Tumulus-burial in Albania and Epirus (Part5)

Tumulus-burial in Albania and Epirus (Part5)


Hammond is attempting to reconcile Albanian finds with his well known assumptions about Epirus. He indicates that the rulers in Vajze and Vodhine had contacts and affinities with the rulers of Korch plain at Barf, with the purpose of differentiating from rulers further north, but gives no further explanation. But at the same time, he indicates, these rulers were distinct from the people of south Epirus. Apparently he considers the “rulers” to be distinct on the basis of ethnicity with the “people” of Epirus, again he does not give details. Albanian archeologists have observed common cultural affinities between Maliq IIIc and that of Nezir (Mat), the latter also relating to the interior of southern Adriatic, which later was to be known as Mat-Glasinac(Bosnia) culture.

When he refers to the only site, at the time of his writing, in the Greek side of Epirus, he indicates, “At Vitsa in Zagori burials were made in shallow trenches, or in cist-graves roofed with branches on which stones were placed, or under a cairn of stones. The burials were close-packed; set in three layers, and very close to the settlement, and the cemetery was in use from just before 900 B.C. into the fifth century B.C. To judge from the objects buried with the dead this community had contacts with Barc, Vergina, Vodhine, the Illyrians, and also southern Greece.” (Hammond 1976: 154/155) Archaeologists have referred to the pottery found in southern Greece as “barbarian ware”.

More telling about the common culture of the people of this area is Hammond’s remark about tumuli at Vista in Zagoria, indicating that “the offerings with men, women and children show connections with the last pre-Illyrian phase at Vergina, with the Illyrian phase at Kuci Zi, with the burials of north Epirus and with southern Greece”. (The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume III, Part 1, 2008, p. 638).

Again Hammond remains faithful to his assumption that Illyrians are late comers into Epirus, and that the indicated common practice above relates to the Iron Age period only. Additional discoveries in south Epirus have contradicted his point of view. Late Bronze Age (according to author: (ca. 1600/1580-1100 B.C.) Epirotic sites (Ephyra and Pogoni) “are known from Messenia, Elis, Leukas, Albania and the Dalmatic coasts”. (Papadopoulos, Thanasis J., Tombs and burial customs in late Bronze Age Eoirus) Papadopolous suggests that the tumuli at Ephyra were made during the prosperous years of the Late Bronze Age and not after the collapse of Mycenaean Ephyra as Hammond indicated. Styrenius (C. Styrenius, The Neolithic and Bronze Ages, 1971, p. 103) and Snodgrass (A.M. Snodgrass, The Dark Ages of Greece, 1971, pp. 172, 177) , suggest an origin and continuous use from the Middle Helladic times for the tumuli in this area. This would indicate that any practice of splitting the tradition of tumulus burial in Epirus into pre and after-Illyrian period is arbitrary.

Prendi indicated that in the light of all that has been said, the question arises: who were the carriers of the Bronze Age civilization, and of that of the transitional period leading to the Iron Age, in Albania? Although the archaeological evidence is still limited, our study of it, period by period, has shown beyond doubt the continuous nature of the development of Illyrian civilization over the whole period under review, and enables us to view the people of the area as an established ethnic entity. This fact bears witness to the presence in the Albanian countryside of the same population throughout the whole of the Bronze Age and the transitional period to the Iron Age. This phenomenon is established more clearly than anywhere else at Maliq and in the Korce basin generally, where the materials of different phases of the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age enable us to follow the uninterrupted evolution of the culture, with all the intermediate links from one stage to the next. In terms of history the archaeological evidence reveals a people which was growing up at this time peacefully and without interference from other ethnic groups, improving in its culture, its economic structure, and its internal social relationships; and this led. apparently towards the end of the Bronze Age, to the formation of the first ethnic communities with a common language and culture, namely the Illyrians. This process of the autochthonous formation of the Illyrian race began, according to the evidence of Maliq, at the beginning of the Bronze Age, on the basis of new economic cultural and ethnic structures in which the earliest migrations of the nomadic Indo-European shepherds certainly played an important part. These migrations interrupted the Eneolithic development of the area. This is seen in Maliq Ilia, whose culture, as far as we have uncovered it, has traits organically different from the Eneolithic culture of Maliq (Maliq II a and b). In penetrating into the Korce basin, this Indo-European group did not drive out or destroy the local population. On the contrary, it intermingled with them, imposing some elements of its language and culture and also its type of economy, while retaining for a period a number of the traits and methods of production of the native Eneolithic culture, at least up to the end of Maliq Illb, at which time the Early Bronze Age culture at Maliq succeeded in establishing itself as an individual culture with strictly local traits. It is exactly from this autochthonous base that we see the uninterrupted internal process of the formation of Illyrian culture in the southeastern area of Albania. To sum up, we may recall that at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (Maliq Ilia), when new Indo-European elements of a different race became fused with the native Eneolithic elements, a new ethnocultural base was created. On this base there developed in turn the beginning of the slow and very complex process of the formation of the Illyrian race which was to reveal clearly defined traits in the Late Bronze Age. Thus the Illyrians created and developed their culture in the course of the Bronze Age in Albania, in close liaison of course with neighboring countries, and in particular with the Aegean world.(p. 237)

We know the Illyrians spoke a language of their own, but unfortunately no written record of it has been preserved. A logical conclusion would be that the people of this area, today’s Albania and former Epirus, must have spoken dialects of this language. Opinions that that southern fringes of this area was Greek speaking has no basis of support. Crossland concluded that “the phonetic characteristics of some place-names in central and northern Greece have been thought to prove that Illyrians or closely related peoples were settled there before the Greek language was introduced . If they were, Greeks must have migrated into southern Epirus early in the first millennium at the latest. (pp. 841-2, R. A. Crossland, The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume III, Part 1, 2008)