Duško Kečkemet, an art historian and archaeologist who carried out extensive research and writing on the Jewish history and Jewish heritage of Split, Croatia, has died, aged 97.
The Jewish community of Split called Kečkemet a “great man, historian and scientist who, through his research and writing about the Jews of Split, forever won the gratitude of the Jewish community of Split and beyond.” His works, the community said, are still considered “the most comprehensive sources of knowledge about Jews in Split.”
Kečkemet was the longtime director of the Museum of the City of Split and dedicated his career to researching and documenting the city, its history, and its monuments in detail.
The first edition of his book, “Jews in the History of Split” was published in 1971 (an English language summary has gone through five editions), and in 1973 he co-authored with the Israeli scholar Zusia Efron a bilingual Croatian-English booklet on the city’s old Jewish cemetery, founded in the 16th century.
Jewish settlement in Split dates back to ancient times. The modern city developed over centuries within the walls of the great palace of the third-century Roman emperor Diocletian, which was located not far from the Roman town of Salona, where archaeological finds dating to the second and third centuries CE suggest a well-established Jewish community. The Split synagogue, in the medieval ghetto area, dates from the 16th century.
The Old Jewish cemetery was established in 1573 on Marjan Hill above the city.
Today it includes some 700 tombstones from the 18th to 20th centuries; it remained in use until World War II; since the war, Jewish burials have taken place in a section of the municipal cemetery.
The gravestones in the Old Cemetery are of the horizontal Sephardi type; some are shaped like a sarcophagus’s roof, and the others are flat, slightly inclined slabs. They bear epitaphs and inscriptions, but no sculptural decoration.