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problems of the origins of the Albanian people are one of the questions of
history that has drawn the attention of numerous foreign and Albanian scholars.
All these questions could be grouped in the trinomial of
pre-Illyrians-Illyrians-Arber. They are part and parcel of the history of the
Albanian people and each of them could be treated separately from the other. In
this short history, we thought of representing them together in the historical
subsequence of their continuity because it helps the full understanding of the
antiquity of a people, which lived in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula
since the ancient times and the early middle Ages.
an archaeologist specialized in the field of prehistory, I have tried to put to
work the archaeological material discovered in Albania to explain these problems
and observe them in relationship with the cultures and civilisations of other
countries. I have also tried to use and compare the results of archaeology with
those of ancient history, language, anthropology, ethnology and other auxiliary
publication of this book is the result of many years of study. The problems of
the Illyrians and pre-Illyrians’ ethno-genesis have always been the focus of
research activity in order “to read” the archaeological sources and throw light
on the historical periods which we have no written records about. In the first
Assembly of Illyrian Studies held in Tirana in 1972, I presented the paper “On
the Formation of the Illyrian Ethnos”, in 1982 I published the article “On Some
Problems of the Ethno-Genesis of the Illyrians” and at the Second Assembly of
Illyrian Studies, held in Tirana in 1985, I delivered the report “Ethno-Cultural
Problems of the Eneolith Epoch in Albania”.
Historical Context: The intensive 40-year-long search into the cultures of the
neolith and the eneolith in Albania have identified representative cultures,
their characteristics, the social-economic level as well as their peculiarities
of development from one period to the other.
interpretation of the qualitative changes that took place during the neolith
civilisation, and especially the eneolith, produced the view that in addition to
the creation of broad cultural and cult communities the first step towards the
formation of a big ethnic and linguistic community was made.
the Ethnic Derivation of Eneolith inhabitants.
formulation of the views of the scholars on the relationship between culture and
ethnos in the prehistoric times expresses the idea that in the Neolith and
Bronze ages the degree of matching between culture and ethnos is almost complete
and a common cultural group also means a common ethnic group.
Continuing treatment of the issues of the arch-ancient inhabitants provides a
picture of the process of the Indo-Europeanising of the Balkan Peninsula.
Judging on the basis of the archaeological material discovered in Albania, we
think that in the course of the Neolith, Eneolith and Bronze epochs the
Indo-Europeanising process should not be seen as the result of a single
settlement but as a long development process which saw the autochthonous
eneolith cultures and their carriers intertwine with the contemporary Balkan
bearers and cultures. The process of the Indo-Europeanization of the Western
Balkans, whose beginnings date as far back as the eNeolith epoch, developed
during this process of cultural and ethnic assimilation and de-assimilation, a
visible social and economic transformation as well as the contacts and gradual
The written ancient sources tell us the Illyrians, which were one of the biggest
people of the peninsula, inhabited the western part of the Balkans in olden
times. The northern border of the Illyrians extended up to the branches of the
Danube, the Sava and the Drava. To the south, including the territory of
pre-historical Epirus, it ran up to the Bay of Ambrakia (Preveza). The Morava
and the Vardar rivers were its natural borders to the east and the coasts of the
Adriatic and Ionian Seas were its western boundaries.
geographical closeness of Illyria to the two greatest ancient civilisations, the
Hellenic and the Roman, and its later inclusion in the early Byzantine culture
played a primary role in the economic and social development and, consequently,
the political growth as well.
During the V-IV Centuries of our era, the Illyrian state, which was a monarchy
ruled by the representatives of the slave-owning aristocracy, was completely
formed. We know only fragments of the political history of the Illyrian state
from the ancient written sources, which speak of the relations and wars with the
neighbouring countries (Macedonia, the State of Epirus) and the wars against
The question of the origin of the Illyrians and the historical process of their
formation continues to be one of the fundamental problems of the ancient history
of the Albanians and at the same time a problem for the Balkan prehistory
because its solution is related to the origin of the other ancient peoples of
the Balkans. Linguists, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and
ethnographers have been treating this subjects in their research and studies
from one period to the other, bringing its solution ever more closer.
fundamental theses have been crystallized in the course of the solution of
Illyrian ethno-genesis issue. According to the first thesis, the older thesis,
the Illyrians were a population, which came from the north at a relatively later
time. The other thesis holds that the Illyrians and their culture are a product
of an internal autochthonous development, which happened in the course of the
second and first millennium B.C. in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula.
