The Devon Karst Research Society.
- R. Bosnia & Hercegovina -
updated 17 December 2009.
BOSNIA & HERCEGOVINA sub-Project No. 1. DKRS-JI / BiH-IH / 120800DPMPP
The Karst Ponor-mills at Dobromani, Popovo Polje, Eastern Hercegovina, Bosnia & Hercegovina. (1)
Крашка Понор-млинови код Добромана, Попово Поље, Источна Херцеговина, Босна и Херцеговина.
Kraška Ponor-mlinovi kod Dobromana, Popovo Polje, Istočna Hercegovina, Bosna i Hercegovina.
The many Webpages formerly devoted to this sub-Project have now been condensed into two Webpages.
For additional information about Ponor Mills in Popovo Polje, please also follow the Link.. Popovo Polje

Photo DPM 1. shows a view approaching Dobromani in Popovo Polje from the west along the road
Ljubinje to Trebinje, within the Trebinje Administrative Region.
Vaguely indicated in the far right of the view is the bridge carrying the side road over the Trebišnjica karst river.
The karst mountain in the background is part of Popovska Bjelašnica Mountain.
(Photo :  M. Hardman, 15 Aug 2000.)

Image DPM 2.  Cross-sectional diagram showing construction of a typical karst ponor-mill in Popovo Polje.
(after Milanović 1987)

1.  Cylindrical outer stone wall or coffer-dam (watertight)
2.  Water-inlet channel and flow regulation sluice-gate, raised (open) or lowered (closed) by a screw mechanism operated .....from the top of the cylindrical stone wall.
3.  Mill stones for grinding grain to flour.
4.  Wooden-bladed water turbine
5.  Stone-lined water-inlet channel, of wooden construction at its lower end.
6.  Karstified limestone
7.  Natural karst ponor channel and cave
8.  Surface riverbed
9.  River water level

Photo DMP 3...This is a view of the Drapića Ponor-mill at Dobromani, as displayed in the Town Museum in Trebinje.
The date of the photograph is ca 1902...This image has recorded many features which are either no longer in
existence or which have become obscured or have deteriorated.

Photo DMP 4...shows a view of the Drapića Ponor-mill as described above.
The mill construction has been "inset" into the ponor mouth.
Note also the outcropping geology of the riverbed in front of the mill. The ancilliary buildings are
seen in the background, now without their roofs.
In comparison with Photo DMP 3. above, note also the growth of scrub and trees on the karst landscape.
The "tower" feature top left behind the buldings remains a mystery.

Photo DPM a view of the Drapića Ponor-mill and ancilliary buildings in the background.
(Photo :  B.Lewarne, 14 Aug 2000.)

Photo DPM 6...a detailed view of the Drapića Ponor-mill and the outcropping limestone geology.
(Photo :  B. Lewarne, 13 Aug 2000.)

Photo DMP a view of the Drapića Ponor-mill again in the 1980's.
The characteristic outcrop of bedrock limestone in front of the mill at river level can be clearly seen.
Of interest here is the water inlet gate clearly indicated to the immediate right of the bedrock slab.
Above the gate can be seen firstly two protruding stones together and then at the top above these,
a further single protruding stone at the top of the cylindrical outer wall.
Immediately beside this top protruding stone and to its left can be seen a dark (metal)
remnant of the top part of the penstock.

Photo DMP 8...indicates the condition of the Drapića Ponor-mill in more recent times, (the 1980's).
The spiral stone staircase leads down to the first interior level at which the millstones are located.
In the lower right of the view, below the spiral staircase, can be seen the jointing between the staircase
structure and the sloping roof of the mill house below.
At the bottom left of the view can be seen the doorway into the mill house.
In his descriptive text, he very inaccurately describes the elevation of the
Ponor-mill with respect to the height of the operating water level in the Trebišnjica River as being 30m above it.

For the additional "Images Appendix page", please follow the Link
Dobromani Ponor Mills Images.

