The Nakovana plateau, pictured here, is located on the western tip of the Pelješac Peninsula in southern Dalmatia. The cave where the astrologer's board was found is located just below the crest of the ridge to the right. On the left side of the photograph an Illyrian hilltop fort can be seen.
The cave where the astrologer's board was found. The wall in front was built recently and is part of a sheepfold.
Part of the cave had been sealed for more than 2,000 years. The team discovered the blocked portion in 1999 and dug out a narrow 10 meter long tunnel.
When the team went through the tunnel they found themselves entering a chamber which nobody had visited in more than 2,000 years. A phallic shape stalagmite was discovered along with thousands of pieces of fine Hellenistic drinking vessels. Tiny pieces of ivory were also discovered that had to be carefully reconstructed, they turned out to be the remains of the oldest known astrologer's board.
The site had to be carefully excavated over several field seasons. This image, taken in 2000, shows Peter Leach and Tim Kaiser excavating around the stalagmite.
One of the reconstructed ivory plaques shows Cancer the crab. It is almost completely preserved. Each plaque covers an arc 28 degrees, is 30 mm wide, 55 mm long on the outside and about 40 mm long on the inside.
This plaque depicts two figures, apparently male, standing next to each other - a representation of Gemini.
This plaque preserves the image of two fishes, a representation of Pisces.
This image shows a running or jumping animal, it is believed to be Sagittarius.
These images are too fragmentary to be assigned to a specific part of the zodiac. Second from left appears to show the leg of an animal while second from right shows an apparently human leg.
These ivory plaques are what remains of an astrologer's board that dates back more than 2,000 years. The ivory would have been attached to a flat surface (possibly wooden). It may have had other elements that have not survived. This astrologer's board appears to be the earliest example so far discovered.
Thousands of pieces of Hellenistic drinking cups were discovered. These partially reconstructed examples date from the 3rd and 2nd century BC. The date of these cups suggests that the cavern was in use for hundreds of years before being sealed sometime in the 1st century BC.
Excavating and cleaning the pottery and ivory was no easy task. All the artefacts in the cave were found mixed up in a sticky cave clay. This image shows one of the juglets.
The artefacts had to be carefully sieved, cleaned and conserved. It was through this process that the ivory fragments were discovered. In this picture ceramics and white pieces of bone can easily be seen.
The key to determining how the astrology board got to this cave may lie in the Adriatic Sea, which this cave overlooks. It was a route of commerce in antiquity and the people who lived in Croatia, the Illyrians, likely traded and stole goods from passing ships. In this photo, taken near the cave, an Illyrian burial cairn can be seen in the middle foreground and the mainland can be seen in the distance.
An atmospheric picture of Pelješac Peninsula, at left, with Nakovana cave located on its right extremity. Further to the right the island of Hvar can be seen.