Methodological principles

Presentation of preliminary results

Presentation of incidental findings

Surveys in the Korçë basin

In order to place the Sovjan site in a larger spatio-temporal framework, research has been extended to the entire northern part of the Korçë basin, around the ancient Lake Maliq: this is the PALM program (Prospection Archéologique du Paléo-Lac Maliq) which, from 2007 to 2013, has conducted seven field campaigns, the results of which are currently being studied.

The objective of this prospecting program is twofold:

- On the scale of the Korçë basin, it is a question of completing, in a precise and systematic way, the archaeological map for this part of the region, which already includes a certain number of sites identified or excavated during the last decades.

- On the scale of the lacustrine zone, it is a question of studying the dynamics of the settlement on the banks of the ancient lake Maliq according to its hold on the plain, from prehistoric times to the modern period. This more specific problematic, which is part of the current research on the interaction between man and the natural environment, was initiated thanks to the unpublished anthropological and paleoenvironmental data provided by ten years of multidisciplinary research on the Sovjan site.

The starting point is not, as is often the case, the observation of present-day landscapes, but rather what the in-depth study of the processes that led to their formation tells us about ancient landscapes. The surveyed area covers an area of 120 km2, in the northern half of the Korçë basin. It consists largely of the plain, criss-crossed by numerous small drainage channels. A hilly area above the village of Vreshtasi marks its northern boundary, while to the south it is arbitrarily delimited by an east-west line passing between the villages of Vloçisht and Rëmbeci. To the east and west, its boundaries correspond to the foothills of the mountains that border the Korçë basin

Methodological principles

The methodology adopted was dictated by our knowledge of the geomorphology of the basin from the study of the sedimentary archives of ancient Lake Maliq and the coring carried out by the mission in 1996, then in 2005 and 2006 in conjunction with the CNRS ECLIPSE program. The data obtained mainly concern:

1) the theoretical location of ancient Lake Maliq and the variations of its influence (high and low lake levels) from the end of the Tardiglacial period (between 15000 and 10000 BC) to the Roman period (1st - 5th century AD);
2) the location of Holocene outwash cones and glacis that encroach on the plain;
3) the location of alluvial and lacustrine deposits, supplemented by estimates of the thickness of these sediments above potential archaeological levels since the Neolithic.

These data were integrated into a geographic information system (GIS) associated with a three-dimensional digital terrain model (DTM) that allowed the visualization of the various extensions of Lake Maliq over time. The GIS, which was started in 2005, already included information on previous archaeological discoveries, making it a key tool in developing the survey strategy. We chose to carry out a systematic survey, rather than a sampling of the area, because of the characteristics of the terrain: first of all, the area to be surveyed is relatively small; secondly, it is a cultivated plain that does not have any major obstacles or accidents in the terrain; and finally, if we want to have an exhaustive representativeness of the settlement, we have to survey the entire northern part of the plain, including the area theoretically occupied by the ancient lake. It is then interesting to compare the geomorphological model of lake level variations with the location of archaeological finds

Presentation of preliminary results

The ten or so archaeological sites in the region that were already known, through surface finds and more or less extensive excavations (Maliq, Dunavec, Vashtëmi, Podgorie ...), have been precisely positioned on the map, which definitively dispels any uncertainty as to their location and also makes it possible to distinguish between neighboring sites that were often confused (Podgorie I and II, for example).

But above all, the survey program has made it possible to identify more than 70 new sites, whose occupation ranges from the Prehistoric to the Middle Ages, more than a third of them dating from the Prehistoric period (from the Neolithic to the beginning of the Iron Age), about twenty from the Roman period and about the same number from the Medieval period (8th-14th centuries AD).

Presentation of incidental findings

In addition to the systematic prospections in the north of the Korçë basin, a certain number of archaeological sites were located by the members of the Franco-Albanian mission during reconnaissance in the region, or even simple excursions.

Thus, for example, as early as 1996, the Kamenica tumulus was discovered on the southern edge of the Korçë basin. It was excavated a few years later (2000-2002) by an Albanian-American team associating the Tirana Archaeological Institute, the International Center for Albanian Archaeology and Michigan State University. At the end of the excavations, carried out with modern methods, this tumulus was the first archaeological site of the region to be the object of development work, which adds to its archaeological interest an educational dimension and a tourist attraction.

In 2004, a site of the Ancient Neolithic was located in Pogradec, on the edge of the lake of Ochrid, thanks to construction works. It extends over a little more than a hectare, in an area whose approximate limits could be determined.

The latest example is the discovery in 2005, on the western edge of the village of Sovjan, of a tumulus measuring more than 60 m in diameter and about 4 m high, which has been surveyed but not yet excavated. Its interest lies especially in the fact that it is the first, among all those which were discovered until now in southern Albania, which can be put in direct relation with a prehistoric habitat: the site of Sovjan, distant of less than one and a half kilometer.

These fortuitous discoveries, and many others, also contribute to the enrichment of the archaeological map of the region, even if the nature and/or chronology of some of the sites identified often remain unclear.