Trans Adriatic pipeline (TAP) in Albania: A potential opportunity for archaeology
Rudina Zoto and Mariglen Meshini
Cite this as: Zoto, R. and Meshini, M. 2019 Trans-Ariatic pipeline project(TAP) in Albania: A potential opportunity for archaeology, Internet Archaeology 51. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.51.7
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), 520km in length, will serve to transport natural gas from the Caspian basin to European markets. Within Albania, it goes overland for 215km, extending from the Greek-Albania border to the Adriatic coast, followed by a sea section runs for approximately 60km, from Fier to the midpoint between Albania and Italy, in the Adriatic Sea (Figure 1).
Selection of the route of the TAP trail in Albania has been a comprehensive process of assessment, in order to have a technically viable route for the pipeline combined with the lowest environmental, socio-economic and cultural impact.
During the evaluation process along the route of the continental track, a range of areas of cultural interest were identified: sites from the prehistoric, Late Antiquity, Classical and medieval periods, the most common remains of which were tombstones, open locations, hilltop fortifications, historic architecture, churches/monasteries, bridges and fortifications and Hellenic structures in the Korçë, Skrapar, Berat and Fier regions (Figure 2).
As an important link between the Western and Eastern Balkans, Albanian waters have carried intensive traffic since ancient times. There are more opportunities to encounter archaeological remains of these periods in areas near the coast than in areas under the sea, because ships usually sailed near the coast in order to maintain visual contact with the land. For this reason, it was expected that archaeological remains of the Greek, Roman and Illyrian periods, and of the First and Second World Wars, would be found.
From the assessment, it was apparent that the Cultural Heritage component (CH) could potentially be affected by field construction activities of the project, which in turn would affect the archaeology. Inevitably, a series of preventive measures would be needed:
A management plan for CH;
A detailed study of discoveries for known monuments and archaeological sites;
Archaeological monitoring and 'case finding' procedures, especially in areas with high archaeological potential;
Avoidance of impacts on CH by reviewing the gas pipeline project for archaeological sites, monuments;
Use of special construction techniques with a minimum impact, when line relocation is impossible;
Relocation of remains through rescue excavations and respective studies;
Relocation of the trail, rescue of the finds or the archaeological structure;
Surface archaeological survey, as one of the most important archaeological processes, was carried out throughout the pipeline extension, to clarify the existing CH and to identify the archaeological potential of the areas. The methodology undertaken respected the scientific criteria: going on foot throughout the observed line, divided into tracts, each of which was walked by archaeologists at a distance of about 12m from each other. For areas with high archaeological potential and archaeological remains identified during surface observation, archaeological test pits were dug to establish the existence or not of deposits or archaeological structures.
During the first campaign of 66.8km, in the region of Fier near Berat, three areas were identified as having archaeological finds of Hellenistic and Roman periods; Roman 2nd century AD; Roman 4th century AD. During the second campaign of 69km, the Korçë region, six areas were identified with archaeological finds of the periods late Bronze Age and medieval; Later Antiquity; Iron Age; post-medieval; Roman 2nd to 4th century AD, and Later Antiquity and Ottoman. During the third campaign of 61km, Skrapar region in Berat, five areas were identified with archaeological finds of the periods Late Antiquity and Ottoman; Roman 4th century AD and graves of the same period; traces of structures and pottery of the Roman period; Ottoman 17th to 19th century; Prehistoric (Late Bronze and Early Iron Age) (Figure 3).
As a result of the information gained from some of the archaeological pits that were dug, further archaeological rescue excavations were needed:
Full archaeological digging carried out in the Zemblak area of Korçë revealed the complete trace of 60m of road, fully documented, which in the period from the Middle Ages to the 19th century enabled the connection of the south-eastern part of Albania with Macedonia and Greece.
Archaeological rescue excavation carried out in the Fushë-Peshtan area (Berat), revealed a complex archaeological site, which had its beginnings in the 1st century AD, and reached the peak of development in the 18th century. This site consists of residential and public buildings that have been located near a passageway paved with high-quality cobblestones. Also, very important archaeological objects of the Ottoman period were discovered, which enabled the recognition of some aspects of the daily life of a period almost unknown to Albanian archaeology (Figure 4).
A large-scale archaeological rescue excavation carried out in the area of Ullinjas (Berat), revealed structures and archaeological objects belonging to the Roman period between the 1st and 4th century AD. The discovery of some kilns for pottery production, grain-storage vessels, and several tombs close to homes shows a high density of occupation and a high level of development during this period (Figure 5).
From archaeological excavations carried out under the TAP project, we'd like to briefly discuss the following.
2. Adding depth to existing knowledge
Archaeological finds of the Dërsnik area in Korçë belong to the Neolithic period and have uncovered new data about the typology and character of the settlements of this period for the Korçë region and beyond. Archaeological objects (ceramic containers for everyday use, flint tools and other objects) have enabled the recognition of different aspects of life as well as aspects related to the cult of worship. This archaeological site is among the largest of this period discovered in Albania (Figure 6).
Archaeological excavation in Turan, Korçë, where 170 graves were excavated and documented as well as traces of prehistoric dwellings, has brought the most interesting information and archaeological material, unexpected and undocumented until now in this region, belonging to the Later Bronze Age, Archaic Period, the 1st to 4th centuries AD and the medieval period (Figure 7).
