Archaeologists Find Transformation in Albania
Date: March 23, 2001
Cause for Concern
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Archive: Research Archive
An archaeological rescue mission in Albania is producing results just days after it began. University of Cincinnati archaeologists and their collaborators in Albania have discovered new artifacts and new reasons to be concerned about the chaotic growth that is endangering the country's cultural heritage.
The UC team arrived in Albania on March 11 and is working to identify ancient sites that should be studied or preserved before commercialization overtakes the nation.
Just a few years ago, chaos engulfed Albania in the aftermath of communism's collapse. Even though the country remains Europe's least developed and poorest, it is already becoming transformed by development.
"Since the end of communism in Albania there has been extensive migration from the north into the capital Tirana and the coastal zones such as the port of Durres," said Jack L. Davis, UC's Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology who co-directs the team's work. "Durres itself has expanded six-fold in size since 1991 with little planning until very recently. The situation is particularly critical in the 10 small upland valleys immediately to the north of Durres, where our team is operating."
Davis reports from Albania that settlement is already engulfing archaeological remains including the ancient cemeteries of the city. Much of this settlement is illegal.
The international archaeological team found ancient graves that were previously undiscovered, new Greek inscriptions of the Hellenistic period (the time of Alexander the Great) and "what appears to be a destroyed medieval church, the location of which was previously unknown," said Davis.
Joining Davis in directing the project is classics doctoral student Sharon Stocker and Iris Pojani and Afrim Hoti of the Institute of Archaeology in Tirana. The team plans to continue its work until April 4. Their urgent mission is funded by the Packard Center in Tirana.
The international team is conducting an archaeological survey of the coastal region where an ancient Greek colony once flourished. Located in western Albania along the Adriatic Sea, the site is about 40 minutes northwest of Tirana by car. Macedonia, much in the headlines recently because of violence with ethnic Albanians, is on Albania's eastern coast.