[Tagging] Stećci - Bosnian medieval tombstones

Michal Fabík michal.fabik at gmail.com
Tue Mar 28 21:28:37 UTC 2017

some time ago, I was wondering what would be the proper way to tag a 
stećak (plural form stećci), a large monolithic tombstone, often with 
carved inscriptions and/or ornaments, found in Bosnia and neighbouring 
countries (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ste%C4%87ak).

They are usually the shape of a large coffin (though other shapes exist 
too), but they are solid stone, unlike sarcophagi, which really _are_ 
coffins, i.e. hollow. They are usually found in groups from a few up to 
a few hundred. The groups of stećci are locally known as necropolises, 
though they don't quite fit the Wiki's definition of a necropolis - "a 
large ancient cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments" - they are not 
necessarily large, they aren't really ancient (they're medieval) and 
they're hardly elaborate monuments - it's just biggish stone blocks 
strewn randomly on a meadow.

Normally, it would probably be enough to tag the necropolis as a whole 
(probably as some sort of a historic=archaeological_site) but like I 
said, sometimes they are isolated and sometimes they have been moved to 
a another location altogether. Furthermore, there are efforts to 
catalogue them and decipher/translate the inscriptions carved into some 
of them, so it can definitely be of interest to some people to know 
where exactly a particular stećak is located.

They are usually described as tombstones though I'm not 100% sure if all 
of them are tombstones, there might be some that served some other 
(ceremonial?) purpose rather that marking an actual grave, but I might 
be wrong. Then there are some that used to mark a grave but were moved 
to a different location (there are some on display in front of a museum 
in Sarajevo and some other places) so they should be tagged as 
stand-alone objects, not as features of graves. The graves themselves 
aren't significant, to my knowledge - most of them are nameless, they 
aren't normally researched/exhumed etc.

I've started a thread on the Bosnian forum 
(https://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewtopic.php?id=56800, in 
Serbo-Croatian) but I only got one answer since the Bosnian community 
isn't exactly active, so I thought I'd ask what you guys think, even 
though some of you might not be familiar with the subject.

So far, I have a couple of ideas in mind:

historic=rune_stone + historic:civilization=*

+ both are established tags
+ to a layperson it gives a pretty good idea what to expect
- they are not rune stones
- there is no consensus as to what civilization created them, unless we 
use something very generic like "Bosnian_pre-islamic" or similar

historic=tombstone + tombstone=stećak

+ probably the most accurate
- not well established (just one occurrence of historic=tombstone 
according to taginfo.osm.org)
- not sure whether all of them are tombstones


+ straightforward and accurate
- not established at all
- hardly anybody knows what a stećak is IRL
- contains a non-ASCII character, some people might not be bothered to 
spell it properly


+ more user friendly than the above
- "wrong" spelling - might confuse users who speak the local language, 
i.e. the ones most likely to map them

So, any suggestions?

Best regards,


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