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Swiss archaeologists help chart ancient Greek port of Oricum


A team from Switzerland-based Octopus Foundation will be back on a mission to Albania early next September to conduct research on the historical site of Orikum, southern Albania, whose ancient port played a crucial role in Roman emperor Julius Caesar’s ascent to total domination.

Swiss archaeologists help chart ancient Greek port of Oricum
The ancient port of Oricum [Credit: Fondation Octopus]
Archaeologists from Tirana and the University of Geneva, UNIGE, will investigate the remains that were found in the lagoon right next to the forgotten city.

“The basis for the 2017 expedition will be the 2016 aerial map, which highlighted many remains sticking out of the lagoon’s seafloor,” the Swiss nonprofit foundation said in a statement.

Krisztian Gal, an archaeologist mandated by the UNIGE, will try to figure out if some of these remains belong to the ancient port that was described by Julius Caesar in his books on the Roman Civil War.

According to him, working underwater “always requires more preparation than working on dry land”, yet he doesn’t think that the site of Oricum should present any specific difficulties.

To accompany the scientists, the Octopus Foundation which has been conducting research into Oricum since 2012, says it will bring all of its marine knowledge and skills, along with its fleet of drones to photograph the site.

“They’re using all the latest tools, from drones to photogrammetry to graphic novels, to tell engaging stories about the history of these places,” says David Lang, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

The Octopus Foundation Albania trip in the first two weeks of September 2017 is part of a bigger mission to chart unknowns below the Mediterranean, which the group says may harbor some 750,000 wrecks from antiquity on the seafloor.

Back in 2016, a team of the Swiss foundation produced several aerial and underwater documentations of one of the stone quarries in the Bay of Vlorë. A 3D model was created from these documentations, which highlighted the staggering amount of stone that was once extracted from the Karaburun’s rocky point.

Major discoveries made in Oricum, a site largely unexplored until a decade ago include, a public building with a unique architecture, a monumental fountain, one of the doors to the city and an intact tomb.

Swiss archaeologists describe the ancient port of Orikum as one of Europe’s forgotten archaeological treasures.

“Modern Albania withholds numerous forgotten archaeological treasures. One of them is the ancient city of Oricum, where a key event in Julius Caesar’s ascent to total domination took place. The communist era that isolated the country for most of the 20th century preserved this fascinating site until today, as archaeologists have only recently started their research,” says the Octopus Foundation.

Oricum was the first port captured by Caesar on his pursuit of Pompey, explains the Swiss archaeologist Gionata Consagra. “After several short mentions, a battle took place in the city. While describing it, Caesar gave us very precise topographical details. Incredibly, they match the actual landscape. It leads us to believe there were very few topographical changes in the past 2000 years, as the sea still ends roughly at the same place,” he is quoted as saying by Octupus Foundation.

Julien Pfyffer, the founder and president of the Octopus Foundation, says Oricum was a highly strategic port.

“It is situated at the crossroad of the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. It hosted this crucial episode of Julius Caesar’s military career, at the very beginning of the Great Roman Civil War. A bloody battle opposing two very clever strategists fighting for the ultimate power,” says Pfyffer.

“It was incredibly risky to reach and conquer this position. Caesar’s story could have very well ended abruptly at sea, in the storm. Looking into ancient Oricum, it’s looking through pages of history books that remain surprisingly empty,” he adds.

Scanning the southern Albanian waters along the Riviera coastline, a U.S.-Albanian expedition has discovered numerous amphoras and artefacts in the past decade, including ancient Greek, Roman, medial and modern finds. Dozens of wreck sites including warships and armoured vehicles have also been discovered.

Back in 2007, the mission discovered an ancient shipwreck near the waters of Butrint archaeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania, before tracing a giant cargo ship believed to have sunk during World War II in the waters of Karaburun peninsula, Vlora, close to Orikum, four years later.

Pictures of the rare ancient items were put on display in Tirana pedestrian zone earlier this year in a bid to raise awareness about their preservation and make them a new tourist attraction in the country’s emerging tourism industry.

Editor's Note


Oricum or Orikos is said to have been founded by Euboeans, perhaps as an Eretrian emporium. It was well situated for communication with Kerkyra, and was only 40 miles across the sea from Otranto, making it a convenient stopping point on the journey between Greece and Italy.

Herodotus describes it as a limen, or harbour, but eventually it achieved the status of a polis, and from around 230 to 168 BC it issued its own coins with the legend ΩΡΙΚΙΩΝ ('of the Oricians')

Source: Tirana Times [July 31, 2017]
TANN

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