Prespa: Greek-Albanian Team Illegally Excavates at Maligrad Island

The harsh reactions by Macedonians residents of the municipality of Pustec in Albania have interrupted the illegal excavations at Maligrad Island in Prespa Lake, Dnevnik daily has learnt.

According to historian Spase Mazenkovski, a group of Albanian and Greek archaeologists started excavating sites without informing the local government, which was also the case two years ago. 

"Two years ago the same thing happened. After our reaction, the excavations were suspended. The residents of Pustec are distressed over the illegal excavations by Greek archaeologists, having in mind the relations between Macedonia and Greece. Greece has always been perverting the reality about Macedonia. We urge the institutions to cooperate with Macedonian experts because Greece will hide the truth," Mazenkovski told Dnevnik.

'Distortion' of truth

Mazenkovski says the discovered archaeological items should be labeled according to the period when they were made, but as he says, he does not trust the Greek experts. That is why, Mazenkovski said, the Albanian archaeologists need to cooperate only with their Macedonian colleagues.

"Greece is constantly twisting the reality about Macedonia. Greece has always been negating everything related to Macedonia and everything that ever belonged to the Macedonian people. Greece even denies the name of the Republic of Macedonia. Keeping that into consideration, we are concerned that these archaeological excavations will be used to present something different, anything except the truth. Greece has always been hiding the truth when it comes to Macedonia and that is the reason for our concern and why we are reacting," Mazenkovski said.

Viktor Lilcic-Adams, Director of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office, was surprised by the archaeologists’ attempts to excavate without a license, but also amazed by the move the local population of Pustec made, willing to preserve what is theirs.

"I was not aware there were ongoing archaeological excavations at the Maligrad Island. But I am glad the local population reacted to the illegal diggings, defended what is theirs, i.e. asked that experts of Macedonia were also involved in the excavations," Lilcic-Adams told Dnevnik.

He assures that Macedonian archaeologists are interested to participate in mutual projects with the neighbors.

"Macedonian archaeologists should be involved in the researches at the Small Town Island and to be part of a joint team of colleagues from Greece and Albania. Although we have offered collaboration to our Greek colleagues on mutual projects, they do not show any signs of interest. Colleagues from Albania and Kosovo have been taking part in the excavations in Macedonia, for instance in Beltepe near Tetovo. The archaeologists from our neighboring countries, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia, have to look for history’s tangible evidences together, because that is the culture bridge of the nations that lived in the Balkan region," Lilcic-Adamns said.

The office in charge of the cultural monuments protection in Korca, Albania, formed a work group to verify the actual condition on the terrain, following the notification of the excavations in the Municipality of Pustec. The insight concluded that an Albanian-Greek group of archaeologists did not have the proper documentation, but they have already dig out four holes, 5-meter wide and a meter deep.

Maligrad Island treasures 

Three years ago, a joint Greek-Albanian archeological expedition discovered a tomb in Small Town containing around ten graves which date from the prehistoric era until the Byzantine period. No objects were found inside the graves, which were placed in the tomb in four diferent sections. Each grave was separated from the other with a wall, and the entire tomb was surrounded with a wall too, a feature dating from the roman period.

The researchers showed that Small Town Island was populated even in prehistoric times, i.e. before the appearance of Emperor Samoil, who had his summer palace located there.

Maligrad has been populated since the Neolithic times, 7,000 BC. The island represents a rich historical and archaeological area: a Neolithic settlement from around 7, 000 BC, named "Ostrovo", close to the village of Tuminec has been discovered, as well as an submerged settlement called Old Village near Tuminec which dates back from the bronze period; a roman road from the 2nd century BC that connected the Dolna Gorica village with the area called Nabeli, and the Wall of Alexander III of Macedonia at the mountain passage Kjafata. Not far from there, famous cave churches from the byzantine and the post-byzantine period are to be found, built in the period between the 12th and the 15th century, located on the shores of Prespa Lake.

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