Dry Stone Treasures

In the coastal karst areas and islands of the Croatian Adriatic two interlinked factors shaped the landscape; man and stone, fated to coexist. Man’s basic striving for survival in this area created some of the astonishing landscapes in the limestone of the karst.

The integral and unavoidable aspect of the landscape is the stone; whether in its natural form or in one of the many shapes created by man, it is visible everywhere. The second part of this symbiosis, man, is not seen that often in this landscape, at least not as much as at the time when men fed themselves by farming here.

Those who spun that stonework lace would prefer it if there were more land and less stone, but they had to adapt to what they had. This meant freeing as much land as possible in order to make it useful and using the removed stone for many other purposes. Sometimes it was used to make long dry stone walls around pastures ( gromača ), sometimes for enclosing small fields, terraces or dolci , and sometimes to create the most varied architectural objects. Although these stone creations didn’t come into being as an artistic intervention of idle shepherds and farmers, but from struggling to survive, we contemporary observers certainly consider them to be an essential part of the landscape and pleasing to the eye.

It is economics translated into esthetics and an inspiration for artists, as was the case with the famous cycle of paintings by the great painter Oton Gliha.

The dry stone wall is the basic and the most widespread form of dry stone culture. It is a wall of stones made without any kind of binding material which can be stacked singly or doubly, that’s it, made from one or two parallel rows of stones. The purpose of the walls in pastoral areas is simple; to keep the livestock in a certain area and to prevent it from entering cultivated land. Sometimes these were dolci or vrtače , areas cleared of rock, so that even the smallest piece of arable land could be farmed, because in this barren area every piece of land was important, sometimes even critically. Apart from enclosing arable land they also served to protect it from soil erosion and strong winds.

Author: Denis Lešić

Photography: Rebičina Mrgari, Krk

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