Project Title [GB.] :   "The Karst Ponor-mills at Dobromani, Popovo Polje, Eastern Hercegovina, Bosnia & Hercegovina."
Project Title [BiH-Lat.] :   "Kraška Ponor-mlinovi kod Dobromana, Popovo Polje, Istočna Hercegovina, Bosna i Hercegovina."
Project Title [BiH-Cyr.] :   "Крашка Понор-млинови код Добромана, Попово Поље, Источна Херцеговина, Босна и Херцеговина."
Project Status:..Active - Internal DKRS (at Aug/Sep 2000.) now Joint-International (at Feb 2001.)  International Science Programme Activities - non F.P. FAP-related.
Project Alliances:
This sub-Project No. 1. is a sub-Project of the Main Project No. 3. (SDZB- DKRS-JI / BiH / SLO / H / UK / 140800PTPH.)
Project Title:  "A Joint Strategy for the Protection of the Endangered Endem Proteus anguinus and its Natural Karst Habitat in the Trebišnjica River Basin - Stage 1."
Project Status:  Active - International UK / BiH. F.P - FAP -related.

Dobromani is a small village situated near the north bank of the Trebišnjica karst river in Popovo Polje, Eastern Hercegovina and is 21km. (13 miles) from Trebinje. The village is split into Upper Dobromani and Lower Dobromani. The ponor mills are located in Lower Dobromani.
Although collectively, the ponor mills in Popovo Polje now have their dedicated webpage, for various reasons, those at Dobromani remain the subject of a special sub-Project and are detailed on this single webpage.

There are three Ponor-mills at Dobromani, all of which are the subject of this sub-Project and they are located on opposite sides of the Trebišnjica River in that part of Popovo Polje known as Trebinjska Šuma (Trebinje Forest) - a Karst Corrosional Plain. The three Ponor-mills are the Drapića Mlin (the most westerly of the 3 mills); the Perišića Mlin (the central mill adjacent to the restaurant) and the East Ponor-mill, for which we have no formal name.

The  Perišića Mlin is situated only 33.5 metres from the nearby Trebinje-Dobromani-Ljubinje Road, which runs almost parallel with the river in this part of Popovo Polje. Exactly 36.5 metres upstream (eastwards) from the Ponor-mill is a road junction where a small bridge takes a minor cross-polje road across the Trebišnjica River and the polje floor towards Jasenica Lug, a small village on the south side of the polje, some 4km. (2.5 miles) distant. By using this bridge to cross the river, access can be gained to the Drapića Mlin, 383 metres downstream (westward) on the opposite riverbank. This bridge will also allow access on the opposite bank, to the East Ponor-mill, situated 840 metres eastwards, upstream.

Milanović,.in a personal communication, states that along Popovo Polje, more than 20 ponor-mills were operational after World War 2.  Petrović.& Kovačina have accounted for the presence at least 50. The demise of the mills was due to the construction of modern bulk-processing flour mills.
Dobromani and its Ponor-mills are currently well within the jurisdiction of the self-styled political entity of "Republika Srpska" (Trebinje Administrative Region / Trebinje Municipality) of Bosnia & Hercegovina. The Mills are each in private ownership and are neither the property of the State nor of the HET Company in Trebinje.

An extensive discourse on the positioning and construction of Ponor-mills is given in the Popovo Polje Webpages provided elsewhere on this Website. For convenience, a simplified constructional diagram is also given in the left-side column as..Image DPM 2.

We have personally interviewed Mr Doko Drapić, the owner of the Drapića Mlin, who has confirmed that this mill in particular was built in 1902 to an existing or traditional design by his family, during the period of Austo-Hungarian Occupation. The construction materials were paid for by three separate families. By mutual consent, it was agreed that the Drapić family would build, operate and maintain the mill, its ancilliary buildings and the river dam. All three families would share the profits derived from its operation. We have no information as to how the profits were to be shared or how the operational use of the mill was divided up.
The Ancilliary Buildings consisted of a "Linhay" or "lean-to" barn / stable for the horses. The other was a domestic house in which the whole Drapić family lived.
The Mill Dam, which was originally located a few metres downstream of the Mill, is claimed to have been 7.5 metres (24.6 ft) high. The evidence in Photo DPM 3. in the left-side column does not support this claim. This Mill Dam did not serve the other Mills upstream, which were set in to the riverbed at a much lower level. Mr Drapić remembers that on some occasions, the level of the Trebišnjica River would rise so much that it would cover the entire Mill.

