Despite U.S. State Department warnings against unnecessary travel in Albania, a team led by University of Cincinnati and Albanian archaeologists launched a field study about 60 miles south of Tirana in summer 1998. Their quest is to learn more about a Greek colony that flourished at the end of the second century B.C., but the team instead found an unexpected abundance of artifacts left from a possible Neanderthal site.
UC archaeologist Jack L. Davis, co-director of the UC-Albanian team, traveled to Albania last month to report the project's first findings at a two-day conference in Tirana marking the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Science's Institute of Archaeology, UC's partner in the project. Davis and the team began field work in the Apollonia region of Albania in May and June 1998 and will continue work June 15-July 15, 1999.
"We had no idea we would be walking into all this prehistoric evidence," Davis said. "Such a widespread distribution of artifacts from the Stone Age era, in particular, indicates that this area of central Albania has the potential to rank among the larger open air Stone Age sites in Europe. Most Neanderthal and Stone Age sites are inside caves."
Davis views the mission to explore Albania's archaeological history as urgent and opted to launch the field project last summer despite turmoil that has plagued the nation and ethnic fighting on its northern border. Davis plans to survey in the Mallakastra (Fier-Patos-Ballsh) region about a four-hour drive south of Tirana before commercialism and looting interfere with the region's historic remains. His work so far has been funded by the Louise Taft Semple Fund at UC.
The team's 1998 findings in central Albania represent the only documented discovery in Albania in the past 50 years of pre-Neolithic artifacts found lying out in the open rather than inside caves, Davis said, adding it is the first such finding in central Albania.