Recent Rescue Excavations in Albania

Article excerpt

At the end of 1999 a new Rescue Archaeology Unit was set up in Albania, funded by the Packard Humanities Institute. Its activity during 2000 has been intense, and focused on four main projects, always in co-operation with the Institute of Archaeology of Tirana.

After introducing a new method in Albania of recording field data (with a series of pre-printed recording sheets to be used in the field, and a site manual where recording and field procedures are explained), and the set up of contemporary standards of documentation -- presented and discussed in a seminar -- the Unit began its fieldwork with a typical rescue project at Rrogozhina, about 65 km south of Tirana (FIGURE 1). Here two hypogeous tombs were found, damaged during the excavation by heavy machinery during gravel extraction for the construction of a new road called the `Eighth Corridor' which will connect the port of Durres with Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey. One of the tombs (the second one has been almost completely destroyed) is composed of a corridor-shaped antechamber and a funerary chamber, divided by a single doorway in limestone with doorposts and threshold. The monument is cut in the bedrock and the sides of the cut are covered by brick walls built in the opus testaceum technique (FIGURE 2). The few finds (the tomb was robbed in antiquity) can be dated between the 4th and the first decade of the 6th centuries AD. Anthropological study of the bones confirmed the long use of the monument, and identified 22 individuals, forming a homogeneous group of rural population typical of late antiquity.

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The Via Egnatia project is a long-term and multi-facetted investigation involving bibliographical research, surveys and excavations. Following a desk-top study, the Unit was involved in a survey between Bradashesh and Qukes (respectively the mutatio Ad Quintum and the mutatio Tres Tabernas of the ancient Itineraries (Miller 1916: 516-18; Cuntz 1929: 329, 608) (FIGURE 1); preserved stretches of the ancient road have been documented, and the state of preservation of monuments connected to the Via Egnatia and the new highway which is going to be built along it has been checked. In a third phase, an excavation was carried out at the bridge of Topcias (close to Elbasan) (FIGURE 1). This is a crucial monument for the understanding of the history of Via Egnatia. The results were promising: the long and impressive bridge was always thought to have been built all at the same time, and later restored in various parts. …