Enclosed land in Croatia
27.09.2017, by Bénédicte Gaillard
Research: Goran Andlar, Filip Šrajer; upload: Bénédicte Gaillard.
The history of the Croatian Adriatic landscape is characterized by its borderline position between Mediterranean, Balkans and Central Europe, and consequently, the peripheral status within the great empires or states (Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, Republic of Venice, Ottoman Empire, Napoleon’s France, Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empire, Communist Block, Western World). Unstable political situation along the ever-changing borders, which have been laid mostly through the sparsely populated hinterland areas, favoured ancient forms of non-intensive transhumant sheepherding, while the politically more stable areas such as islands sporadically have suffered from greater demographic pressure and the “hunger” for the fertile land (Glamuzina and Fuerst-Bjeliš, 2015.).
Sheepherding has been the oldest factor in development of the cultural landscape on the wider scale, resulting in degradation of the indigenous forest vegetation very early in the history (Glamuzina and Fuerst-Bjeliš, 2015.). Some kind of enclosing is the necessary in many phases of the sheepherding, and in the absence of wood, it is logical to assume that the stone has been used from the very beginning. The first land cultivation happened in the Quaternary land deposits (dolines) and was probably also followed by dry stone walling, not only for protecting the cultivated land from animals’ trespassing, but also for depositing the excess rock from the soil. There is some evidence of underpinning masonry or dry stone enclosures in Neolithic settlements (Chapman et al 1996, Moore et al, 2007), as well as some general speculations about the early terracing in the Mediterranean in the Neolithic times (Hughes, 2005.), but the abundance of archaeological evidence of using the dry stone technique in the Adriatic Croatia comes from the Bronze and early Iron Age with the spread of Illyrian hillfort culture (Chapman et al 1996, Buršić-Matijašić, 2008 etc), including the finding of a bronze age livestock enclosure and dwellings (Chapman et al 1996, Batović, 2004, Sirovica, 2015). Many of hill forts still stand on top of the hills, and some of them have been used as shepherding enclosures in the later times.
Greek and Roman colonization period brought still visible evidence of rectangular dry stone demarcations of colonized agricultural lands: notable example is the Stari Grad Plain, known as Xορα Φαρου (Chora of Pharos), which is known and protected as UNESCO site for (Picture 8), with the 180x900m ortogonal grid, and several Roman agri (Suić, 2003.), with the 706x706 m ortogonal grid (Matijašić, 1998.). Picture 3 shows the remnants of Roman Centuriation which was and still is the basis of all the further layers of agricultural activities.
In the medieval period, the Euro-Mediterranean had flourishing agricultural production from the eleventh to thirteenth century due to the agrarian revolution and economic development (Delort and Walter 2002). In the eastern Adriatic, the development of agricultural communities was fostered by the establishment of medieval statutes, which, in some cases, regulated how agricultural land and dry-stone walls were managed. e.g., in the Dubrovnik Statute of 1272 the macera and mrgin are described along with the rules for their maintance while in Istrian Demarcation of 1325 and Hvar Statute of 1331 gromače and gomile, respectively, are mentioned as the territorial demarcation.
From the early fifteenth century onward, some eastern Adriatic islands have been targets of regional immigration after the Ottoman annexation of the Adriatic hinterland. The additional need for arable land was met by allocations (Latin: gratia) of former communal land (mostly pastures) to the new settlers for cultivation (Kasandrić 1978, Carter 1992; Kovačić 1993; Tudor 2004; Dokoza 2009).
During the mid-eighteenth century the Venice-Ottoman war has taken turn. The reclaimed hinterland was assigned by the Venetian state to the new settlers and local warlords, with the first written obligations to enclose the managed woods with (dry-stone) walls from the neighbouring pastures (The Grimani’s Law/Legge Grimani 1755-1956, in Soldo 2005.).
The last large-scale karst reclamation with extensive dry stone wall construction took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was caused by large-scale environmental and socio-political events. Several pandemics of grapevine diseases that had first hit the leading winegrowing regions of France and Italy caused the great excess revenues for the winegrowers in the peripheral states, encouraging them to increase the vineyard area in Croatian Adriatic several times. The changes in the land taxation led to the changes in the pasture land ownership which resulted in the division and enclosement of the pastures on several Croatian islands (Trogrlić 1980; Kale 2006 and 2010; Kraljević 1994; Kulušić 2006; Žuvela-Doda 2008). This period of growth ended in a similar way: suddenly and as a result of larger events such as the First World War and the 1918 flu pandemic that led to a large-scale crisis that resulted in land abandonment and exodus (Kraljević 1994).
