Post-war archaeology

Following the war, Butrint lay abandoned until the late 1950s; the museum was closed and photographs show the site as overgrown. However, from 1956 Butrint formed an integral part of the new archaeology in Albania.

Early Albanian archeologists

The triumvirate heading the Centre for Archaeology, Skender Anamali, Hasan Ceka and Selim Islami, had all been trained abroad, and as Albania developed closer ties to the Soviet government of Nikita Khrushchev it was natural that they should look for training and collaborative projects with major communist centres. Hasan Ceka - commonly described as the ‘father of Albanian archaeology’ - had already served as a government representative on the excavations of Luigi Maria Ugolini at Butrint and Leon Rey at Apollonia.

The first student to be selected to go to Moscow to study archaeology was Dhimosten Budina. Returning in 1956, he was instructed to study Butrint for his doctoral thesis – encouraged by Skender Anamali who himself had studied in Italy and who was keen for young Albanian archaeologist to take up where Ugolini had left off. Budina was a principal figure in inviting Vladimir Demitriovitch Blavatski to participate various Albanian–Soviet archaeological projects.

blavatski and ceka

At Apollonia a major programme was jointly directed by Blavatski and Hasan Ceka, with the participation of around 200 specialists, students and workmen. At the classical site of Oricum, the team was directed by Tatania V. Blavatskaja (Blavatski’s wife) and Dhimosten Budina. However, the most ambitious element in this programme was the creation of an archaeological map of Albania; for which wide-ranging landscape surveys recording the monuments and sites were undertaken.

The southern Albania Survey was directed by Selim Islami and V.D. Blavatski; they began their surveys at Çuka e Aitoit and Kalivo, at Ripes, and at Malathrea. Following the break with the Soviet Union in 1960, Budina continued and extended the surveys. Over the next 20 years he excavated and published energetically, working on all the places that had fascinated Ugolini: Butrint, Kalivo, Çuka e Aitoit and Phoenicê, as well as at Antigonea in the Drinos Valley.

cuka house

In 1982 Butrint was venue for a high profile summer training excavation, directed by Selim Islami and Alexander Meksi, leading to renewed excavations of the Baptistery and Theatre areas, a survey of the Great Basilica, and the conservation and restoration of these structures by the Albanian Institute of Cultural monuments.

In his capacity as chief archaeologist at Butrint and head of the Saranda section in 1970, Budina nurtured a new generation of archaeologists, many of whom started to re-examine Ugolini’s work.

So, Neritan Ceka (Hasan Ceka’s son) and Gjerak Karaiskaj published major studies of Butrint’s multi-period fortifications, challenging Ugolini’s interpretations. Kosta Lako undertook large excavations in the previously unexamined area between the Great Basilica and the so-called Gymnasium in 1975-76, and pursued the Triconch excavations through the 1980s. At same time Dhimetër Çondi and Budina examined the so-called Gymnasium (continuing the unfinished excavations by the Italians), and Astrid Nanaj investigated the acropolis.

  1. Kosta Lako, Selim Islami and Dhimosten Budina, Saranda 1978
  2. Hasan Ceka and Vladimir Demitriovitch Blavatski at Apollonia 1958
  3. Reconstruction of a house at Çuka e Aitoit