Protection sought for emerging underwater heritage
- "I thought it would be an interesting way to attract attention toward the preservation of Albania's underwater cultural heritage, setting up legislation, but the development of underwater cultural tourism would be the biggest tourist attraction," says Auron Tare
TIRANA, Feb. 16 – Rare ancient items discovered in Albania’s waters by a U.S.-Albanian expedition were put on display this week in Tirana’s sole pedestrian neighborhood in the capital’s city center in a bid to raise awareness about their preservation and make them a new tourist attraction in the country’s developing tourism industry.
Auron Tare, a cultural heritage expert who heads the state-run National Coastal Agency, says the findings which also include sunken ships date back from the 4th century B.C. to until World War II and desperately need to be protected under special legislation.
“I thought it would be an interesting way to attract attention toward the preservation of Albania’s underwater cultural heritage, setting up legislation, but the development of underwater cultural tourism would be the biggest tourist attraction,” says Tare, adding that Albania would benefit a lot financially from such as industry just like developed countries do.
The archeological finds are also helping reconnect current historical facts regarding Illyria, the territory and origin of much of modern day Albania.
“The finds show ancient sources are in contradiction to what we are finding underwater. The coastline of ancient Illyria was not only populated by pirate population, but the fact that many commercial ships loaded with wine, cooking oil and other products were discovered near our coast shows of a trade exchange between Illyria and other Mediterranean regions,” added Tare, who was part of the U.S.-Albanian expedition conducted with the assistance of US-based RPM Nautical Foundation for about a decade.
Pending legislation to regulate underwater heritage, a map has been submitted to police to prevent diving and possible looting and trafficking of artefacts in the areas where discoveries have been made.
Scanning the southern Albanian waters along the Riviera coastline, the U.S.-Albanian expedition has discovered numerous amphoras and artefacts 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 archeological 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, four years later.