3. New archaeology resulting in route deviation
Fushë-Peshtan in Berat, belongs to the Ottoman period, and is among the rare sites excavated by Albanian archaeologists for this period, bringing important information regarding the development of this site from the period of Late Antiquity, and especially its development in the Ottoman period. Through it the connection with the city of Berat in the 17th to 19th centuries can be understood, as well as aspects related to everyday life. Due to the value of this site and the important scientific information it contains, the decision was taken to conserve the site in situ by diverting the TAP pipeline route in this segment (Figure 8).
The entire process of TAP pipeline construction is associated with daily archaeological monitoring by private archaeological companies. During this process the largest and most important archaeological sites (such as Uznovë, Turan and Dërsnik) have been discovered. As a whole it has been a very complex process, where the Archaeological Service Agency, as the only state authority, has ensured the correct implementation, supervised standards and procedures in archaeological processes, and coordinated work between the developer and the licensed archaeological companies involved (Figure 9).
4. Beyond preservation
Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), as a strategic project for Albania, and archaeological heritage have developed together, enabling not only the development through preservation but also promotion of its values.
Implementation of scientific criteria in archaeological processes (surveys, archaeological rescue excavations) that have accompanied the implementation of the TAP project, taking the necessary time to perform them, despite the rapid pace of implementation of this project. e.g. two archaeological rescue excavations in the area of Korçë (Turan and Dwrsnik) were carried out in long campaigns of about six months each, interrupting construction work in these areas. The application of scientific criteria has enabled the collection of accurate data, enriched the WebGIS system with them, and has provided adequate conditions for the preservation of archaeological material.
Enriching information in the field of archaeology enabling in-depth studies in conjunction with other disciplines. Archaeological material belonging to different historical periods has been discovered, ranging from prehistory to the Ottoman period. A considerable part of this comes from cemetery evidence, providing a variety of information. The study, when combined with other scientific disciplines such as anthropology, archaeobotanics, archaeometry, etc., provides more accurate and complete results.
Archaeological material and discovered objects, which include mainly pottery, building materials, ornamental objects, and funerary objects discovered from archaeological processes, have undergone a restoration process. This material has important potential in terms of the information that it provides, in the continuity of field studies and exposure to national and local museums in Albania, and in promoting archaeological heritage.
Discovering new archaeological sites – Generating information about different historical periods. The TAP project, with extensive coverage in Albanian territory, was an opportunity to explore archaeologically unknown territories, discovering some important archaeological sites such as the occupation of Dwrsnik and Turan in the Korçë region. The site of Dwrsnik belongs to the Neolithic period and has clear evidence of a sedentary life with considerable variety and high intensity of living. The rich archaeological material and the information obtained from it widen the knowledge of this period in the Korçë area and beyond.
The site of Turan has provided important archaeological information. The discovery of archaic tombs (7th century BC) has brought new data for a very little known and undocumented period in the Korçë region. Around the city of Berat, archaeological finds in 11 sites, and other sites with archaeological potential, enable further clarification of the evolution and development of the city with its surroundings throughout the various historical periods, and the reasons and factors that have influenced the formation of this city with the values it contains in today's state.
A new dimension in defining cultural heritage The combination of the experience of foreign archaeologists involved in this project with the high standards of cultural asset valuation has now reached a new dimension in defining cultural heritage, including evidence of objects within the surrounding landscape, which was previously not taken into consideration. Special care has been taken to protect and evaluate:
Objects/works related to the period of the communist system in Albania (military objects, war memorials and mosaics);
Religious objects belonging to the 19th century, such as small tombs and tombs of the Bektashi religious rituals, cemeteries from c.150 years old (e.g. the cemetery in Tozhar, Berat) belonging to communities in different areas near the project, and forming part of their historical memory,
Various types of evidence and objects related to the First and Second World Wars (streets, bridges of military character, cemeteries), and their defence function uncovered alongside the surrounding historic landscape.
Expanding the labour market for local archaeologists The size, scale and high standards of work required for this project have necessitated involving a considerable number of archaeologists. Extensive cooperation with specialists from other disciplines in the field of archaeology, as well as the pooling of experience of local archaeologists with those from overseas has directly impacted on personal professional growth and increased professionalism more generally.
Mutual co-operation between development and archaeology coordinated by the state authority. The TAP project has been an example of mutual co-operation in archaeology as science and development, moving in coordination with the state authority. Processes have been reviewed and received relevant approvals from state authorities pursuant to the 'Cultural Heritage Law' under the supervision of the state Archaeological Service Agency.
Archaeology – as an important factor in decision-making. As an integral part of the TAP project development, archaeology has been an important factor in decision-making and plays a determining role in its progress. The results of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment regarding areas of interest to CH, and archaeological sites in particular, have dictated the direction and extension of the TAP pipeline while the results of archaeological processes have also determined its continuity throughout Albanian territory.
Cultural heritage is made up of assets, places, landscapes, traditions and knowledge and it reflects the identity of a society. It transmits its values from generation to generation and its preservation favours the sustainable character of development. It is very important to ensure its identification, protection and development, and take into account the unique qualities and fragility that characterise it (Figure 10).
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