Albania reveals ancient treasures

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Albania reveals ancient treasures

Post  AuLoNa on Mon Feb 02, 2009 3:55 pm

BEIJING, Feb. 2 -- This sparkling stretch of the Ionian Sea is slowly giving rise to lost treasures dating back 2,500 years and shipwrecks from ancient times.

Over the past two years, a research ship carrying American and Albanian experts has combed the waters off southern Albania, using scanning equipment and submersible robots to seek out ancient wrecks. In what organizers have said is the first archaeological survey of Albania's seabed, at least five sites have been located, which could fill in blanks on ancient shipbuilding techniques.

"Albania is a tremendous untapped (archaeological) resource," U.S. archaeologist Jeffrey Royal from the Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation, a nonprofit group leading the survey, said.

"With what we've discovered, we may say Albania is on a par with Italy and Greece."

The latest expedition has revealed traces of four sunken Greek ships dating from the 6th to the 3rd centuries BC, while another three suspected sites have still to be verified.

"The discoveries are very important because of the lack of properly documented objects from that period," Andrej Gaspari, a Slovenian underwater archaeologist not involved in the project, said.

In ancient times, Albania was on an important trade route, receiving traffic from Greece, Italy, Africa and the Mediterranean. That history shows in what Albanian mission coordinator Auron Tare called "a real underwater treasure trove" discovered during the six-week season that ended in August.

Highlights included a 20-inch-long (50 cm) pottery jar that could date back to the early 5th century BC, a 4th century BC amphora and roof tiles, an African jar from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD and a Roman stone ship's anchor of the 2nd-1st century BC.

The team, operating off the port city of Saranda, also found more than 20 unknown 20th-century shipwrecks.

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