The Thesprotia Expedition
2004 - 2005
THE THESPROTIA EXPEDITION
A Regional, Interdisciplinary Survey Project
in Northwestern Greece
The preliminary results of the first two seasons of the Thesprotia Expedition are as follows.
I. Archaeological survey
A total area of 2.2 km2 at the very bottom of the Kokytos valley and the lowest surrounding slopes was intensively surveyed during the first two years. In the process, we documented 27 places of special interest, most of which constitute archaeological sites. Concurrently with the survey work, the finds from 2004 and 2005 were intensively studied by visiting scholars in July 2005. An initial outline of the valley’s settlement history is now starting to take form, and preliminary answers to some of the questions that we posed before starting the project are beginning to emerge.
II. Geo-archaeological survey
A geo-archaeological survey has been conducted by Mika Lavento. Soil samples from all the sites have been taken to Helsinki in order to be analysed at the University’s Department of Archaeology. The texture, phosphorus content, loss-on-ignition, and redox potential of these soil samples will be determined in order to gain information about the nature of individual settlements and changes in the environment.
The partly buried settlement below the southern walls of Agios Donatos of Zervochori has also studied with the help of a hand auger, revealing that cultural layers have been covered by later material. These cultural layers will be dated with the help of the Carbon-14 process, thus giving valuable information about the history of the valley’s sedimentation.
III. Historical research
After having collected all published ancient and Byzantine historical sources for the area in 2004, the historical research for 2005 concentrated on: (1) collecting and studying the Roman inscriptions from the city of Photike; and (2) collecting archival sources in Venice and Istanbul.
Of the epigraphical monuments examined by Erkki Sironen, three were previously unpublished. The most interesting inscriptions are a bilingual grave altar from the second century AD and a monumental Latin grave inscription from the first century AD. In addition, a previously unpublished Ottoman grave inscription from the nineteenth century was documented.
Mika Hakkarainen collects information in the Archivio di Stato di Venezia in Venice about Venetian involvement in northwestern Greece in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This was a period of great changes in our survey area. Shortly after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Venetians conquered and held parts of Thesprotia for some years. Although Venice was eventually obliged to cede the territory it had conquered, its brief involvement still led the local inhabitants to hope for liberation from the Turks. After secret negotiations with Spain, they rose against the Turks in 1611 under the leadership of Dionysios Philosophos, bishop of Trikka. The uprising was savagely crushed. According to local tradition, people then fled to the islands of Paxos and Kerkyra in order to start a new life. Thesprotia may very well have become more Albanised and Islamised as new settlers moved in after 1611. This is, at least, our working hypothesis; we hope that Evangelia Balta will find evidence to support it in the Ottoman taxation documents in the Başbakanlik Archives in Istanbul.