The Thesprotia Expedition











A Regional, Interdisciplinary Survey Project

in Northwestern Greece

Specific aims

In particular, the Thesprotia Expedition aims at answering the following questions:

1. How are we to explain the extremely rich finds of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic finds in Thesprotia and Epirus in general and the subsequent, surprisingly poor, evidence for occupation during the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age? Did the shift from hunting/gathering groups to agricultural societies follow a different path here than in the rest of Greece, where we generally have few Palaeolithic finds but very rich Neolithic and Bronze Age remains? Or is this difference due to environmental changes in Epirus?

2. How should we explain the apparent existence of “Dark Ages”, or periods with no finds in Thesprotia? The Mesolithic period, parts of the Neolithic period, the Early Iron Age, the Archaic through Early Classical period, and the Early Medieval period (seventh to eighth centuries AD) are the most obvious lacunae. Was the territory depleted of population at those times, or is the lack of finds due only to the lack of research in the area? Can we gain new insights into the dating of prehistoric pottery of northwestern Greece?

3. In what way can the contacts of the indigenous inhabitants with the first Greek colonies that were founded on Corfu and along the Thesprotian coast in the late eighth and the seventh centuries BC be documented? How did these contacts influence the development of major sanctuaries and poleis in Thesprotia and its closest environment? Which kinds of relationships did the Thesprotian tribe and, later on in the Classical period, the poleis of Thesprotia have to the major sanctuaries of Dodona and the Nekyomanteion?

4. What impact did the development of political leagues during the Late Classical and Early Hellenistic period have on regional settlement patterns? To what extent do isolated farmsteads occur in Thesprotia at this time compared to elsewhere in Greece?

5. Which effects did the spread of Roman control have on the area? What were the immediate effects of the infamous destruction inflicted on the region by the Romans under Aemilius Paullus in 167 BC? At what stage did the typical Roman villa, or isolated farmstead, economy develop? And how was the area influenced by the development of the Roman colonia Photike just to the north of the survey area? How large was the Latin influx?

6. Can we obtain complementary information from the rich Byzantine, Venetian and, above all, Ottoman archival sources about the cultural clashes in the area during the Medieval and Early Modern period, when it was located at the crossroads between western and eastern Europe (represented by Venice in Kerkyra and Parga and by the Byzantine and Ottoman empires on the mainland)? Which effects did the infiltration of Albanian shepherds in the area, starting in the fourteenth century, have on the demographic and economic developments in the region?

7. Which environmental changes can be documented in the area through history, and how have they influenced the living conditions? When were cereals, olives and wine cultivated in the area for the first time? Can we see changes over time in the local inhabitants’ dependence on agriculture versus transhumantic pastoralism?