Historians, archaeologists, linguists and others scholars have expressed their
opinions on the origin of the Illyrians. They say that the Illyrians were known
as new arrivals in the territory when they were identified in the historical
time. The ideas of the supporters of the northern thesis contradict each or
offer very little collectively when it comes to pinpointing the earliest
territories which they came from as well as the time of their arrival.
scholars who have backed the view of the autochthonous formation of the
Illyrians are numerous. Since the middle of the XX Century, J. G. Hahn has laid
out the thesis that the Albanians are the successors of the Illyrians and the
latter descended from the Pellasgians. The thesis expressed the autochthony and
antiquity of the Illyrian population was also embraced and supported by the
studies of numerous foreign Albanologists during the second half of the XX
Albania’s historiography following World War Two devoted special attention to
the study of the origin of the Illyrians. Archaeology led the way thanks to
important discoveries of the culture of the Bronze and Iron Ages. The
archaeological material found in the tombs of Mat (Middle Albania), Pazhok
(Central Abania), Vajza (South-Western Albania), Dropulli (Southern Albania)
proved that the Illyrians were not only the carriers of the Iron Age culture in
the territory of Albania but also they had lived in the same territory even in
the Bronze Age.
Archaeological Basis of the Illyrians Autochthony.
To solve problems as complex as this one, it is necessary to coordinate the
conclusions of the archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, ethnographic and
historical data. This feat is difficult to achieve either because of the
insufficiency of the factual material from one field of study or the other or
the various concepts existing between the scholars of those fields about the
importance or the value of the sources of this or that field. Some foreign
linguists think that archaeological data can in no way provide sufficient
historical data to study the ethno-genesis process of a people and that
allegedly they cannot bear testimony to their ethnic community. On the other
hand, the archaeologists come to the defence of their own sources and would
dismiss as unfounded all the theses the linguists have been building for the
prehistory epoch without written sources.
the current status of scholarly study, archaeology has shown and continues to
show its priority in examining the ethnic issues of the prehistory epoch both in
comparison to linguistics, which we can say has lagged behind due to its poor
and limited data, as well as anthropology, which has not yet developed
sufficiently, partly due to the lack of skeletons from the pre-history period.
When one takes up the issue of the origin of the Illyrians, the first problem,
which needs solving, is the cultural continuity from the early bronze period to
the middle and later to the late bronze and iron epoch.
us consider as solved (and to a certain extent it is) the problem of the
cultural continuity during the Bronze and Iron Age in the western territory of
the Balkan Peninsula in the lands where the proper Illyrians had spread. But is
this fact sufficient, or this preliminary conclusion on this problem? Is it
necessary to prove the cultural continuity since the beginnings of the Bronze
Age and say that the process of the creation of the Illyrian ethnos starts
continuity of living in a definite territory constitutes one of the basic
premises for the formation and consolidation of a culture, an ethnos or a
language. As a consequence, the study of the cultural continuity constitutes the
first condition and the key support in treating the problem of the ethno-genesis
of the Illyrians. However, we think that concentrating only on the proof
supplied in the favour of the cultural continuity means to be looking in a
narrow and insufficient manner at the long and complicated process of the
formation of the Illyrian ethnos.
the Albanian archaeological literature, enough data has been offered to prove
the uninterrupted cultural continuity in the land of our country since the early
Bronze Age. This has served to back up the view that the Illyrian ethno-genesis
starts here. According to this view, the beginnings of the autochthony coincide
with the beginning of the ethnos. Closely related to this conclusion, the link
between autochthony and the formation of the ethnos is the first issue that
comes up for discussion.
formation of the Illyrian ethnos could not be understood without autochthony and
the fact that they develop parallel to each other but their starting points do
not coincide in time. Autochthony has been in existence for a longer stretch of
time whereas the true Illyrian ethnos was formed on the basis of autochthony
only after it has been existing for a long time.
addition to the study of the cultural continuity, a special attention should be
devoted to the knowledge and study of the socio-economic premises that led to
the birth and development of the Illyrian ethnos.
