Stobi Looks to the Future
In December I visited Stobi, an archaeological site that is included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch. My hosts were Silvana Blaževska, the director of National Institution Stobi, and Goce Pavlovski, a staff archaeologist who gave me an information-packed tour of the ancient city. Last year, the institution nominated the site to the World Monuments Watch to draw international attention to the opportunities for conserving and interpreting this site.
Stobi is located where the Crna, or Erigon River pours into the Vardar, or Axios. The Vardar river valley is a route that has been used since antiquity to traverse the Balkans from north to south. An ancient Paeonian and later Macedonian settlement, Stobi grew to the rank of a municipium of the Roman Empire, and was populated into the Early Byzantine period, until the sixth or seventh century. The ruins at Stobi have been known since the nineteenth century, and the site was excavated throughout the twentieth century by Yugoslav and foreign archaeologists, and even by German troops during World War I. Today, many of the artifacts found at Stobi are in museums in Belgrade and Skopje.
National Institution Stobi was formed in 2009, and since that time exciting strides have been made in excavating, conserving, and presenting the site to the public. The institution has also been responsible for initiating new partnerships: Stobi is located in wine country, and for the next several years the site will also benefit from the sponsorship of nearby Stobi Winery, which has as its new logo the figure of a peacock found in the mosaics of the Episcopal Basilica.
Many of the excavated remains date from the fourth and fifth centuries, and include villas and churches. One of the most significant is the fourth-century basilica, the oldest Christian church in the country. The plan for the future is to present a more complete picture by excavating and presenting buildings from different eras in other areas of Stobi, such as the late-sixth-century houses that have been recently uncovered in the upper part of the site. Wall paintings from the fourth-century basilica were recently conserved with the help of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation of the U.S. Department of State. Other conservation priorities include the ancient theater, which is used annually for performances but is in need of restoration, and the “Building with Arches,” which is located close to the Crna and has suffered from flooding in recent years.