5.3.1 The evidence from Theth: neighbourhood creation and expansion in the last century

The village of Theth appears to have grown from two widely separated neighbourhood cores, Ulaj (some 19th-century travellers actually refer to this area as Ndreaj, the toponym now used for the limited area immediately around the church) and Okol (Fig. 2). The greater (but as yet inexact) antiquity of these neighbourhoods is attested by tradition, by architectural study, and by our intensive archaeological survey. Medieval pottery collected in the course of survey is found in the neighbourhoods of Ndreaj, Ulaj, and Okol only. Early Modern pottery is found in these neighbourhoods, plus those of Gjelaj and Grunas. Modern pottery, including tiles and bricks, is found in all the neighbourhoods of Theth (see GIS map). At some point as yet unclear, but possibly as late as the 19th century, upland (or intervening) neighbourhoods appeared. These neighbourhoods began as one or two houses, usually occupied by a pair or more of brothers who had moved out of the patriarchal household onto their patrimony, often pastureland. (N.B. as near as we can determine, pasture in Shala is and always has been privately owned. According to Koster 1997, this typically indicates resource stress. However, private pasture was held in addition to whatever common pasture might be kept by the village or tribe: see Gjeçov 1989.) This newly formed vllazni then grew into a small neighbourhood or mehalla (see Section 3).

The 20th century brought several changes to this process. First, a suppression of the blood feud, initially by King Zog and then later and more completely by the Communist regime, spurred an expansion in the number of homes and in living space within those homes (Fischer 1999). Second, the building of a wagon-width road over the mountains in 1936 also helped to spur building. And, finally, and especially, the prohibition of out migration during the Communist era caused an expansion of those neighbourhoods as population pressure grew, and private land holding was restricted by house, rather than by household. In 1991 a veritable dam burst and much of that population flooded out (Gjonça 2002). In 2005 only 17 families remained in Theth through the winter, dropping to 14 in 2006, although many more families return to the village for the bulk of the summer.

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