Conceptual Changes in Albanian Archaeology

By Miraj, Lida; Zeqo, Moikom | Antiquity, March 1993 | Go to article overview

Conceptual Changes in Albanian Archaeology


Miraj, Lida, Zeqo, Moikom, Antiquity


The transition from dictatorship to democracy in Albania, as in the other countries of central Europe, is more than a simple mechanical change from one system to another. The process is a more complex one and it is difficult to make definitive statements about it. It involves not only adjustments to their personal attitudes by individuals but also a radical departure from previous intellectual processes and practices, leading to real freedom of thought in general.

It is still too early to assess to what extent democratic changes in different areas of life have been adopted. For many reasons Albania will have adopted a similar course to that of the other countries of central Europe, but the Albanian situation has certain peculiarities that need not be detailed here. One thing that is clear is that Albanian society, in regaining its democratic and human identity, has created the conditions needed for integration with dignity into the community of European and human cultures.

There can be no doubt that in the field of historical sciences many taboos and hitherto immutable concepts, which resulted in stagnation and a lack of vitality attributable to the nucleus of the totalitarian system, are being rejected. Political totalitarianism is reflected in scientific knowledge. We must now carry out genuine analysis so that we may free our science once and for all from non-scientific totalitarian concepts. This is especially important in the historical sciences, which were more heavily influenced by totalitarian concepts than the natural and physical sciences.

During the second half of the 20th century Albanian archaeology ostensibly underwent considerable development. During that period it was institutionalized as a science and many excavations were carried out and published, the results of which will stand the test of time. The wholly centralized totalitarian state was the exclusive source of funding for excavations and publications, and as such made much of the cult of earlier traditions in order to increase its own glorification.

Archaeological thought in Albania was rigidly forced into an ideological and political straitjacket. As a result science was idealized and politicized, but its practitioners developed a tough metaphysical approach rather than the dialectic required by the system. A study of Albanian archaeological literature shows that this idealization and politicization hindered the application of basic concepts; in many cases there was a mechanical linking of the two approaches, with consequent hybridized results. Concessions had to be made, facts being included which had nothing to do with the basic archaeology, in order to make publication possible. This was a politically unavoidable process, and Albanian scholars should not be blamed for it. They had to adopt it in order to ensure that their material was published and their work could continue.

This ideological and political primacy of the totalitarian state created a paradoxical situation for Albanian archaeologists. Bourgeois and Marxist archaeologies were set up as two opposing entities, with any alternatives suppressed. The fact that science has its own homogeneity and integrity, independent of political factors, was ignored. This outworn stereotype of conflicting cultural ideologies resulted in the creation of a form of xenophobia, another expression of the isolation and autarchy of Albanian economic and social life. Many examples could be cited of professional backwardness in Albanian archaeology, of sterile polemic, and of unwillingness to make use of archaeological data from other parts of the world.

Almost all archaeology teaching and training was centralized in the University of Tirana (where there is, however, still no separate chair of archaeology). The long and short specialist courses have been so few in number that it is impossible to speak of there having been a national programme or policy. Foreign scientific literature coming into Albanian libraries has been sporadic and limited owing to the absence of links with archaeological institutions in the rest of the world.

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