Forgotten Macedonian Venice Reveals Pre-Historic Artifacts

Source: Macedonian daily newspaper Vreme 

Written by Ivan Blazhevski 

Translated by UMDiaspora Staff

For decades now, the Cultural Center in Resen has housed boats, some 4,000 years old.  They belonged to the Prespa inhabitants of the Stone Age, and were discovered on the shores of Lake Prespa.

 “In my 28 years as a professional, I have never heard of these boats, explains Dimitar Mucevski, an archeologist from Resen.  “I know of foreign archeologists discovering such wooden boats in the pharaohs’ tombs, but I was not aware of such treasures here in Macedonia.  These boats are made out of a single tree trunk,” further elaborates Mucevski.

Two years ago some locals contributed to the conservation of the boats dating from the Neolithic Period, and now the three can be seen in Resen free of charge.

Mucevski told us that the boats were discovered near the village of Nakolec.  The locals say that similar artifacts are regularly washed up on the shores, but that there are not any sufficient funds or human resources available to conduct an archeological search.

Stone Age boats in Nakolec!  We decide to take a trip to this Prespa village.  It is situated on the southern most part of the lake, at 850 meters above sea level, between Dolno Dupeni and Ljubojno.  The village was on the very edge of the lake once; today, the water has withdrawn almost 1 kilometer.

Will we be able to find the Stone Age domiciles that have been hidden in the lake’s depth for centuries?  Experts say that oxygen-deprived wood, located under water, under ground, or frozen, may remain intact for centuries.  The three boats we saw in Resen are about 5 meters long.  At the bottom, one can see the carvings that mark out the individual seats.

Nakolec is quiet.  It is almost 3:00pm, and there is not a single soul on the streets; all hiding away from the summer heat.  We finally come across Risto, a 35-year-old man who has lived his entire life in Nakolec.  During our conversation, the cruel reality of things is exposed:

“No big deal.  We have had many items like that washed up on shore for years, but they have all been rotting for some time.  Nobody even remembers how many different items there have been.”

I am reminded of a statement by archeologist Viktor Lilcik, who said that, out of some 10,000 archeological locations, Macedonia has protected only about 150.  However, this prehistoric location is not recorded anywhere.

“You see that church over there?  Twenty years ago, the water went all the way up to it.  After it was drained, many wooden items came up there.  Go and see for yourself, but I doubt you will find anything there now,” Risto informs us.

We go there, walking upon what once was the lake’s bottom.  We find nothing.  Not a single spike or sign of the boats and artifacts that have been washed up there in the past years.  We return home, even though, under our very own feet, we may be leaving behind the gondolas of the prehistoric fishermen.

Nakolec — the Macedonian Venice

The three boats, dating from the beginning of the New Stone Age period (ca 2000 BC) were carved out of a type of evergreen tree trunks.  It is a type of tree typical for the Prespa region, and in particular to the Golem Grad Island.


Up until 1960, the lake came up into the village, and the church of St. Nicholas was literally in the water.  People would go by boat to the church to light up a candle and fish in their yards, tells us Vera Tudzarovska.

The village itself was originally under water, and some 100 years earlier, the houses were erected on wooden pillars.

“Between the houses there were water canals, and people would move about in boats.  It all looked a little bit like Venice.  The name of the village is incredibly appropriate,” says Vera. [Nakolec, ‘na’ — on; ‘kolec’ — spike/pillar, means on a spike, or on a wooden pillar]

Today, Nakolec is a site of villas, visited sporadically by its owners when they come back from the United State for their vacation.  People want to restore the old Nakolec and turn it into a big tourist attraction.  Some say that there are photographs of the old village.  They urge the government to make a plan for this restoration and re-galvanize the region’s tourism and economy.


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