Interpreting the data we have accumulated for the bronze period, we have
expressed the idea that in the middle Bronze Age we notice a visible economic
and social development, a qualitative new epoch that objectively led to the
birth of the Illyrian ethnos.
* * *
Treating the Illyrian ethno-genesis as well as the Albanian genesis as a very
long historical process of about 1,000 years is a question that has a principled
importance in solving these issues. The Illyrian ethno-genesis has developed in
the course of various developmental stages, which, despite being different from
each other, are part of a single process.
features of the formation of the Illyrian ethnic individuality in a definite
epoch have been conditioned first of all by the scale of economic and social
development and have grown on the basis of the three main already known
principles of differentiation, integration and assimilation. The
differentiation process characterized the early period of the flourishing of the
gender community when the development scale was low while the processes of
integration, conception, assimilation and converging were especially
characteristic of the period of the disintegration of the clan community and
birth of the slave-owning society. In the territory of the Western Balkans, the
process of differentiation has predominated the early bronze period. The
cultures of this period, created as a consequence of the intertwining of the
anase eneolith with the cultures brought by the concentrations of the
Indo-European peoples, have in this phase of their formation a more general
Balkan character and we cannot be looking for distinctive ethnic features in
them. During the middle Bronze Age, the process of differentiation continued to
deepen but at the same time the integration process kicked in. These processes,
which were conditioned by the relative autochthony and a series of progressive
steps in some areas of the economy, as we have stated above, led to the birth of
the Illyrian ethnos.
the late Bronze Age, the process of the union of smaller communities into bigger
communities and, as a consequence, a broader Illyrian community with common
cultural, cult and linguistic features was formed at the end of the Bronze Age.
process of assimilation started to play a bigger role and assume priority during
the Iron Age in the XI-V Centuries B.C. as a result of the higher economic and
social development of the Illyrian territory. Thus, during the Iron Age, on the
basis of autochthony, the Illyrians developed and consolidated their culture and
language, which were finally getting crystallized. This epoch marks the stage of
the biggest and most general cultural and ethnic flourishing of the Illyrians in
the Iron Age when they occupied the whole western part of the Balkan peninsula,
having the Greeks to the south, the Thracians to the east. They became one of
the greatest peoples of the Balkans.
The Historical Context of Illyria at the End of the First Millennium B.C. and
the Beginning of the First Millennium A.D.
the III-I Centuries B.C., South Illyria did not differ much from its southern
and eastern neighbour’s economic and cultural development as well as political
organisation. The ancient manufacturing crafts had spread to almost all the
southern Illyrian regions. The ancient Greek and Roman authors tell us about the
dynamic urban life in the numerous Illyrian cities they describe when writing
about the political events of the time. The picture they described becomes ever
more complete from the material and testimonies the archaeologist’s pickaxe has
brought to light.
growth and the strengthening of the Illyrian state ran counter to the Roman
interests in the Balkans and the two powers clashed in the period starting from
the year 250 up to the year 168 B.C. The Romans got to know from close-up the
geography and the economic and human resources of South Illyria during the three
wars they waged against each other. They found a developed country in which the
ancient way of manufacturing dominated not only the cities and towns but also
the inhabited centres deep in the hinterland. The material and spiritual culture
bore all the characteristics of the Mediterranean Hellenistic culture.
archaeological materials discovered in the ruins of Illyrian cities such as
Bylis, Nikaia (Klosi), Margellici, Dimale, Amantia, Lower Selca, Albanopolis,
Lis and Skodra shows that despite the new political situation created following
the third Illyrian-Roman war in the year 146 B.C. when a part of Illyria was
included in the province of Macedonia, its general view had not suffered
first Centuries of our era are characterized by the penetration and stability of
the Roman culture in the whole Balkans, which led to the economic and cultural
development of South Illyria. The Roman colonisation exercised a great influence
on the local Illyrian population, first of all in the cities but also in the
rural areas. The elements of the Roman civilisation made headway also into the
interior of the Illyrian territories.
