Obituary: Professor Dragoslav Srejovic

Zaga Gavrilovic
Friday 20 December 1996 00:02
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To historians interested in ancient civilisations of south- eastern Europe, Dragoslav Srejovic was known as "the archaeologist with golden fingers".

His talent and intuition led him to several important finds which not only enriched previous knowledge but opened entirely new vistas. Thanks to his enthusiasm and dauntless determination, his erudition and impeccable methodology, huge steps forward were made in the study of archaeology in Serbia and Montenegro. This meant, as well as excavating new sites, making the evidence available through scholarly publications and international gatherings and, above all, training new generations of students.

Srejovic was born in 1931 in Kragujevac, Serbia, a town best known for the cruel treatment of its civilian population during the Second World War - including 300 schoolboys taken out of their classrooms and shot by the Germans in October 1941. After schooling in his native town, he studied archaeology at the University of Belgrade, where he also started teaching, completing his doctoral dissertation in 1964 and becoming professor of Prehistoric Archaeology in 1976.

Aware of the wealth of sites to be explored, Srejovic directed his activity to prehistoric localities as well as to those of late Antiquity and the early Christian period. Among the first, his most spectacular find, between 1965 and 1970, was the extensive Mesolithic settlements on the right bank of the Danube, above the Iron Gates. Named after the main locality, Lepenski Vir, and dating from c6700BC to 5500BC, they contained evidence of a flourishing culture with much monumental stone sculpture. His book about them, Europe's First Monumental Sculpture: new discoveries at Lepenski Vir, was published in English in 1972. He also wrote the entry on Lepenski Vir for Macmillan's Dictionary of Art (1996).

From 1975, in spite of limited resources, he persevered in his search for the palace complex of Romuliana built by the Emperor Galerius (305- 311) in honour of his mother Romulabut. He suspected that it lay at Gamzigrad, in the Timok valley in eastern Serbia (the former Roman province Dacia Ripensis). Following several fruitful excavations, he was proved right by the discovery of a monumental inscription, Felix Romuliana, in 1984.

Most recently, while continuing his study of Gamzigrad, his hunch took him to a remote site at Sarkamen, near Negotin, where he expected to reveal the remains of a palace built by the Roman emperor Maximinus Daia (307- 314), nephew of Galerius. After three difficult years, with practically no material help, his team of young archaeologists unearthed ample evidence that their teacher's thoughts were correct.

Only a month before his death and already seriously weakened by illness, Srejovic presented an impressive find of jewellery and other items confirming that yet another important site, that of Dacia Ripensis, was waiting to be explored.

Dragoslav Srejovic, archaeologist: born Kragujevac, Serbia 8 October 1931; Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Belgrade 1976- 96; died Belgrade 29 November 1996.

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