Much of the 19th century agriculture land, including enclosures, have never been reclaimed again. The spread of the industrialisation and urbanisation in the 20th century caused much of the arable land being transformed into settlements, while industrial agriculture favored lowlands areas and wire fencing over enclosures, terraces and other traditional dry-stone landscape structures. Today’s big agricultural undertakings mostly comprise the transformation of the former pastures into the fence-enclosed vineyards and olive orchards by the means of the heavy mechanization. However, upkeep of the traditional dry-stone enclosures is still the vital part of moderately successful sheepherding economies of several bigger Croatian islands and some tradition-oriented winegrowers.
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The classification that follows is based on land use structure concept and is derived from Andlar (2012), Andlar et al (2017), Andlar and Aničić (2018)
Managed dry stone wall enclosed woods primarily established for forest conservation and selection cutting woods but often multifunctional used (agro-silvo-pastoral)
Irregular pattern enclosed woods - individual or grouped enclosed small karst depression
Regular pattern dry stone wall enclosures woods - planned enclosure layout
Semi enclosed fields on karst plateaus with small sinkholes - mixed agro-silvo-pastoral uses and various plot patterns sporadically dry stone wall and hedges enclosed
Semi enclosed fields in flysch valleys parted with limestone uplifts - due to undulating bottom of relief organic elongated patterns of plots are typical, only sporadically enclosed and terraced with mixed uses
Individual enclosed small sinkholes - scattered in pastures or open non-agricultural areas, mostly vegetable and orchards uses
Wide regular pattern enclosed and terraced fields in karst poljes and river valleys - related to large karst depressions with mildly undulating bottoms and thus shallow terraced. It is a mixed crop system defined by the proximity of settlements
Wide irregular-pattern enclosed terraced fields in karst uvalas and large dolines - Moderate-sized karst depressions with pronounced relief and consequently irregular and organic terrace and enclosure patterns. It involves mixed crops uses, and is related to small scattered settlements located above the arable land
Terraced enclosed fields in shallow ravines and dry valleys - Sloping, narrow, elongated dry valleys and ravines create oases with arable soil that were dry stone wall enclosed and terraced to preserve soil and control water flow during thunderstorms
‘Typical’ dry stone wall crop enclosures
Pockmarked karst clearings enclosures - organic irregular pattern enclosures on rocky pockmarked karst - vineyards and orchard origin
Irregular dry stone wall enclosures - fractured plot and scattered stone piles patterns can be found on flattened and mildly sloped karst areas with - mostly olive origin
Rectangular dry stone wall enclosures - mostly vineyards
Pasture landscapes - dry stone wall and/or hedge enclosed pastures with rotational grazing, variations in natural vegetation presence; from bare karst to densely scattered higher vegetation, winter and summer zones can sometimes be distinguished
Big scale rectangular patterns
Small scale rectangular patterns
Small irregular patterns - individual scattered to nucleated patterns
The Croatian Adriatic region extends across approximately one-third of Croatian territory (18,000 km²). This predominantly karst area is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, high complexity of relief forms, thin soil, sparse natural vegetation, lack of surface water (Filipčić 1998; Bognar 2001), and a Euro-Mediterranean cultural context. High and irregularly distributed precipitation, along with high soil erosivity, have resulted in high ecological sensitivity of the area (Cvijić 1918; McNeil 2003; Grove and Rackham 2001).
Natural conditions are harsh but vary significantly due to the great diversity of environmental factors (Ciglič et al. 2012), which has led to a high diversity of human adaptation, in which terracing and dry stone wall enclosing has played an important role in enabling the agricultural production.
The significance of the traditional enclosed landscapes since the beginning of the 20th century to the present has been diminished by crises and the restructuring of agriculture, availability of industrial building materials for the construction of agricultural structures and, as of late, the introduction of industrial alternatives to dry stone in the delimiting and clearing of karst terrains.
The most significant concentrations of active enclosures and related practices are present in communities that have preserved their traditional economic base - traditional agricultural and livestock breeding context - to a higher degree. Examples include some villages on the Cres, Rab, Pag and Brač islands and in Zagora (hinterland) area, the settlements in which a considerable part of the population is engaged in rotational grazing for which the maintenance of dry stone wall enclosures is a necessity. The second category of active communities are the ones in which due to socio-economic changes dry stone walls no longer have such a direct significance for their lives but are connected to them in terms of identity. (source: the research on the bearers of dry-stone skill, 4 GRADA DRAGODID, 2015.)
Most present and more known are dry stone wall enclosures associated to 1/3 of Croatian territory, the Croatian Adriatic where they form the dominant landscape element of rural areas (in living or relict form).