One of the local families still owning property in Dobromani is called Muzur. In a personal communication, Mr Ognjen Muzur informs us that a Mr Luka Perišić, who owned the Perišić Mlin, died in early 2005, as did one of his sons. Mr Muzur goes on to tell us that .... "Luka's sister (Mila Bilbija) lives in Sarajevo, but she is very old and almost immobile. I know that Luka had another son, but I don't know where he is now..."From this information, we have completely missed an opportunity to talk first-hand with two local Ponor-Mill owners who could possibly have shared interesting historical information with us. The search for the sister and the other surviving son of the late Mr Luka Perišić, is now underway .... before it is too late.

An early (undated) view of the Drapića Mill is revealed in Photo DPM 3. in the left-side column. It is useful to compare it with recordings of the same structure and surroundings of known later dates, as given elsewhere in the left-side column. The image above indicates the Drapića Ponor-mill beside the full natural width of the Trebišnjica River. The riverbed is not yet lined or grouted with concrete and the river has not lost any of its natural flow to upstream diversion channels. The view indicates the position of the dam (submerged) which could have served only the Drapića Ponor-mill.  The Drapić Ponor-mill structure is free of all vegetation and its associated outbuildings are shown in some detail.  Also note the relatively sparse vegetation across the rough karst territory beyond the ponor-mill complex. Note the level of the dammed-up water with respect to the protruding stones on the facing side of the mill structure.

Milanovic (1979).published a view of the Drapića Ponor-mill in his classic publication "Karst Hydrogeology".  No date was given for the photograph, but clearly, it was taken before the lining of the Trebišnjica Riverbed with concrete and long after the ponor-mills had fallen into disuse.  Photo DMP 4. in the left-side column reproduces his photograph.

4.0.    The Present Situation. CONDITION OF THE PONOR MILLS.
Milanović (1987) states that in Popovo Polje, the Ponor-mills were mostly destroyed during the sealing of the Trebišnjica riverbed with concrete or shotcrete. This was as a direct result of the karst engineering work undertaken for the Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici Co. (HET Co.) He further states that some of the preserved mills are non-functional. In the case of the surviving three mills at Dobromani, we can confirm that their functionality has certainly been affected, though the structural fabric in each case is remarkably intact. Photos DMP 7. and 8. in the left-side column illustrate the general appearance of the Drapića Mlin in the 1980's, whilst Photos DMP 5. and 6. illustrate its appearance in August 2000.