When the Roman Empire split into the Eastern Empire and the Western Empire in
395 A.D., the South Illyrians were included in the Eastern Empire or, as it was
called, the Byzantine Empire. Albanian archaeology has brought to light facts
and data which have helped create a better picture of the situation in the
territory of the province of Prevalitania, the New Epirus and the Old Epirus,
which were included in the territory of present-day Albania.
Watching the data pertaining to this period (IV-VI Centuries of our era), we
clearly see that there are no testimonies showing that life was interrupted but
there is a cultural continuity. Some of the facts backing such continuity are
the cities themselves, the towns and the Illyrian castles that continued to be
inhabited without interruption (Skodra, Lisi, Dyrrah, Bylis, Kanina, Onhezmi,
Buthrotus, Berat, Pogradeci, Symiza in Korce).
the late antiquity period and the rule of Justinian, there developed a
widespread creative activity in the field of monumental church constructions,
which can be seen in their architecture, their mosaics and the decorative and
During Justinian’s rule in the VI Century A.D., South Illyria, the present-day
territory of Albania, experienced a revival of the ancient tradition, a fact
that is proved to us by the written sources and the archaeological discoveries.
the course of the VII and VIII Centuries A.D., the population living in the
Albanian territories was organized into rural and urban communities. The free
villages were the dominating feature of the village community but the elements
of the old social relationships were also present.
Albanian Language-The Foundation of the Autochthonous Thesis of the Albanians
Albanian language has been and remains one of the primary indicators in the
formation and naturally the definition of the ethnic character of the people.
Consequently, language data constitute the foundation of the thesis of the
autochthony of the Albanians even in determining the origin of the Arber and
early Albanians. It is not a coincidence that the first scholars dealing with
the origins of the Arbers were linguists. In the 19th Century and up
to the eve of World War Two, the opinion of linguists predominated the solution
of this problem.
complete representation of the views of the linguists on the origin of the
Albanian language is beyond the limits of this paper and our possibilities but
we shall dwell only on some of the main views of various scholars. Compared with
the data from other sciences, they strongly support the thesis supporting the
autochthony of the Albanian people.
While trying to solve the problem of the origin of the Albanian language,
scholars have encountered two main objective difficulties.
First, a comparison between Illyrian and Albanian shows that only Albanian has
been recognized as a written language; consequently, we lack sufficient data
about the vocabulary, grammatical structure and phonetics of Illyrian.
Second, even the first written document of Albanian, the Baptizing Formula
dating in the year 1642, which is a short Albanian sentence in the middle of a
Latin writing, belongs to a much later date compared to the one when Illyrian
was spoken for the last time.
addition to the difficulties we mentioned, we cannot help from highlighting the
historical fact of primary importance; Albanian is spoken nowadays in the
territory that was inhabited by the proper Illyrians in the ancient times and
where Illyrian and one of its dialects were spoken. This is a fact of primary
importance that scholars who have proved the Illyrian origin of the Albanian
language have been starting from in laying out their arguments and proof.
well-known Albanian linguist Eqerem Cabej has backed and proved in the most
complete way the thesis that Albanian is the daughter of Illyrian in his works
“Introduction to the History of Albanian Language”, “The Historical Phonetics of
Albanian”, “Etymological Studies of Albanian” and many other articles and
papers. To back his conclusion, the author analyses the linguistic facts we have
inherited from the Illyrian and compares them with elements from the Albanian
language in a rigorously scientific way. A huge number of other linguists, both
Albanian and foreign, have brought facts and convincing proof for the maternity
link between Illyrian and Albanian.
KOMAN CULTURE – A TESTIMONY OF THE ILLYRIAN ARBER CONTINUITY
Features of the Koman (Arber) Culture.
