Tumulus-burial in Albania and Epirus (Part4)

Tumulus-burial in Albania and Epirus (Part4)


Thus, according to the Albanian archaeologists it would be wrong to identify the XIII-IX invasions as Illyrian, and magnify the effect of this invasion on Albanian territories. Their findings were in direct contradiction to the view that had taken hold with some historians and focused on the assumption that XIII-IX B.C. invasions from the north had overwhelmed western Balkans.

Another tradition observed with the population Albanian archaeologists consider autochthonous has been the ritual of tumulus burial which has continued from the Bronze era. This burial rite spread through Albania, as elsewhere in the north-west Balkans, towards the beginning of the Bronze Age. Different types of tomb continued in general use over a long period, indeed until the end of the first part of the Early Iron Age.The tumulus-burials of the Bronze and Early Iron Ages in Albania are of various types: simple pits, as at Barf, Mati and Pazhok; cist-graves made of lateral slabs of soft stone partly buried in the earth and covered with one or more slabs laid one on top of another, as at Vajze, Dropull, Bajkaj etc.; wooden coffins as at Pazhok, and pits lined and covered with stones, as at Barf, Mat, Dukat, Pazhok, Kukes, etc. In spite of their diversity these tombs, as their contents indicate, appear to be associated both chronologically and ethnically. The conservatism indicated by the persistent use of these types of tomb is a new archaeological pointer to the ethnic continuity of their users, and helps to trace the genesis of ethnic identity amongst the Illyrian people in Albania. (The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume III, Part 1, 2008, pp. 229-30)

According to Albanian archaeologists, discovered tumuli at Vajze, Vodhine, three tumuli at Pozhak, and one in Mat were built during the middle Bronze Age, while tumuli at Patos, Dukat, Prodan, Rehoves, Bardhoc, Krune, some of the Mat and Pozhak, etc., are reflective of late Bronze Age. N.G.L. Hammond indicated that the tumulus at Pazhok has dating that corresponds to Middle Helladic period. (The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume III, Part 1, 2008, p. 229)

Some historians, for various reasons, have adapted the view that Illyrians migrated to the southern Balkans at end of the twelfth and the eleventh centuries B.C. N.G.L. Hammond who has been consistent with the view of early Greek culture and language emergence in Greece as well as in the adjoining areas to the north, in areas historically identified as Macedonia and Epirus, put Illyrian migrations into the area even later, indicating that great expansion of Illyria tribes occurred from c 900 BC onwards, the center from which they came being Glasinac in Central Yugoslavia…

He indicated that tumulus-burial was characteristic of Illyrian tribes both to the north of Albanian and in Albania, but was customary also among other pastoral groups which were Greek-speaking, e.g. in central Epirus and in western Macedonia (in Pelagonia and Eordaea) or Phrygian-speaking (e.g. below Vergina). A great expansion of Illyria tribes occurred from c 900 BC onwards, the center from which they they came being Glasinac in Central Yugoslavia… The leading warriors buried in some of these tumuli had as many as ten spears each in heir graves. Tribes from the Glasinac area entered North and Centarl Albania in large numbers and overran the existing Illyrian tribes…The expansion carried some groups of warriors into central Epirus, others into Central Macedonia, and one group to Halus on South Thessaly, where a tumuli contained remains of men and woman with words, knives and spears of the eight century BC…(N.G.L. Hammond in Winnifrith,Tom, Perspective on Albania, 1992, p.34)

Hammond saw Prendi’s assertion about Albanian autochthonous presence as confronting his well established contention that Epirus was populated by Greek speaking tribes, contrary to much of the ancient sources. His reference to Prendi’s comments about the tumuli do not add credence to his point of view. He does not directly discuss the view of the continuous use of the tumuli since Bronze Age. He does not reject Prendi’s contention, but he is not ready to accept that non-Greek speaking tribes populated Epirus.

He promptly commented about Albanian archeological finds indicating that two sites, Vajze and Vodhine, had tumuli which were first constructed and used in the Middle Bronze Age, if not earlier, and were then re-used towards the end of the Late Bronze Age and on into the Early Iron Age, presumably by people who claimed some connexion with the original ‘heroes’. In the period of re-use the bronze weapons and ornaments from these and other tumuli swords, spear-heads and long pins were unusual in being engraved and in having distinctive features such as facetting on the socket of a javelin-head, and this has led to the conclusion that an independent metal-working establishment existed in the northern area (see above, pp. 224^, and that it produced short swords with some Mycenaean features but with other aspects which were ‘uncanonical’ in terms of Aegean archaeology.

He indicates that tumuli in Vajze and Vodhine were used by people who claimed some connexion with the original ‘heroes’, and that the weapons and ornaments have a northern relationship, but apparently considers them as imports, maintaining that the Illyrian migration stopped north of Epirus. He adds that “although many more tumuli await excavation, it has become clear (from tumuli in southern Albania -BB) that the rulers … in Epirus had a common culture and that their contacts and affinities were rather with the rulers of the Korce plain at Barf than with those of the Mati valley. Yet they were distinct from the peoples of South Epirus, where tumuli have been found only recently (below, p. 636). He has formulated the view that Tumulus-burial was customary also among other pastoral groups which were “Greek-speaking”.