4.1.   The Drapića Ponor-mlin and ancilliary structures.
The Drapića mlin is probably the most photographed of the three units, being conveniently observed from the nearby highway.
The cylindrical outer stone wall is in good condition on the outside. Its top is in need of plant removal and re-mortaring. We have great concern that the tree and bush growth on the inside of the structure may seriously weaken it.
The inner spiral stone staircase contiguous with the inside of the cylindrical stone wall, is also suffering badly from the destructive effects of plant growth. which is dislodging large stones.
The mill house at the bottom of the spiral stone staircase has totally lost its roof timbers and tiles, although the walls are in place. Nothing remains of the door and door-frame. Inside the mill house is a profusion of bush growth. Beneath this may lie many roof tiles and other relics. The constructional-interface between the mill house roof and the surrounding structure is still obvious.
At this point, returning again to the cylindrical outer stone wall, the lower part of this structure on the inside next to the mill house but above the archway forming the mill stone platform and roof of the turbine chamber, is also in a reasonable  structural condition. The wall here is integral with the limestone bedrock and takes the form of an arched alcove. The arch supports the top of the cylindrical outer stone wall at this point.
The lower stone archway forming both the mill stone platform above and the roof of the turbine chamber below, is intact, with minimal disturbance from plant growth. The vertical drive shaft spindle from the turbine below the mill stone platform, is visible in the top of the shaft connecting orifice.
The turbine chamber below is in a remarkably good structural condition, although the turbine chamber access cover, probably originally made of wood, has gone. The floor of the chamber is covered with loose rocks and we now see much bedrock limestone. The water turbine itself is in the middle of the chamber. It is in a totally non-functional condition. Its wooden turbine blades and vertical drive shaft are in a very poor condition, as is the turbine drive shaft bearing underneath.
Returning to the surface again and the outside of the cylindrical stone wall, the flow regulation inlet gate and the gate control mechanism for raising (opening) and lowering (closing) the water gate, are all missing. There is the mere remnant of a metal fixture at the top of the outer cylindrical wall above the inlet orifice.
The water inlet orifice and water inlet channel are in a very good state of preservation - at least as far as direct and indirect inspection will permit us to see. The upper and middle sections of this channel are integrally constructed within the stonework of the ponor-mill. However, at its lower end, it is made of wood. This is still intact, although the watertightness of this short length of channel and its joint with the stone section, is questionable.
Leading off from the turbine chamber are two separate access portals to the ponor-caves below and beyond. One portal leads off south. The other portal leads off westwards and a few metres along this boulder-strewn passageway we are met with yet another water-inlet channel coming in from above and constructed integrally within the stonework of the mill. This latter feature obviously could not have fed water to a turbine and the reason for its existence has not yet been determined.
A detailed description of both sets of ponor-cave passages is given further on in this text.
The ancilliary buildings were not thoroughly investigated at the time of this survey. There are at least two structures associated with the Drapić Ponor-mill. They are roofless and only the outer stone walls survive.
The mill dam has been destroyed during the redevelopment of the Trebišnjica riverbed for the HET hydroelectric scheme. Vestiges of its position survive next to and downstream of the mill structure.

4.2.   The Perišića Ponor-mlin and ancilliary structures.
Although conveniently situated fairly close to the nearby road, the presence of the Perišić Ponor-mill is not, at first, so obvious, sitting squat and very low down beside the riverbank.
The outer cylindrical stone wall is ostensibly in good condition but is under an enormous threat from the intense growth of trees and bushes on the inside of the ponor-mill. Its top is in need of re-mortaring.
The inner spiral stone staircase inside the cylindrical wall is also suffering badly from a profusion of bush and tree growth, which again is dislodging large stones.
The mill house at the bottom of the spiral stone staircase has lost its roof timbers and tiles, although, as in the case of the nearby Drapića Mill, the walls are in place. Again, nothing remains of the door or door-frame but the doorway is intact. Inside the mill house there is less of a profusion of bush and tree growth than in the other mill but the original floor is buried underneath much refuse and debris which may hide original relics. The interface between its roof and surrounding structures is also evident.
The lower stone archway forming both the mill-stone platform above and the roof of the turbine chamber below, is intact, with minimal disturbance from plant growth. The drive-shaft spindle from the turbine below the mill-stone platform, is visible in the top of the drive-shaft connecting orifice.
The turbine chamber is in a remarkably good structural condition, although the access cover to the chamber is missing. The turbine chamber access hole is formed against one side of the original limestone bedrock wall of the ponor channel. Again, the floor of the chamber is covered with large rocks and much rubbish and may be regarded as a largely unlined cave chamber.
The water turbine itself is in a totally non-functional condition, though in a marginally better state of preservation than that in the Drapića Ponor-mill. Details of its wooden turbine blades and vertical drive-shaft are more clearly observable. The turbine chamber was not further explored due to the presence of closed boxes of military ordnance.
The ancilliary buildings associated with the Perišića Ponor-mill are situated right beside the road. They are in a similar state of preservation to that of the Drapića Ponor Mill, having lost roofs, windows and doors.
It was noticeable that the Perišić Ponor-mill was missing its external water inlet orifice and water inlet channel. These, we suppose, had become covered during the concrete lining of the adjacent riverbed. However, co-incidentally, there was a large breach in the concrete (shotcrete) lining adjacent to the mill and we are of the opinion that this may be connected with the buried structures.
There is currently no observable evidence to indicate that this Ponor-mill had a mill dam across the river. As indicated previously by Mr Drapić, (the owner of the next mill downstream), the Perišić Ponor-mill was built or set into the river-bank at a much lower level than the Drapić Ponor-mill and consequently did not need a river-dam.
Photographs of this mill are given in the additional Images Appendix page.

