Thesprotia Expedition – A Regional, Interdisciplinary Survey Project in Northwestern Greece

The Thesprotia Expedition is an interdisciplinary project combining archaeology, geology, and history with the aim of writing the diachronic history of one part of Thesprotia in Epirus, northwestern Greece – specifically the Kokytos river basin – from prehistoric down to modern times. The project, which was directed by Dr. Björn Forsén under the auspices of the Finnish Institute at Athens, was originally in 2003 scheduled to last for five years. With the additional funding received from the Academy of Finland fieldwork was continued until 2010. Additional fieldwork was carried out in 2015 and 2020, after which the project moved to the post-excavation phase. However, the archeological work in Thesprotia continues, as a new archeological project focusing on the Roman colonial town of Photike was launched in 2019.

The Thesprotia Expedition put special emphasis on studying ethnic and cultural differences, settlement patterns and demographic trajectories, economic and social developments, as well as environmental changes. In order to shed light on these aspects a large palette of different disciplines and methods was employed. The project included scholars from Finland, Sweden, Russia, the United States, the Netherlands, and Greece. Other scholars working in the region were invited to contribute to the project’s publications. The work of the project itself included a restudy of ancient inscriptions from the region, research done in archives in Istanbul, Venice and Corfu, an intensive archaeological survey with trial excavations in areas of special interest, a geo-archaeological survey, and palynological sampling, geophysical prospecting as well as topographical mapping.

Far less archaeological, geological, and historical research has been devoted to Epirus than to the rest of Greece. Thesprotia Expedition was the first intensive field survey to take place in Thesprotia and only the second survey in all of Epirus. The ultimate aim of the Thesprotia Expedition was to create a deeper understanding of the past in this part of Greece by building up a set of data that can be compared with similar information from other regions. Only by such comparisons can the regional differences in development that in turn help to understand the economic, social, and political history of the Eastern Mediterranean be distinguished.

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