The case of hedge enclosed landscape is less known and researched. In general it can be said that this form can be found more as spontaneous vegetation that grows between plots and/or by the dry stone walls. No indications on local traditional practices related to hedge growing and maintenance. In humid and fertile parts of Croatian Adriatic the combination of dry stone wall hedged enclosures can be found (Ravni Kotari, Istria).
Regarding dry stone wall and mixed dry stone wall/hedge agricultural enclosures, they can be found as arable land/permanent cropland (in dolines, ravines, karst fields, plateaus etc.), pastures, and managed woods and as mixed systems of each.
In the spatial reality of this area it is often not possible to strictly distinguish different types of dry stone landscape (enclosed vs. terraced, to mention the two most noted ones), because boundary walls and supporting walls often come together and form the particular type of landscape, and many of them have the double function at the same time (Kulušić 1999).
The extremely complex topographic situation of the Adriatic Croatia is probably the basic reason for the complexity of its cultural landscapes, since the general cultivation methods were pretty much basic and similar throughout the area, even through time. Different shapes and different dispositions of the cropland and livestock enclosures are the consequence of the different local topographic conditions: to maximise the effect of the hard work of building dry-stone walls, human had to engage as much of the natural configuration as possible into the landscape layout. The best example are the enclosed dolines or sinkholes, sometimes ridiculously small, scattered in different formations over the rocky hills or grouped in the mountain valleys.
The changes in function and land use organization also left their mark on the landscape. The great transformations of former karst pastures into the permanent croplands (vineyards, olive orchards) were linked to the big socio-political, economical or environmental events (Venice-Ottoman wars in 15th-18th century, pre-phylloxera condition in 19th century, early communist collectivisation in late 40ies...) and created enclosed patches of intensive terracing in the barren karst. The change from feudal to capitalist land regime in the 19th century was followed by the transformation from open to enclosed pastures in some Adriatic islands creating the image of the islands “cut in slices” by the dry-stone walls that go across from shore to shore. The economic crises in the past led people to switch to goat, which is less demanding for upkeep than sheep but require increasing the height of the enclosures’ walls.
Despite the general cultivation methods are similar, local agricultural practices and the distinct topography created a wide range of different micro-structural types and forms while the numerous and diverse names for the same or similar forms and the same names for various forms can be interpreted because of a multivariate and dynamic cultural and historical context. Even within the same spatial- and time-frame, there can be significant differences in the style and quality of building in relation to the skill of the builder and materials and time at his disposal. Good example are probably the best known structures associated with enclosed landscapes: picturesque dry stone shelters that have many local names (kažuni, komarde, bunje, kućarice, kućice, ćemeri, vrtujci, torete, trimi etc.).
Some of the most famous agricultural products of Croatian Adriatic are strongly related, marketed and perceived together with the local cultural landscapes. The examples of the products associated with the enclosed landscapes are babić wine from Primošten area, olive oil from Vodnjan in Istria, cheese from Pag island and lamb from Cres island.
The awareness on the value of enclosed landscapes in Croatia is strongly connected with the appreciation and awareness of the dry-stone heritage in general. Since the late 60ies, when the photo of the vineyards near Primošten (Dalmatia) with the distinctive stone pattern of enclosed parcels was exhibited in UNESCO headquarters in Geneve under the title “The work of human hands”, the dry stone have a special place in Croatian imagery as a authentic and democratic heritage. Dry stone skill is officially recognized as an intangible cultural good in Croatia in 2016.
Nowadays, with the raise of civil heritage initiatives, transnational cooperation (Croatia is a member of the multinational UNESCO ICH nomination, 2017), and announced rural development subsidies for the dry-stone enclosures and related practices (CRDP 2015), the awareness of the dry stone agricultural space is rising. The challenge is to coordinate those newly established policies in the domains of agriculture and cultural/natural heritage into the comprehensive and simple framework for developing the potential of the outstanding cultural landscapes.
The term ‘enclosed landscape’ is not often present in scientific and professional discourse and literature and if used it is mostly due to international researches influences, so in landscape architecture and geography literal translation of aforementioned is used (omeđeni krajobraz). On the other hand, in everyday speech, especially in areas where dry stone enclosed landscapes can be found local terms like međe, meje, graje, gromače, ograde, vlake, vlačice, barbakani, lihe, branjevine is common. Their meaning varies; once they denote ‘encloseness‘ of the agricultural or silvicultural plot in general, once the particular dry stone wall structure and/or plot form (liha, vlaka, barbakan), and once the border between two owners or two plots in general (međa, meja). They relate to dry stone wall structures, but which sometimes come in combination with hedges, mostly as spontaneous element. On the other hand, no terms for hedge enclosures is known to author of this text.