Wednesday, March 07, 2001

UC team hopes to find, preserve ancient site

Port threatened by development

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A University of Cincinnati archaeological team is spending an extended spring break hoping to find and protect an ancient site from accelerating commercial development in Albania.

        “There is a real sense of urgency,” Professor Jack L. Davis said on Tuesday.

        He hopes to identify the original Greek colony that, during the past three millennia, has become the Adriatic port of Durres.

        Corinthians established it as Epidamnos in 627 BCE; Romans called it Dyrrachium.

        Dr. Davis is betting that it is inland today, separated from the sea by silt on which newer ports were built. In that sense, “the settlement seemed to move around a lot.”

        On the other hand, it's possible that “part of it is right under the current port” and the rest risks being destroyed, as hotels, parking lots and related businesses spring up.

        Dr. Davis and his Ph.D.-candidate wife, Sharon Stocker, are leading the “foreign side,” including six who leave Cincinnati on Saturday, for 26 days. At Durres, they will collaborate with Albanian archaeologists.

        Together, they and other colleagues will do a “field surface survey” by walking about 50 feet apart in lines across the area and noting what they see. This may allow them to identify ancient features without digging, Dr. Davis said. He said the 10 square kilometers is a “doable area.“

        Working with them will be Nancy Limprecht, wife of U.S. Ambassador Joseph Limprecht, who volunteered her computer expertise to the project.

        If they find evidence of the original Greek colony, Albanians will focus their efforts to protect it, Dr. Davis said.

        “It's usually not much of a secret,“ he added. Looters typically find saleable artifacts “and archaeologists are usually the last to know.”

        Despite seemingly endless headlines about economic disaster and deadly lawlessness, that's not what's threatening archaeological sites. Dr. Davis said expatriate Albanians send so much money home that is being invested in property and construction.


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