The Archaelogical Department

2The Archaeological Department is the oldest of the specialized museum departments in Slovenia. It acquires, stores, and studies material from all archaeological periods found throughout Slovenia. It also has a small collection of artifacts from Egypt, including a mummy. The earliest finds were acquired more than 170 years ago.

The collection today consists of around 63,000 objects from all archaeological periods. The individual objects and groups of material include some whose importance extends beyond the region of Slovenia, such as the 60,000 year old Neanderthal bone flute from Divje babe (Paleolithic), artifacts from the pile-dwelling settlements in the Ljubljana Marshes from the 3rd millennia BC (Copper Age), grave finds from Stična and the situla from Vače from the period around 500 BC (early Iron Age), a monumental gilded Roman statue of a citizen from Emona (Roman period), and elements of rich military equipment from Gradišče above Bašelj (early Middle Ages).

The museum acquires material from field work - from topographic surveys and excavations (such recent finds from the Ljubljanica River, Godič near Kamnik, Gradišče above Bašelj, Dragomelj, Pržanj) - and also from donations and purchases. The computer program SITULA has been developed to aid in recording information about the artifacts. The research of the Archaeological Department is focused on problems related to the material stored in the National Museum of Slovenia, other Slovenian museums, and several museums in other European countries. The main themes of this research are the composition and technology of prehistoric metal objects, the local production of Roman pottery, Roman military equipment and fortifications, early medieval metal and glass objects, and weapons and military equipment in the late Middle Ages.

The Department also organizes thematic exhibitions using material from throughout the entire country. Recent major exhibitions were Pismo brez pisave/Carta sine litteris/A Letter without Writing (1991, the Valvasor Award), Neanderthal Man and His Flute (1997), and From the Romans to the Slavs (2000, award from the Slovenian Archaeological Society)

Look at the virtual exhibition of the archaelogical department.


In the history of the National Museum, archaeology was closely connected with individual researchers and with the development of the field in general. The earliest archaeological finds arrived in the museum in an unplanned manner in the first half of the 19th century, mostly as gifts. The natural historian Karel Dežman was the first museum curator to devote himself methodically to archaeology. In 1875, he introduced excavation as a new source for acquiring archaeological material (the pile-dwelling settlements in the Ljubljana Marshes). He excavated and presented the most important Iron Age cemeteries and several finds from the Roman period in what was then Carniola. The acquired material greatly increased the importance and extent of the archaeological collection. They were presented in 1888 in the new museum building, another result of Dežman's endeavours.

Alonz Müllner followed him as curator in 1889-1903. He inventoried all the archaeological finds and published photographs of all the material. He also contributed a fundamental study about the history of iron working in Slovenia throughout the ages. Unfortunately it was exactly during this period that the majority of the excavated archaeological material from Carniola was sold to the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

His heir in 1905-1909 was Walter Schmid. He established the museum journal Carniola and led numerous excavations, including those of the Roman settlement of Emona with a cemetery at the site of Ljubljana and cemeteries from late Antiquity and the early medieval periods in Upper Carniola.

After he left, the line of curators dedicated primarily to archaeology was interrupted, and was only later continued by Rajko Ložar, who was curator from 1928 to 1940.

The greatest changes occurred after 1946 under the leadership of the director Jože Kastelic, an archaeologist of the classical period. He hired new staff and set up independent departments because of the need for specialized museum operations/functions. In 1948, Stane Gabrovec, a specialist for the prehistoric period, became the first head of the archaeological department. He was followed by curators specializing in prehistoric, Roman, and medieval archaeology, Peter Petru (also director of the museum in 1970-1983), Vinko Sribar, Vida Stare, and Sonja Petru. Stane Gabrovec organized the modern preservation and storage of material, and subsequently devoted himself to research into the Iron Age. With his fundamental studies of that period and his teaching of students at the university, he carved out a position for Slovenian prehistory within the central European region. He was followed from 1987 to 1999 by Drago Svoljšak, who directed his attention towards developing new facilities for the department, intensifying the documentation (data base), and hiring new curators. At the moment the archaeology department has five curators, three curator-record keepers, and expert consultants. Dr. Janka Istenič has been head of the Archaeological Department since 2000.