4.3.   The Dobromani East Ponor-mill.
This is the least accessible of the three ponor mills at Dobromani and its physical condition would seem to suggest that it had fallen into disuse long before the other two ponor-mills. Its exterior cofferdam is in very poor structural condition and we were unable to find a way into its Turbine Chamber.
There is currently no observable evidence to indicate that this Ponor-mill had a mill dam across the river. This ponor-mill was built or set into the river-bank at a much lower level than the Drapić Ponor-mill and as a consequence, probably did not need a river-dam.
Photographs of this mill are given in the additional Images Appendix page.

The ponor-mill that could most likely be restored as a practicable cultural heritage project is the Drapića mlin. Although the Perišića Ponor-mlin would need a more substantial investment in effort, it could also be restored. We do not believe that the East Mill is a viable restoration project in the short-term.

6.0....The Present Situation. SPELEOLOGY.

6.1.1...Speleography of Drapića Jama
(cave passages beyond the south portal) :
We were greatly surprised to observe the complexity and the large dimensions of the Ponor-cave system beneath this mill. As previously described, the Turbine Chamber offers two ways forward via lintelled portals, into what appears to be separate cave systems - although they must be hydrologically connected.
We start with that which we have described above as the south portal, located at the far left-hand corner of the Turbine Chamber as it is entered. The portal is a cave rift and leads along a level rock-strewn floor to the top of a shaft. The neo-vertical shaft, which continues upwards as an aven, can be descended using a hand-line. The shaft is roughly eliptical in cross-section, having diameters of 2m x 3m. The free-climb down is about 13m deep, where a mud bank floor is encountered. The passage is then walkable for a few metres around a sharp corner, where a further short climb down over a 3m deep vertical rock wall is encoiuntered. The passage is essentially the original shaft which takes on a corkscrew effect about its mid axis. Doubling back under the original shaft, one is met with sudden vast blackness as the passage opens up into a large chamber of indeterminable size. Further reconnaissance was made impossible by the prevailing situation on the surface. 
Photographs are given in the additional Images Appendix page.

6.1.2...Speleography of Drapića Pećina.
(cave passages beyond the west portal) :
This series of passages is neo-horizontal in comparison with those previously described. Additionally, we recorded cave life-forms in this section of the ponor-cave.

6.2.   The PerišIć Ponor-cave.
Access into the interior has not yet been made, due to the uncertain risks associated with the probable presence of military ordnance.

6.3.   The Ponor-cave of the East Mill.
Access into the interior was successfully attempted in August 2001. Only a short length of neo-horizontal passage was accessible, due to sediment accumulations. We estimate that without substantial annual maintenance, this ponor has a minimal water absorption capacity. 

7.1....Plans to remove damaging flora growth.
In regard to the Drapića mlin, the Society has been undertaking work on an annual basis to remove the damaging tree and bush growth from within the circular cofferdam. It is essential that both the cofferdam structure and the interior spiral stone steps are not damaged beyond repair. This action should keep the monument in such a condition as to minimize any costs related to a future full restoration plan. We are aware that this Ponor Mill is on a list of human heritage sites being proposed for future State Protection within RS-BiH.
The Perišića mlin has also been partially cleared by us on several occasions, though it needs much more persistent effort to bring it up to the standard of the Drapića mlin.
To date, there has been no attempt at clearing the East Ponor-mill of its prolific vegetative growth.

