina, 1977, pp 36). Next in line are the cemeteries from the IX - XI cent., wherein the customary jewelry of the Slavs from Moravia to Macedonia was found, bearing the characteristics of those from the Serbian ethnic area: Cecan, near Vucitrn, Maticane, Badovac, and Gracanica, near Pristina (A. Backalov: The Early Middle Ages, The Archaeological
Treasures of Kosovo and Metohija from the Neolityc to the Early Middle Ages, Gallery of Serbian Academy of Sciencies and Arts, 90, Beograd, 1998, pp 372-391, 678-728). Of special significance are the cemeteries at Vrbnica, near Prizren, Prcevo, near Klina, and Vlastica, near Gnjilane, since they have been dated within the XI-XIII cent. period, thus showing that there never was a break in the continuity of burials (hence of population) before and after the liberation from Byzantian rule towards the close of the XII cent. The continuity of Serbian cemeteries can be followed later on without any problem, through the tombstones from the XIV-XV cent. Particularly significant are the tombstones from the stone-masons' school near the monastery of Studenica from the XVII-XIX cent. (M- Ivanovic: Tombstones and Inscriptions at Old Serbian Cemeteries and Church Sites in the Villages of Metohija Podgor and Hvosno, Requeil de Kosovo et Metohija I, Academie Serbe des Sciences at des Arts, Beograd 1990, pp 122).
As far as is known, from among all the Serbian areas, apart from those of Montenegro and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Metohia is the one with the greatest number of churches that have been in continuous use for over a thousand years. The temples and churches founded in the VI-VII cent. and/or in the IX-XI cent., for instance those at Lipljan, Gracanica, Bogorodica Ljeviska at Prizren, and others, are still there; Turkish and Austrian devastations in the XVI and the XVII cent. have left the remains of Banjska, near Kosovska Mitrovica, of Studenica Hvostanska, near Pec, of Arhandjeli Prizrenski, etc.
Among the numerous churches built during the Turkish occupation, those which show this continuity are of particular importance. At Nerodimlje, near Urosevac, in the church of Sveti Arhandjeli, the portrait of the Serbian emperor Uros(1355-1371) was wall-painted in the XVI cent., but the restauration of the St Uros Monastery, on the church ruins from the VI-XIV cent. was brutally interrupted by the killing of the ktitor (patron).
The continuity can be seen also in the Roman/Byzantine fortifications, restored in the times of Bulgarian attacks upon Serbia in the IX-X cent., such as those of Cecan, Zvecan, Prizren and Veletin. In 1072, at Prizren, the Serbian Duke Constantine Bodin was proclaimed Bulgarian Emperor (Georgius Cedrenus Ioannis Scylitzae ope ab I. Bekkero suppletus et emendatus II, Bonnae, 1839, pp 714-719). The fortifications of those times are easily recognized by the characteristic Serbian pottery found in them. However, Veletin has been incorrectly dated - the finds undoubtedly from the IX-XI cent. have been classified as dating from the Iron Age or from the Roman era, and those from the XV cent. have been dated earler than XIII-XIV cent. (E. Shukriu, Veletin, Multistrata Settlement, Archaeological Reports 1988, Ljubljana 1990, pp 104-106). The continuity of pottery finds from pottery manufacture workshops in the towns of Kosovo and Metohia, as well as in other parts of Serbia, can be successfully followed till 1690. Afterwards, traditional pottery manufacture was maintained primarily in the rural areas.
The center of the Serbian State in the IX-X century was situated in Metohia. This is obvious from historical and archaeological data. Namely, the general opinion has been that the city of Destinik was in Metohia during the IX-X cent., the first among the Serbian cities mentioned by the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Drawing a parallel with Croatia, where the first city mentioned was Nin, known as the Croatian bishopric (DAI, cap. 31; N. Klaic, Povijest Hrvata u ranom srednjem vijeku, Zagreb 1975, 232-239) Destinik was also the capital city and the episcopal see of Serbia. The inexpert excavations carried out at Pecka Patrijarsija during 1931-1932 resulted in the discovery of a another, much bigger, old church under the foundations of the present one, possibly a three-nave basilica, to which the lateral walls of the central church of Sveti Apostoli belong (M. Canak-Medic: L'architecture de la première moitie de XIIIeme siècle, II, Institut pour la protection des monuments historique de la Republique de Serbie, Beograd 1995, pp 16-29). The importance of this old temple, probably the ancient episcopal see, can be the sole explanation for its having been selected as the central episcopal see in the XIII cent., and not some more monumental temple, like those of almost all the episcopal sees of those times, also built upon earlier places of worship.
The outstanding significance of Kosovo Polje, as the home of Serbian people and culture, has also been shown by the arrangement of the palaces of the Nemanjics, the most famous Serbian dynasty (1166-1371). Their concentration was greatest in the south of Kosovo Polje, around the present city of Urosevac, where lake Svrcin used to be (S. Cirkovic, Palais princiers autour de l'ancien lac de Kossovo, Rechershes sur l'art, 20, Matica Srpska, Novi Sad 1989, pp 83). This is the central watershed of the Balkans. >From the former lake, today from the small river of Nerodimka, the waters divide, flowing towards the Black and the Aegean Sea.. Four palaces were situated there: Nerodimlja (where a palace existed in the VI cent.), Pauni (the place was mentioned in the XI cent.), Svrcin and Stimlje. To the west of Stimlje there is the watershed to the Adriatic Sea. The choice of this area for the most frequently used dwelling-place of the Serbian rulers cannot be attributed to chance only.
Contrary to the many instances of the material culture of Serbs in the Middle Ages, Albanians cannot show a single archaeological trace of their presence in Kosovo and Metohia. Such evidence has not been known even from the XVIII cent., when they started spreading through the area, onwards. The oldest instances of Albanian material culture, taken over from Turkey, originate from the XIX cent. They are towers, small family fortifications, particularly common in Metohia, and mosques, built after the process of Islamisation and Albanisation had been carried out.