• Весна Р. Манојловић Николић
Keywords: medieval tool, ploughshare, plough, painting, Dečani


Most of the population in the territory of Serbia dealt with agriculture in the Middle Ages. An important tool for plowing was the plough. Its main parts were: ploughshare, disc coulter, and mouldboard, which was attached to a share and a handle. All parts were made of wood, except the share, which was made of iron.

On this occasion, there have been selected only those archaeological artifacts of the plough which could be recognized on the frescoes of Dečani. It's a kind of symmetrical two-sided plough with a slightly smaller body of triangular shape, with a long massive thorn. Only three such ploughshares are known: from around Smederevo (Fig. 1 / a), from the site Pontes - Trajan's Bridge (Fig. 1 / b), and from the Morava region, the site of Jošanički Prnjavor (Fig. 1/v). Since the ploughs from Smederevo and Jošanički Prnjavor sites were found accidentally, according to the analogies with the Bulgarian sites, they originated from the period 10-13 century. The ploughs from the site Pontes - Trajan originated from the early medieval layers of 10 - 11 century. Medieval wall paintings are very important as a source for studying the tools. Fine performances of the plough are known to us from three frescos in Decani: Sacrifice of Cain and Abel (Fig. 3), Who steals someone else's field (Fig. 4) and St. George resurrects Glikerije’s ox. Ploughshare displayed on the Dečani frescoes are similar to those described in this paper, while the ploughs, by their construction, are appropriate to two-sided ploughs. (Fig. 2). Besides the archaeological findings, the frescoes of Dečani provide visual and chronological information on the plough and its metal part, the ploughshare, which was the only preserved among the archaeological artifacts. Dečani frescos were mostly from the period 1338/9-1343, and their painting was fully completed in 1347/8. The historical data on the plough belong to the same period. The Dečani charter of King Dušan mentioned the word "ralije (plough)". A written description of the plough as a tool for plowing was preserved in the Serbian translation of the Byzantine Agricultural Law.

Based on archaeological findings of symmetrical ploughs and the art performances of the plough, as well as based on historical data, it could be said that the plough was in use for a very long time, and that most of the population were farmers.


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