THE discovery of a Greek temple in Albania has underlined the threat to the ancient city of Apollonia from development. A new road to the nearby coast, intended to open up the unexploited Adriatic coastline, would cut across former suburbs and divide the temple site from the city (The Times, April 25, 2005).
Jack Davis, of the University of Cincinnati, said: “A large stone temple, entirely unknown prior to our research, seems to have been built here in the Archaic or Classical period, between the 7th and 4th centuries BC.
“The temple at Bonjakët may be one of the earliest monumental Greek temples on the shores of the eastern Adriatic north of modern Greece.”
The area between the sea and Apollonia, founded as a Corinthian colony in the 6th century BC, had not been systematically explored by archaeologists until the projects begun three years ago under Professor Davis and Lorenc Bejko of the International Centre for Albanian Archaeology. Professor Davis said: “Much of the area was a vast marsh before it was drained in the last century.”
A few hummocks of slightly higher ground bear modern villages and farmsteads, one of which is owned by the Bonjakët family after whom the new site has been named. A Russian team had worked in the area in the 1950s, but the political rupture between Albania and the Soviet Union in 1960 left the work unfinished. Pottery figurines from the excavations showed that the Bonjakët site had been a shrine in the Hellenistic period between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC, but was probably founded several centuries earlier.
The shrine seems to have been isolated at first, and only in Hellenistic times did the area between the site and the walls of the city of Apollonia become filled with suburban development. Professor Davis believes that the shrine, close to the former mouth of the Vjosa River, marked the limit of Apollonia’s territory.
Professor Davis said: “It is not yet clear to whom the temple was dedicated, but there are clues.” A stele found nearby depicts Artemis with a torch, and a relief from Apollonia dedicated to Artemis Limnatis. Numerous votive figurines discarded around the temple depict reclining couples on a couch, sometimes accompanied by a figure of Eros.
Three courses of ashlar masonry were tied together with T-shaped metal clamps. Since such clamps were used from the 6th century BC onwards, they do not offer a date for the building, but several re-used Hellenistic carvings suggest a date in the late 4th century or later.
“The discovery of such significant remains emphasises the urgency of efforts to convince the Albanian authorities to redirect the new highway,” Professor Davis said. “If this road is built between the Bonjakët site and the walls of Apollonia, irreparable harm will be done.”
cf. a post from April (the link still works, I think).