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Who are the Illyrians? The Use and Abuse of Archaeology in the Construction of National and Trans-National Identities in the Southwestern Balkans



This paper discusses the use of archaeology in the southwestern Balkans in national and trans-national identity construction on ethnic basis. It explores the recent scenarios in Albania, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) where the use of archaeology in political issues is inherited from the communist era and reinterpreted to suit the present political claims. In particular, this paper focuses on the Illyrian concept and its abuse in the problematical dialectic between archaeology intended as a science and its popularization.
Archaeological Review from Cambridge
Volume 27.2 • November 2012
Edited by Russell Ó Ríagáin and Cătălin Nicolae Popa
Archaeology and the
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Cătălin Nicolae Popa and Russell Ó Ríagáin
Who are the Illyrians? The Use and Abuse of Archaeology in the Construction of
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Maja Gori
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Maja Gori
Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Who are the Illyrians? The Use and Abuse of
Archaeology in the Construction of National and
Trans-National Identities in the Southwestern
Archaeology is a discipline that lends itself well to being used and
misused as a tool to foster the feelings of belonging and continuity
that are at the base of the national identity building process (Beaton ;
Diaz-Andreu and Champion ; Karamanolakis ). The physicality of
archaeology gives an added sense of material reality to these emotions.
Indeed, the archaeological record is assumed to provide tangible proof
of the past, which can be conceived and interpreted as a physical
representation of the concept of identity. The physicality of archaeology,
1 This paper is based on two talks. The rst was given at the conference: Fingerprinting the Iron Age. Approaches to
identity i n the European Iron Age. Inte grating South -Eastern Euro pe into the debate. 23–25 September, 2011. Magdale ne
College and McDo nald Institute, Cambrid ge. The second “Ubiquitous I llyrians – elastic identi ty in the Balkans” was co -
authored wi th James Walston and given at the confer ence: Our Future’s Past: Sustainab le Cultural Heritage in the 21s t
Century. The Amer ican University of Rome i n collaboration with the Br itish School at Rome. 24th -26th November 2011.
72 Who are the Illyrians?
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
the fact that one can see, touch, feel and experience archaeological
heritage gives an added sense of authenticity to these emotions.
Archaeology—and cultural heritage in general—is widely utilized in
identity construction and is often deeply exploited in ethno-nationalistic
debates, commonly the basis of claims for self-determination, separatism
and expansion (Jones and Graves–Brown : –). Demand for national
independence or territorial expansion typically involves the assertion of
the right of sovereignty on the basis of ethnic-linguistic distinctiveness
and historical precedence over a given territory (Fabietti ). This
historical precedence can be legitimized by the recourse to dierent types
of ‘archaeological proofs’. In most of the cases, governments, or dierent
interest groups, place a major emphasis on a given historical period or
on an aspect of the archaeological heritage that is perceived as relevant
to the aim of identity construction (Fabietti : –; Hamilakis ).
In some cases, however, the alleged ‘archaeological proofs’ are the result
of an actual manipulation of the archaeological data, which can be more
or less evident depending on the segment of society that is the target
of each propaganda campaign. Nationalistic ideology needs to prove
that a nation is clearly dierent from the other neighbouring nations,
substantiating its antiquity on a supposed scientic base. Hence, present
national entities and identities are projected back into a remote past and
considered as pure, homogeneous and crystallized essences that have
remained immutable up to the present day.
The creation and maintenance of a collective identity is typically
fostered through the display of archaeological objects and sites. In
general, collective identity can be promoted through the symbolic
recourse to names and particular types of architecture and decorative
patterns as well as all the possible types of cultural manifestations that
involve an explicit and direct recall to a legacy of the past.
This paper discusses the use of archaeology in the southwestern
Balkans in national and trans-national identity construction on ethnic
basis. It explores the recent scenarios in Albania, Kosovo and the Republic
73Maja Gori
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
of Macedonia (FYROM) where the use of archaeology in political issues is
inherited from the communist era and reinterpreted to suit the present
political claims. In particular, this paper focuses on the Illyrian concept and
its abuse in the problematical dialectic between archaeology intended as
a science and its popularization.
The Balkan Powder Keg
In the southwestern Balkans, the mechanism of formation and dissolution
of identities is complex and derives from a specic idea of nation. In the
USA and in some western European countries the concept of ‘people’
is interpreted as a dynamic element of social progress since the idea of
nation has a prevailing political signicance more than a cultural one.
