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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Environmental and archaeological discoveries along Albania’s coast

Published: 12 August 2016
Discoveries along Albania's coast

In July 2016, University of Southampton archaeologist Peter Campbell co-led an international expedition to the Albanian coast, to understand the underwater cultural heritage and coastal changes of this dynamic region. It is one of the first expeditions to the area to integrate both environmental and archaeological data.

The most significant discovery was that the submerged remains at Triport are more extensive than previously documented; an additional eight acres suggest it could be a major ancient fortress and port for the region during the Roman period.

The expedition also found indicators of ancient sea level change of up to 150cm. “The Albanian coast is incredibly dynamic and we have found excellent indicators of sea-level change such as tidal notches to sunken cities and harbors,” says Peter, who is also affiliated with the Albanian Center for Marine Research and co-directed the expedition alongside Neritan Ceka (Albanian Institute of Archaeology). “This lets us reconstruct the coast in the past, which tells us how different parts of the coast are changing through time and may change in the future.”

Albania lies at the strategic entrance to the Adriatic Sea, along the Corfu channel to the south and along ancient crossing routes from Italy to the Karaburun Peninsula. During the Roman Civil War, Julius Caesar landed along the region and attacked the strategic points controlled by Pompey the Great.

The present study uncovered evidence of maritime trade and commerce from every time period in the region and also documented ecological impacts from modern coastal development and pollution for baseline monitoring – including microplastics, heavy metals, and invasive species. “Albania has some of the most important waters in the Mediterranean,” says Peter. “This coastline was important for ancient trade and it continues to be significant as the convergence zone for species from the Adriatic and Ionian seas.”

The project’s findings inform us about environmental coastal morphological changes from ancient through modern times. This is important for revealing how ancient and current cultures navigate, conduct commerce, exploit marine resources and deal with changes in the marine environment.

The Albanian National Coastal Agency – which is working on the regeneration of Albania’s marine industry and tourism – supported the expedition, alongside the Albanian Navy, NGO Deep Blue Explorers, and Field Notes. Sail Albania, Dive Easy Corfu, Sipa Tours Saranda and Sail Your Soul also provided assistance.

 

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