Slovenski etnografski muzej

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Arheološko najdišče in legenda o umrlih: primer Gorenji Mokronog

Landscape archaeology employs many different methodological approaches. The analyses of questions, arising from oral traditions, and the connected mythisation of the landscape are sometimes overlooked. The main reason is a doubt. A large part of this rich oral tradition must be considered debatable in a "real past" sense, but not less interesting. A good example is information on the renewed "Christianisation of the landscape" - the term was first employed by Romans. It is retained in the toponym of the area around the newly discovered Late Roman cemetery near Gorenji Mokronog. "Vrajk" or "Vrajski breg" is a dialect form of the locative name "v raju" = 'in heaven' (Christian), or in the pagan otherworld. In spite of the settlement discontinuity in this area (the cemetery dates from the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 7th century), the pagan settlers appropriated the "sacred status" of the area from the natives. The mythic space of the Late Roman cemetery once again became a part of a Christian cosmology when the region was re-Christianised. This toponym is a point, which can be defined as "real past". This is not in opposition to the highly empirical approach of radical constructivist perspectives, because this defines folk traditions as "knowledge and meaningful understanding according to cognitive and practical (that includes social) viability in the world as we experience it, not according to correspondence to a (past) reality" (see C. J. Holtorf). However, the deep need to mythicise or "Christianise" such a landscape is permanent and is reflected by the fact that local people accept each new element, which fits into this context. The arrival of strangers (archaeologists) and the discovery of graves can cause the construction of a new "mythic construction".
The treasure hunter J. Pečnik, who operated in this area in the last third of the 19th century, discovered "strange graves, lined with stone slabs and very similar to Roman graves". He did not precisely record their position. His discovery was remembered by certain, now deceased, local people. The precise location was rediscovered on the basis of information that the old landowner refused to allow stray travellers and pilgrims (a pilgrimage route runs along the road) to go to the toilet in the Vrajk woods with the words: "Do you urinate on cemeteries at home?" This construction of the respective present does not exclude the truth of the existence of a former state. Christianisation is sometimes even connected with the "mythic Slavicization" of the landscape with its origins in the self-important newspaper articles of the first half of the 19th century. In this case, the still living legend exhibits a reaction to real political conditions, which were welcomed by the local people. A legend about a mass, given by Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius, the 9th century Slavonic apostles, was attached to the Sv. Mihael Romanesque Rotunda under the influence of nascent Pan-Slavism. Paradoxically, it shows us again how the Slavic settlers gradually restored the original, never completely forgotten Christian meaning to a mythical landscape.