The concept of nation in Central and Eastern Europe is dierent and it is
based on a diverse interpretation of the social reality. Eastern Europe, and
especially the Balkans, is characterized by a sort of ‘linguistic nationalism’,
since the consolidation of the national identities there took place mainly
through language, which is considered and perceived as an important
ethnic characteristic (Terrel : –; Jones and Graves-Brown : –).
The present day Balkan nations have complex and twisted historical
backgrounds and unstable political situations. For this reason, the sense
of belonging to a group is expressed on cultural rather than on political
basis (Sekulić : ). Indeed, in the southwestern Balkans archaeology
matters in identity issues. The materiality and practice of archaeology
in this region is inextricably linked to the political and cultural reality of
each country and has a strong impact on society (Kaiser : –).
The question of Illyrian ethnogenesis represents a particular identity
issue that has had, and still has, strong direct political repercussions
for the southwestern Balkans. The Illyrian discourse was used to
construct Albanian national identity—mainly in opposition to the Slavs
of Yugoslavia—during the communist regime, and lately to support
Kosovo’s claims for independence. Its use and misuse in the national
Albanian narrative survived the communist era and, with some minor
dierences, has been utilized by the present democratic Albanian state
and by the Albanian minorities present in neighbouring states.
74 Who are the Illyrians?
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
The Balkan conicts at the beginning of the nineties resulted in
the fall of the communist regime in Albania and in the gory conict that
caused the break-up of Yugoslavia. The wars in Yugoslavia were caused
and escalated by a combination of nationalistic issues and internal social,
ethnic and religious contrasts. The conicts were also exacerbated by
an extensive recourse to the destruction and manipulation of the past,
both through the damage of historical and archaeological relics and
through the clearing of historical memory and its articial exasperation
(Sekulić : ). One of the most visible phenomena in the identity
crisis in the s and early s in the former Yugoslavia was the rise of
numerous theories and speculations about the autochthonous origin of
the dierent ethnic groups that formed the country. Most of them were
based on similar nineteenth century theories, elaborated and diused in
the context of national liberations from the Austro-Hungarian and the
Ottoman empires. These theories gained in popularity just prior to the
dissolution of the country and during the s wars (Novaković :
–f.). However, in Albania these theories were already very popular
during the communist era and formed the theoretical base upon which
archaeological research was built and directed.
The Genesis of an Ethnos
The concept of ethnicity is indissolubly linked to the process of
construction of a collective identity in national states. Speculations on
the origins of ethnic distinctiveness are an obliged passage for each
discourse that wants to foster or to create the self-perception of a group as
ethnically distinct from others (Jones ). In the Balkans a special place
in archaeological research was occupied by the concept of ethnogenesis,
which was largely exploited both by the scientic and popular levels of
national identity construction. The concept of ethnogenesis as conceived
in the Balkans was based on the assumption of a supposed direct linear
derivation of an ethnos, identied in the present population of a given
2 In the western Balkans one of the most famous irredentist groups was the Illyrian Movement (Ilirski pokret in
Croatian, Ilirsko gibanje in Slovenian). It was founded in the nineteenth century by Croatian and Slovenian cultural
elites suering from the feeling of cultural and political oppression under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Assertions
of close links between the ancient Illyrians and the southern Slavs were one of the ideas promoted by the Movement
(Wilkes 1992: 5).
75Maja Gori
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
country, from an ancient people. Thracian, Dacians and Illyrians were
considered the direct ancestors of the modern Bulgarians (Tsirtsoni :
), Romanians (Kaiser : –) and Albanians (Korkuti et al. )
respectively. The idea of an uninterrupted succession of chronological
and cultural horizons—in which each phase by necessity led into the next
and on to the present day—formed the scientic basis of archaeological
research in many Balkan countries, particularly during the communist era.
