The chaos that was once Albania could become tomorrow's hotspot for development. Before that commercialization begins, University of Cincinnati archaeologists want to identify ancient sites that should be studied or preserved.
Jack L. Davis, UC's Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology, and classics doctoral student Sharon Stocker are leading a UC team that will be heading to Durres, Albania, March 10-April 4. Their urgent mission will be funded by the Packard Center in Tirana. The UC archaeologists will collaborate with Albanian peers, led by Iris Pojani and Afrim Hoti of the Institute of Archaeology, also in Tirana.
The international team plans to do 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.
Although the turmoil and anarchy of 1997 has subsided, the U.S. State Department still views travel to Albania, Europe's poorest and least developed nation, as potentially dangerous. During the earlier unrest, many weapons were looted from government arms depots. Armed crime, especially at night, runs high.
The pressing mission of surveying the region will be conducted using field surface survey, an archaeological technique that is cheaper than excavation. Davis has been one of the pioneers of this approach in the Mediterranean region. Field surface survey involves teams of archaeologists walking across the terrain in rows, observing and taking notes on ancient features, artifacts, vegetation and other surface characteristics. One of the advantages of this strategy is that observations can be made regarding a variety of historical periods before a major dig gets under way.
The information gathered by the archaeologists, who will be joined in Albania by Adam Gutteridge of Cambridge University, England, will be reported to Albanian local authorities and to a Cambridge team that plans to open an archaeological project at Durres this summer. Henry Hurst will head the Cambridge project.
According to Aaron Wolpert, UC doctoral student in classics and the field director for this month's project, the exact location of the original Greek colony, Epidamnos, remains unknown. "It would be tremendous if we could pinpoint it," adds Stocker.
Established in 627 B.C. by Corinthian colonists living on the island of Korfu, Epidamnos held a strategic position in the Greek and Roman world. It was located just across the Adriatic Sea from present-day Italy. The city also became one of the points of disagreement between Sparta and Athens during the Peloponnesian War. In the Roman era, it bore the name of Dyrrachium and was the western starting point of the Via Egnatia, a road that ran all the way to Istanbul. The city also holds significance in that Pompey had a base there during his civil war with Julius Caesar.
According to Davis, looting of archaeological sites throughout Albania makes this mission an urgent one. Since the communist fall, few resources have been available for Albanians to do archaeological work.
Davis also co-directs a team that has been surveying the Mallakastra region of central Albania - the site of the Greek colony of Apollonia - since 1998. In addition to Davis, Stocker and Wolpert, the UC team in Durres will include: John Wallrodt, computer specialist; Phoebe Acheson, field surface survey team leader and classics doctoral student; Rodney Fitzsimons, classics doctoral student; and Siriol Davies, a post-doctoral fellow from Great Britain.
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