Archaeologists are shedding new light on the archaeological past of Thesprotia. New finds and a productive three-way collaboration have revealed information about some prehistoric and historic periods of which little was previously known, particularly those of the Mesolithic and early Iron ages up to the Early Classical era.
Excavations by the Finnish Institute in Athens, the Eighth Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the Byzantine Ephorate have all contributed to the new picture.
In Mastilitsa, for instance, on the border with Albania, the Eighth Ephorate found and examined a temple and tombs dating from the 7th to the early 5th century BC. Other finds from the Geometric and Archaic periods were documented at Paramythia, where researchers found the first examples in Thesprotia of imported Geometric and Archaic ceramics that bear witness to trade with southern Greece.
Experts received a first impression of the work being done in the area by the ephorates and the Finnish Institute at a conference in Thesprotia.
“Thesprotia was believed to have been deserted,” the director of the Finnish Institute, Dr Bjorn Forsen, told Kathimerini. “In recent years, that picture has changed a bit. That’s what we tried to show at the conference.”
The Finnish Institute’s mission in Thesprotia began in 2004 under Forsen’s direction. The Culture Ministry’s book “Foreign Archaeological Schools in Greece: 160 Years” explains: “This is an interdisciplinary program aimed at reconstructing the continuous history of the Kokytos Valley in Thesprotia from the Paleolithic to the modern era by means of archaeological and geological research and the collection of ancient, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman written records.”
The Finnish Institute isn’t very big, as the director explained. “We work on the border of Greece because we are new compared with the other schools.” (The official opening was in 1985.)
The aim is to publish the finds which shed light on the area’s past. Among the aspects they provide information about, Forsen said, are “the organization of housing in the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods, the fortifications along the river crossings, especially on the Kalamos River, which played an important role in the historical and political development of the area, the organization of the fortified settlement of Elea, which was the first capital of Thesprotia when it was founded in the first half of the 4th century BC.”
And there are indications of subsequent events. “In contrast to earlier theories, Thesprotia does not seem to have been completely destroyed by the Romans in 167 BC, even though the large settled areas were abandoned. People continued to live there in large villages and on farms and, later on, in the Roman colony of Fotiki.”