The Iron Age was one of the most popular periods utilized in the
identity construction processes of a number of European and Balkan
states (Collis : –; Diaz-Andreu : –; Fleury-Ilett : –
; Jones and Graves–Brown, : –; Šešel-Kos : –; Zapatero
: –). This epoch was depicted and evoked as the golden age of
each nation, a time when a heroic and primigenial society, characterized
by exceptional cultural, technological and social achievements, laid the
foundations for a present-day ethnic group. The Iron Age in Albania is
an epoch during which militaristic chiefdoms and more complex social
realities emerged, and it is hardly deniable that a self-awareness of many
communities existed (Wilkes : –). However, what is very hard
to prove is that the names and the connotations that we use today to
describe these societies can actually reect the entities of the past
(Renfrew : –). Even less concrete scientically is the existence
of an essence characteristic of a people—call it ethnic identity—which
can be passed on through the epochs, immutable and incorruptible from
prehistory to present day. The Illyrian-Albanian ethnic identity would
have to have been resistant to every foreign invasion and inuence,
from the Roman conquest to the Ottoman occupation. Furthermore,
the impressive number and diversity of the local cultural sequences and
chronological schemes that characterize the archaeological scientic
literature of southwestern Balkans still bewilder every researcher that
approaches the archaeology of this area for the rst time. Tritsoni (:
–) has demonstrated how, even in scientic literature, this marked
3 In Western Europe, Celts and Iberians in Spain, Gauls in France and Celts in Ireland represent some of the better-
known examples of the use of the Iron Age period in national identity construction. In the Balkans the identity
construction process was based on Illyrians in Albania, on Dacians in Romania, on Thracians in Bulgaria and lately on
Veneti in Slovenia.
76 Who are the Illyrians?
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
variety in the regional nomenclature scheme can be strongly inuenced
by modern aspirations rather than by the attempt to give an impartial
interpretation of historical phenomena.
Republic of Macedonia or FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of
The Republic of Macedonia represents one of the most explicit present
day case studies of national identity construction through recourse to
a major use of archaeology. In addition to the abundant governmental
propagandist activity, many theories and speculations about the
Macedonian national identity based on archaeology have been widely
promoted and spread through the media and through diverse initiatives
by several interest groups. These theories and studies run from the
identication of symbols present on Neolithic pottery, which are
interpreted as the earliest evidence of the Macedonian alphabet, to the
favourite myth of the supposed direct origins of the present Macedonians
from Alexander the Great and his people.
A few years after the  declaration of independence, the Iron Age
origins of the Macedonians also began to be emphasized. An ancient
ethnos, the Bryges, unknown, shrouded in mystery and poorly studied by
the international academic world, was indicated as the direct ancestors
of the Paeonians. The Paeonians were in turn indicated as the direct
ancestors of the present day Macedonians (Petrova ). However, in the
last decade the attention has rapidly shifted to a more recent period, to
the fth and fourth century BC, which resulted in a more suitable epoch
to be depicted as the golden age of the Macedonian nation.
Due to its utilization of ancient Macedonian heritage, the newborn
republic of Macedonia is engaged in a bitter struggle with Greece over the
legitimate use of the name Macedonia and ancient Macedonian symbols.
The present national ag was adopted on  October  after a one-year
economic blockade imposed by Greece in order to force the Republic
of Macedonia to remove the ancient Macedonian Vergina Sun from the
ag (Brown : –; Hamilakis : –). The dispute rapidly
77Maja Gori
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
assumed both political and archaeological importance, and since it has
been bitterly debated both in universities and in parliaments (Kotsakis
: –). In this on-going battle, all the possible archaeological
and historical arguments are largely utilized and exploited to support
each side’s claims, which are based on this idea of the direct ethnic
continuity between past populations that inhabited the region and
present populations of the two states (Klok : –). Furthermore, the
situation has been exacerbated by the numerous expatriates from both
countries strongly supporting the claims of each faction with generous
endowments to local groups, local media and institutions as well through
strong international political pressure.
The case of the Republic of Macedonia makes clear that the topic
of identity construction through the abuse (and appropriation) of
archaeological heritage is very complex and articulated. Indeed, it
can be observed that the misuse of archaeological heritage in identity
construction is not just conditioned by dierent political powers, both
at national and international levels. It is also the result of a complicated
dialectic between archaeology, intended as a science, its popularization,
and the dierent cultural policies carried on by each state (Hamilakis
: –). The on-going process of national identity building in
the recently established Republic of Macedonia is deeply rooted in the
unsolved political controversies that rose after the dissolution of the
Ottoman Empire. The presence of a considerable Albanian minority, which
represents about one third of the entire population, strongly inuences
the process of identity building of the Macedonians on an ethnic basis
(Brown : ; Moulakis : –).