7.2....Plans to remove refuse and military ordnance.
..........-..Drapića mlin :..All military ordnance has now been removed. 
..........-..Perišića mlin :..In regard to this mill, we are uncertain about the situation. We have removed large quantities of small-arms ammunition from inside the cofferdam, however, due to its proximity to the main road just 33 metres away, we suspect this could have been used as a dump for larger weapons.
..........-..The East Ponor-mill :..In regard to this mill, we have found no signs that it was ever used as a dumping ground for ammunition. Due to the general inaccessibility of this mill, it is unlikely that it would ever have been used for this purpose.

7.3....Plans to preserve  / strengthen the structural fabric of the Ponor-mills and ancilliary buildings.
This costly work needs to be undertaken as part of a complete restoration plan for the Ponor-mills.

7.4....Plans to maintain and protect the current means of access to the deep Ponor-cave Systems beneath the Ponor-mills.
Annual clearance of the flora (trees, bushes etc.) from out of the stone structures will help prevent the deterioration and collapse of the masonry into the mill. This, in itself, is the only option we currently have for maintaining and protecting the access into the underground.

.1.  Bonacci, O. (1987)   "Karst Hydrology. With Special Reference to the Dinaric Karst."
...........................As :..Book No. 2. in Springer Series in Physical Environment. p. 104 and Fig. 5.2.
...........................Pub.  by Springer - Verlag, Berlin, Germany. ISBN 3-540-18105-9
.2.  Božicević, S. (1992)   "Fenomen krs." p. 48. (for text) & p. 49. (for image).
...........................Pub.  by Skolska Knjiga, Zagreb, Hrvatska. ISBN 86-0399488-9
.3.  Mikulec, S. & Trumić, A. (1976)   "Engineering works in Karst Regions of Yugoslavia."
...........................In :..Karst Hydrology & Water Resources, Proceedings of the US - Yugoslavian Symposium, Dubrovnik, June 2 -7, 1975:
...........................Vol II Karst Water Resources Pt. 3. Technology for development of Karst Water Resources. p. 448.
...........................Pub.  by Water Resources Publications, Colorado, USA.
.4.  Milanović, P.T. (1979)   "Hidrogeologija Karsta i Metode Istraživanja." p. 66. and Fig. 57.
...........................Pub.  by Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici - Institut za koristenje i zaštitu vodu na kršu, Trebinje, BiH.
.5.  Milanović, P.T. (1981)   "Karst Hydrogeology." pp. 93-94 and Fig. 57.
...........................Pub.  by Water Resources Publications, Colorado, USA. ISBN 0-91-8334-36-5
.6.  Milanović, P.T. (1985) & (1987)  "Popovo Polje."
...........................In :   I.G.U. Study Group on Man's Impact on Karst. Mans Impact in Dinaric Karst, Guidebook. pp. 182. & 184. and Fig. 5. (cross-section).
...........................Pub.  by Sazu, Ljubljana, Slovenija.
.7.  Petrović, B. & Kovačina, S.  "Mlinica u Koritu Trebišnjice duž Popova Polja"
...........................In :...Deveti Jugoslavenski Speleološki Kongres - Zbornik Predavanja, pp. 473-485.
...........................Pub.  by Savez Speleologa Jugoslavije & Speleološko Društvo Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1984.

.8.  Morozov,...."Iskorišćenje vodnih snaga", Beograd, 1954.
.9.  Ćurčić, V.   "Istorija mlinarstva u BiH".
10.  Ćurčić, V. (1915a): "Narodno ribarstvo u Bosni i Hercegovini. II. Hercegovina (Nastavak).". 
...........................In :...Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja BiH, 27, pp. 27–107, Sarajevo, BiH.
11.  Ćurčić, V. (1915b).."Narodno ribarstvo u Bosni i Hercegovini. II. Hercegovina (Svršetak)."
...........................In :...Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja BiH, sv. 3-4, pp. 313–358. Sarajevo, BiH.
12.  Petrović, B. & Žibret, Ž.   "Hydrological Relations and interdischarge into the Trebišnjica Riverbed in Popovo Polje."
...........................In :  The Proceedings of the 6th International Speleological Congress, Olomouc, ČSSR., 1973.

(Background Image :  The plan-view construction drawing of a standard traditional wooden Turbine Wheel for a Ponor-mill.)

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