Protecting the Past


    Academics at UEA delved into the rich history of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and helped bring it back to life for the benefit of the local population and beyond.

    The project to uncover the mysteries of Butrint, Albania, has been underway since 1995. The site, occupied from around c.600BC to 1500AD when it was abandoned, is an Adriatic port rich in archaeology. Primary investigator of the project, Professor Richard Hodges, and others from the School of Art, Media and American studies (AMA) have contributed to the development of the site  at Butrint, influencing aspects such as its heritage, its protection, its jobs and its tourism.  

    The project involved an archaeological investigation of Butrint and its regional importance. Historical research was initially completed on Lake Butrint and the province whilst the focus shifted to the centre of Butrint during the 2000s. The historical research undertaken has since been documented in guidebooks and monographs.

    The UEA team and the Butrint Foundation collaborated with the Albanian Ministry of Culture to involve the students both at UEA and Butrint. This has created fantastic benefits for both Butrint and the collaborators at UEA. Butrint has been established as an archaeological park protecting its cultural assets, preserving its heritage and opening it up to the public and to the academic community.

    This included clearly defining the aims of the park which led to the creation of a museum and wetland trails preserving the history for the public and generations to come.

    Click on image to see full infographic:

    Infographic on Brutrint the abandoned city


    Approval from UNESCO in 2005 meant that the Butrint model could be used by the ministry of culture to base seven other archaeological sites on. By 2006/7, discussions instigated by Hodges created a national archaeological team which saw many of the alumni of the UEA team involved. Another successful outcome has been for the Sites and Monuments Record transferral to the Ministry of Culture, allowing Butrint Foundation and UEA to create an open access resource.

    Through a series of complex archaeological investigations funded by a range of sources including the Butrint Foundation and the Packard humanities institute, as well as grants from the British Academy and the Albanian Ministry of Culture over £3 million has been invested in Butrint leading to an increased understanding of its regional importance and establishing best practice for other archaeological sites. This has had a positive impact on the protection of its cultural heritage and established a standard for the management of related places in Albania.

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    The benefits don’t stop there though; the UK has benefited from the collaboration with Albanian students being able to study an MA at UEA based on this project. There have also been a positive impact on the UK’s economy creating employment for research assistants from the heritage, museum and archaeology sectors.

    Tourism has also seen a rise over the lifespan of the project with figures rising from under a thousand tourists to a total of 281,441.


    • (with A. Paterlini) A short history of the Butrint Foundation’s conservation programme at Butrint, Albania: 1994-2012, Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 15 (2013):  253-79.
    • Butrint’s northern frontier in the 11th century: the Dema Wall, Annual of the British School at Athens 113  (2014): 1-5.
    • (with P. Gwynne & J. Vroom) Archaeology and Epic: Butrint and Ugolino Verino’s Carlias, Papers of the British School at Rome 82 (2014): 199-235.
    • The Shadow of Enver Hoxha. A short history of the Butrint Foundation, 1993-2012, Public Archaeology 13 (2014): 11-29. 
    • The Aspirations of Albanian Archaeology. Review ofL. Përzhita, Ilir Gjipali, G. Hoxha and B. Muka (ed.) Proceedings of the International Congress of Albanian Archaeological Studies. 65th Anniversary of Albanian Archaeology (21-22 November, Tirana 2013). Antiquity 89 (2015): 1243-45.
    • ‘A God-guarded city’? The New Medieval Town of Butrint, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 39 (2015): 191-218.