National Identity and Archaeology in Albania: The Illyrians
The rise of Albanian nationalism dates back to the end of the nineteenth
century. Although not as strong as the other irredentist ideologies in
nineteenth century southeastern Europe, it has nevertheless played an
important role in the formation of Albanian identity up to the present
day. In Albania, Enver Hoxa’s government placed a great emphasis on
ethnogenetic theories in the framework of the so-called Albanian Cultural
78 Who are the Illyrians?
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
Revolution, which took place at the end of the s (Wickers : –f.).
In , Hoxa established the Academy of Science of the People’s Republic
of Albania and through this institution nanced numerous excavations,
conferences and archaeological, linguistic and historical publications on
the Illyrians. A good example of a typical ‘regime book’ published in English
for an international audience is The History of Albania from its Origins to the
Present Day (Pollo and Puto ). In the second chapter, called “From the
Illyrians to the Albanians”, attention is drawn to the ‘barbaric’ invasions of
the Balkans by Slavic tribes. The barbarians are described as violent, brutal
and keen on raiding Albanian territory, bringing death and destruction.
The Illyrians were reduced dramatically in number and the Slavs occupied
the regions that were originally Illyrian. One of the concluding sentences
leaves no doubt about the strong political propaganda of the authors:
In the southern provinces – New Epirus, Ancient Epirus,
Prevalitania and Dardania – the Illyrian population must have
been preponderant and compact if one considers that the
descendants of the Illyrians, the present Albanians, came from
these provinces” (Pollo and Puto : ).
The ‘Illyrian argument’ was debated between Albania and Yugoslavia
on a scientic level too. The milestones of this scientic dispute can
be identied in two international conferences organized by the two
countries. The rst was organized in  (Korkuti ) by the Academy of
Science of the Popular Republic of Albania and replicated in  (Islami
et al. ). The two editions of the Colloque des Ètudes Illyriennes were
directed to give scientic legitimacy through archaeology and linguistics
to the ethnogenetic theories that consider Albanians as the only authentic
direct descendants of the ancient Illyrians. The other conference was
organized in  by the Serb Academy of Sciences and Arts, some years
before the beginning of the Yugoslav wars. Garašanin (: –) in
his concluding considerations and remarks made clear the will of the
4 New Epirus, Ancient Epirus, Prevalitania and Dardania roughly correspond to northern Greece, Montenegro,
southwester n Serbia and Kosovo.
79Maja Gori
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
Serbian Academy of Science to counteract with scientic arguments the
strong Albanian propaganda in Kosovo and in the other Yugoslav regions
inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
A similar cultural policy toward archaeology—even if less explicit
as it used to be—is still pursued today, as reported by Fatos Lubojna,
an Albanian intellectual, who represents one of the most critical voices
in Albanian culture (OBC ). Many joint archaeological projects
were already carried on by the two countries before the declaration of
independence of Kosovo in February . The most important is the
redaction of the Harta Arkeologjike e Kosovës (The Archaeological Map of
Kosovo), a common project of the Academy of Arts and Science of Kosovo
and the Academy of Science of Albania (Përzhita ). Noteworthy in this
publication is the exclusive adoption of the Albanian toponyms to the
detriment of Slav ones.
It is common opinion in Albania that Albanian nationalism is not
fuelled by Tirana but mainly by its peripheries and by the people of the
diaspora. However, the dierent activities connected to the management
and dissemination of archaeology and the cultural policy undertaken by
the Albanian government show that the government’s attitude toward
these issues is all but neutral.
The Popularization of the Illyrians
The popularization of the archaeological literature is an aspect that has
to be treated with utmost attention. Outside the academic world the
question of Illyrian ethnogenesis and the debate on the ethnic origin
and identity of present Albanians are extremely popular and result
in a myriad of dierent documents and publications, many of which
are easily accessed by a wider audience through the internet. Popular
archaeological literature is an incredibly powerful tool in constructing
national identity, because it can reach a very large audience and uses
concepts and a language accessible to all (Popa in press; Smith and
Waterton : –). Besides, in Albania and in Kosovo there is still a
80 Who are the Illyrians?
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
dicult and very ambiguous dialectic between archaeology as science,
its popularization and the cultural policy of the governments.
The limits between these ambits are often ambiguous and unclear,
as can be observed by the presence in the bookshop of the University of
Tirana of the new volume written by Neritan Ceka () The Illyrians to the
Albanians. The title leaves no doubts on the ideological guideline of the
work. Neritan Ceka is the son of Hasan Ceka, one of the fathers of Albanian
archaeology. Like the father, Neritan Ceka is an archaeologist, but he is
mainly a politician: he is the leader of the Democratic Alliance Party and
was the Ministry of the Interior in the Fatos Nano Government in .
Another book of primary importance for the exploration of the
relations between politics and archaeology: L’Etrusco Lingua Viva written
by Nermin Vlora Falaschi () is widely used as a reference for many
archaeological guides oering their services to foreign tourists and
visitors in Albania and Kosovo. Nermin Falaschi was the daughter of Ismail
Qemali, a principal gure in the formation of an independent government
for Albania in  and the wife of an Italian diplomat. This book was
published in Italy by an authoritative publishing house, Bardi Editore,
which also publishes books for the prestigious Accademia dei Lincei. This
fact makes the book a trusted and popular archaeological publication
in Albania. In Falaschi’s book, the Etruscan language is translated using
modern Albanian. I would not make any comment on the scientic
validity of Falaschi’s work. What is important is the clear political message
that permeates the conclusive chapter: the Pelasgians, the forefathers of
the Illyrians, brought civilization to Italy and gave birth to the Etruscans.
The implication is that despite their inglorious present, other Europeans
should treat Albanians with more respect because of their glorious past
as the rst and most ancient civilized people of Europe.
Who are the Illyrians?
To reach a conclusion one has to come back to the question that stands in
the title of this paper, that is: who are the Illyrians? Archaeologists can try to
answer to this question through the analysis of the archaeological record
81Maja Gori
Archaeol ogical Review from Cambridg e 27.2: 71–84
and the written sources available for early history, but they should also try
to engage themselves with the complementary question: who the Illyrians
were not! The links between archaeology and politics seem to be obvious
and at times even trite and banal. Then, if this is the case, as archaeologists
we should ask ourselves why there are still many open issues and unsolved
problems with regard to this matter, and if some of them also condition
the quality of archaeological research? Hodder (: –), in a
paper about the social and political engagements of the archaeological
project undertaken at the site of Çatalhöyük, made clear that there is
a need to recognize that the archaeologist is not just a disinterested
observer but part of the process of heritage appropriation. Some years
ago, Renfrew directly addressed the international scientic community
on the occasion of the publication of the proceedings of the Theoretical
Archaeology Group conference entitled Cultural Identity and Archaeology.
The Construction of European Communities. He urged the archaeologists to
take more responsibility in clarifying concepts like ethnicity and identity
that were at the base of the conict in the former Yugoslavia, which was at
that moment fully in progress (Renfrew : –f.).
These topics, and more generally the role of the past in the
southwestern Balkans and the function and responsibilities of
archaeologists in identity construction, are topics that urge to be
discussed on many dierent levels (Kaiser : –). In other words,
archaeological heritage should become politically sustainable, not only
for reasons of intellectual honesty, but for the fundamental role that it
has in the political aairs of the southwestern Balkans. Being politically
sustainable also means being universal and possibly free from political
conditionings and abuses. Consequently, archaeological heritage should
not be considered as the exclusive property and monopoly of a single
people or ethnic group (Gillman : –).
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... The division of the past based on modern state borders is common in European archaeology, but in the Balkans, this is much more emphasized and problematic for many reasons, the discussion of which goes beyond the goals of the dissertation research. Archaeology in the Balkans is highly indoctrinated historically, religiously, and politically (Kotsakis 1998;Bailey 1998;Novakovic 2011;Gori 2012). As a result, bringing together information in order to shape a framework for my research from three different countries-Albania, Greece, and North Macedonia-and languages with their own historical particularities and peculiarities has its own pitfalls since we are dealing with three diverse and often confrontational and interconnected archaeological realities. ...
... The most significant differences in the trajectories of theoretical and methodological archaeological research among Northern Greece, Albania, and North Macedonia took place during the period between the end of the Second World War and the political changes in the Balkans with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. A mix of strong historical tradition, ethnocentrism, empiricism, as well as cultural history characterized the archaeology of Greece, Albania, and the former Yugoslavia, part of which was North Macedonia (Andreou et al. 1996;Novakovic 2011, Gori 2014. The theoretical mixture of cultural history with nationalism and ethnocentrism, the legacy of which is still persistent today, has dominated the archaeological discipline in all of these countries. ...
... research after 19991, however, followed the fluctuation of the socio-politic situation in North Macedonia. In general, there was a lack of interest on the Neolithic period probably due to financial reasons, but also because the archaeological research was focused on other prehistoric periods, such as Iron Age, that served better the negotiation of ethnic identity and the New-Macedonian question, which was at the center of the socio-political as well as archaeological activities(Gori 2014), at least until 2019 when a solution of the dispute with Greece was accepted by both parties. A characteristic example of the decrease of Neolithic research is Pelagonia, where a number of projects including geophysical survey, excavation, absolute chronology, and archaeobotanical studies, run by a new generation of archaeologists, took place only after the 2000s(Naumov 2009, Kanzurova andZdravkovski 2011;Bugaj et al. 2014;Naumov 2016a). ...
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Pottery is the most common archaeological material recorded in large quantities at the excavation of the Neolithic sites in the Aegean and the Balkans. Thus, it comprises the best proxy to understand the Late Neolithic communities in the southern Balkans, especially prehistoric technology, daily life practices, human-object interactions, and local or regional contacts. Despite the attention that the Neolithic pottery has received in previous publications, its social dimensions have been poorly studied in Albania. The current dissertation approaches such aspects by exploring the sociocultural journey of the ceramic assemblages in Korçë region in southeastern Albania as they traverse various itineraries from the manufacture and use to cross- site circulation. This research adopts a holistic, interdisciplinary approach combining contemporary theoretical perspectives, traditional recording techniques, and a multianalytic approach. My research views the sociocultural dimensions of the pottery as dynamic interactions between humans and vessels, interhuman relationships, and cross-site or interregional contacts providing a narrative told by vessels as they move from one social practice to another. It perceives technological choices as practices that emerge through the interaction of tradition, relationship with the material world, and cross-site contacts. The study considers the active role of the Neolithic Pottery in the southern Balkans beyond functionality and identity negotiation, imposing through its attributes such as size and shape, specific behaviors of the residents regarding their use, and the interaction with other members of their community. This approach also assigns an active role to ceramic assemblages in local or regional contacts putting the communities of potters at the center of such connections since they facilitate the circulation of technologies and raw materials. As links or boundary objects, potters and ceramic technologies bring together social groups from different sites and regions, shaping and maintaining interregional communication channels in southeastern Albania. The participation of potters within such networks plays an essential role in the local and regional patterns of ceramic tradition in the Late Neolithic period in the region of Korçë and the southern Balkans.
... Marginal archaeologies in the Balkan Peninsula For Balkan and Greek archaeologies, as in many other areas worldwide, the past is not detached from the political and nationalistic agendas unfolded primarily in government policies. It is also arbitrarily fragmented and appropriated according to the boundaries of the current states (Bailey 2000;Brown 1998;Elezi 2020a:36-40;Gori 2012;Hamilakis 2007b;Kotsakis 1998). The parcellation of the past often follows even the geographical extent of physical or imaginary ethnic minorities left outside the official borders of modern countries ( Figure 1). ...
... Prehistoric research in Albania, for example, prioritized for decades studies on the Bronze and Iron Age periods associated with the formation of the first ethnic groups in the region and the emergence and development of the Illyrian culture. Scholars working on the Neolithic focused primarily on tracing the indigeneity and the linear continuity of these cultural groups (Gori 2012;Korkuti 1987;Prendi 1988). The archaeological data from these studies supported the main elements of Albanian ethnic identity, such as indigeneity, linear cultural continuity since at least late prehistory, and Europeanism. ...
... A crucial aspect that remains to be addressed for the LBA and other epochs is the relationship of these structures with the landscape and continuities in the funerary-ritual sphere. The archaeology of Albania has centered on the research and excavation of tumulus burials, which were considered crucial to address topics such as ethnogenesis and the relations with neighboring areas (Gori 2012). ...
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The Late Bronze Age (1700–900 BC) represents an extremely dynamic period for Mediterranean Europe. Here, we provide a comparative survey of the archaeological record of over half a millennium within the entire northern littoral of the Mediterranean, from Greece to Iberia, incorporating archaeological, archaeometric, and bioarchaeological evidence. The picture that emerges, while certainly fragmented and not displaying a unique trajectory, reveals a number of broad trends in aspects as different as social organization, trade, transcultural phenomena, and human mobility. The contribution of such trends to the processes that caused the end of the Bronze Age is also examined. Taken together, they illustrate how networks of interaction, ranging from the short to the long range, became a defining aspect of the “Middle Sea” during this time, influencing the lives of the communities that inhabited its northern shore. They also highlight the importance of research that crosses modern boundaries for gaining a better understanding of broad comparable dynamics.
... The study of prehistory, however, remained infrequent until the first years after the Second World War, and it was resumed systematically in the 1950s, when the framework of archaeological studies in Albania was established (Prendi 1985;Korkuti 1987). Within this theoretical framework, the study of Neolithic communities has been overshadowed by the efforts of Albanian archaeologists to support what became the main goal of Albanian archaeology, namely, the connection of the contemporary Albanians with the ancient Illyrians (Korkuti 1987;Prendi 1988;Gori 2012), as well as by the archaeological anachronism created by the strict political control on archaeological studies and the isolation of Albanians, including archaeologists, from the rest of the world during the Hoxha regime (Bejko 1996). These should be considered the main factors that led to the marginalisation of Neolithic studies for 40 years. ...
Over a century of research in Albanian prehistory, a number of historical, political and economic factors have contributed to the marginalisation of Neolithic studies. As a result, there are still many unresolved questions about communities and their settlements in this part of the Balkans. Neolithic sites excavated in Albania, most of them before the 1990s, do not offer much information about the spatial organisation of the settlements. However, the relation between the Neolithic communities and the location of their settlements is of particular interest. The presence of the settlements in the mountainous landscape of Albania provides evidence for a complex relationship between humans and the environment. Many of the Neolithic sites are located in river valleys or near lakes. River valleys not only offer a means of subsistence but were also the primary channel of communication between Neolithic settlements. The choice of locations may also be associated with the historic and symbolic past of these communities, as many of the sites were used or reused for long periods of time.
... One can hardly go through a paragraph on the political dimension of archaeology without encountering references to Nazi Germany (Arnold, 1990) and the work of Gustaf Kossinna. Examples from the Balkans are also preferred, with Albania (Gori, 2012), Macedonia (Brown, 1994), or Romania (Niculescu, 2002) serving as examples of nationalistic archaeology, together with Spain during Franco's regime (Díaz-Andreu, 1993). All these works in themselves are necessary and even essential to understanding the negative direction that the political character of archaeology can lead to. ...
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In this article I address the relationship between European archaeologists and the European Union and argue that the dominant attitude of non-involvement that archaeologists have embraced over the past decades cannot be justified given recent political developments. The European project finds itself in a state of deep crisis, under siege from populist and far-right leaders within and around Europe. We cannot afford to watch from the sidelines when the future of hundreds of millions of people is at stake. As archaeologists we can make a positive contribution by harnessing the political dimension of our work, which we need to stop seeing in a negative light. We should deploy the past to help tackle the challenges of our society. European archaeologists should particularly focus on developing grand narratives of a shared past in Europe, to act as a foundation for a European identity.
... In the discipline of archaeology, a new emphasis on autochthony and ethno-genesis of the Illyrians (deemed to be the ancestors of modern day Albanians; see Gori 2012;Veseli 2006;Wilkes 1992) was accompanied by rejection of the Mediterranean linkages with Rome that had been stressed by the Italian archaeologists working in the region during the fascist occupation (Gilkes and Miraj 2013;Pessina 2014). For a limited number of years, before the total withdrawal of any relationship with the Soviet Union in the 1960s, a Russian influence can be recognised in the considerable attention given to early historic and prehistoric archaeology and ethnography, paralleling similar developments in the Soviet world (Klejn 2012, 65-72, 90-91). ...
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Revolutions have powerful effects on the way the past is presented and perceived. In former communist states of Eastern Europe, following the revolutions establishing the regimes, a further sudden inversion has been regularly experienced in the aftermath of the fall of the Eastern Bloc. In this paper, I will comparatively discuss these changes through the lens of Albania. The discussion will highlight how the first communist revolution of the 1940s changed the way the Albanian state looked at its heritage and how this perspective was again completely transformed in the aftermath of the 1991. In both cases the perception of the periods immediately preceding the revolutionary events were those mostly affected. In particular, as regards the second revolution, in Albania, as in many other cases, after a long silence, the perspective adopted by the main stakeholders in the new democratic order was to characterise the heritage of communism in terms of trauma and terror. While these aspects undoubtedly encapsulate key features, there is more to processes of memory and heritage making related to this period. Private memories can sometimes produce rather different narratives of the same recent past, creating a clash with the representation put forward by the state.
... onija is occupied by the impressive statue Vojn na Konj (warrior on a horse), which marks the ideological and physical centre of the city and of the entire country. Crossing the Kameni Most, the Stone Bridge, the warrior on a horse can be seen topped2 The statue of Vojn na Konj in Skopje 17 Unesco <> (12.01.2017).18Gori 2012, 76-77. 19 Brown 1994Danforth 1995;. 20 Brown 1998 Troebst 2007, 363-372;, 495-510. 21 Graan 2010 ...
By adopting historical and sociological approaches to archaeology, this paper focuses on the development of archaeology in Albania and Yugoslavia and their relation first to fascism and then to communism and socialist regimes. Identity issues based on archaeological discourse in former Yugoslavia and Albania are often perceived and regarded by western scholarship as extreme distortions and abuses of archaeological practice to promote nationalism. By providing a comparative and diachronic perspective, this paper aims to demonstrate that the way in which a society relates to its past is a complex phenomenon, and that political uses of archaeology in the western Balkans cannot be associated entirely with socialist regimes and communist ideologies. It is argued that different uses of archaeology are the product of a complex interaction between the development of archaeological discipline and historical, social and cultural trajectories.
This innovative, extensively illustrated study examines how classical antiquities and archaeology contributed significantly to the production of the modern Greek nation and its national imagination. It also shows how, in return, national imagination has created and shaped classical antiquities and archaeological practice from the nineteenth century to the present. Yannis Hamilakis covers a diverse range of topics, including the role of antiquities in the foundation of the Greek state in the nineteenth century, the Elgin marbles controversy, the role of archaeology under dictatorial regimes, the use of antiquities in the detention camps of the Greek civil war, and the discovery of the so-called tomb of Philip of Macedonia. Contents 1. Memories cast in marble: introduction 2. The `soldiers' the `priests'. and the `hospitals for contagious diseases': the producers of archaeological matter-realities 3. From the Western to indigenous Hellenism: archaeology, antiquity, and the invention of modern Greece 4. The archaeologist as shaman the sensory national archaeology of Manolis Andronikos 5. Spartan visions: antiquity and the Metaxas dictatorship 6. The other Parthenon: antiquity and national memory at the concentration camp 7. Nostalgia for the whole: the Parthenon (or `Elgin') marbles 8. The nation in ruins? Conclusions
In 1978, the excavation of the Macedonian royal tombs at Vergina in north Greece gave a more physical aspect to the historical place of Philip and of Alexander the Great. These archaeological finds now have an active role in the region's politics, where the present is again being re-made by the pictures of the past.
Every Greek and every friend of the country knows the date 1821, when the banner of revolution was raised against the empire of the Ottoman Turks, and the story of 'Modern Greece' is usually said to begin. Less well known, but of even greater importance, was the international recognition given to Greece as an independent state with full sovereign rights, as early as 1830. This places Greece in the vanguard among the new nation-states of Europe whose emergence would gather momentum through to the early twentieth century, a process whose repercussions continue to this day. Starting out from that perspective, which has been all but ignored until now, this book brings together the work of scholars from a variety of disciplines to explore the contribution of characteristically nineteenth-century European modes of thought to the 'making' of Greece as a modern nation. Closely linked to nationalism is romanticism, which exercised a formative role through imaginative literature, as is demonstrated in several chapters on poetry and fiction. Under the broad heading 'uses of the past', other chapters consider ways in which the legacies, first of ancient Greece, then later of Byzantium, came to be mobilized in the construction of a durable national identity at once 'Greek' and 'modern'. The Making of Modern Greece aims to situate the Greek experience, as never before, within the broad context of current theoretical and historical thinking about nations and nationalism in the modern world. The book spans the period from 1797, when Rigas Velestinlis published a constitution for an imaginary 'Hellenic Republic', at the cost of his life, to the establishment of the modern Olympic Games, in Athens in 1896, an occasion which sealed with international approval the hard-won self-image of 'Modern Greece' as it had become established over the previous century.
Routledge Library Editions: Archaeology.