Archaeological research was given a priority and was considered as one of the
primary possibilities to throw light on the early Albanian Middle Ages due to
the lack of written sources about that period. In the course of the last 40
years of the XX Century, a rich and variegated archaeological material was
discovered thanks to the systematic research and excavations in the cemeteries
of the early medieval cities and towns. It helped clarify the most important
issues of the early middle Ages and the Koman culture became a reference point
for many problems. It became the cornerstone of the thesis backing the
autochthony of the Albanians.
scholars were faced with the problems of determining the components of the
material Koman culture, the dating of the cemetery and the ethnic line of the
bearers of the Koman culture.
highlighting of these two fundamental problem of the Koman culture was carried
out thanks to the year-long systematic research and studies by Albanian
archaeologists in the cemetery of the medieval castle of Kruja, the Dalmaca
castle, the Bukli cemetery (Mirdita region), Shurdhah (Shkodra region), Lezhe,
Prosek (in the Mirdita region) and a checking excavation in the Koman graveyard.
The degree of knowledge about the early Albanian medieval culture became
expanded thanks to the discoveries in some tomb burial grounds of south and
southeastern Albania in Dukat (Vlore region), Prodan and Rehove (Kolonje
region), in Rapcke and Piskove (Permeti region) and in Patos (the Fier region).
new direction and a new broader focus in the study of the culture of the late
antiquity and early Middle Ages began with the research in some townships and
castles as well as numerous cult monuments belonging to these periods in the
castle of Pogradec, Shurdhah, Berat, Kanina, in Gradishta of Symiza (Korce
region), in the city of Onhezmi (Sarande), in the castle of Shkoder, in the
cities of Durres and Vlore.
40-year-old archaeological research has identified the Koman culture in 28 big
and small cemeteries and numerous chance findings. Their geographical extension
is very wide, ranging from Shkoder Lake in the north, the valley in the middle
of the two Drin Rivers and reaches south as far as Durres. To the southeast, it
lay around Lake Ohrid. The cumulative discoveries made in the early medieval
cemeteries of Kolonja, Permet, Dukat, Patos create an entirety, a very complete
picture of the cultural development of the territory of our country during the
early middle Ages.
full and total familiarity with the archaeological material discovered in the
Arber graves has led the Albanian scholars to the conclusion that the material
and spiritual culture discovered in these graves creates wholeness and as a
result it is connected to only one local population.
Koman Culture Carriers.
Since 100 years ago when the Koman culture was discovered, numerous scholars
have been dealing with its historical and ethnic interpretation and have
expressed the most diverse opinions. One of the key issues dividing the scholars
who have expressed very diverse views revolves around the carriers of the Koman
culture. Different scholars have considered as carriers of the Koman culture the
Pelasgis, the Suevians, the Romanised Illyrians, the Avars and the Slavs.
archaeological discoveries and the studies on Albanian medieval culture helped
create an entirely new and complete situation to help understand the
geographical expansion of the Arber culture, the definition of the cultural
features, its dating, the historical context of its birth and development and as
a consequence the identification of the origin of such culture. The carriers of
the Koman culture were an ethnos, an autochthonous local population derived from
the Illyrians, which features in the later writings with the names of Albans,
Arbanite, and Arber. This name is identical to the name Albans that Ptolemy
mentions when speaking about the population living in the interior of Durres.
The local population, the successor to the Illyrians, in the early middle Ages,
gradually became ever more important, giving its name to the region and later on
to the whole country.
should consider the process of the birth and formation of the Arber culture and
its carriers as an historical development that several basic components
contributed to. Interacting with and upon each other, these components helped
create a culture with a new physiognomy and features under the circumstances of
the passage from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. The new culture earned
a new name for itself – the Arber culture.
components that took part in the creation of the Arber culture were:
The autochthonous Illyrian component, or the Illyrian legacy
The component of the provincial Roman culture and late antiquity
The component of the early Byzantine culture
is necessary to watch the typological evolution of the objects of Illyrian
origin and the changes they have gone through from time to time. Among them, one
of the most characteristic objects that has attracted the attention of the
scholars is the fibula with bent-over legs. The wire bracelets with a round cut
that are closed by two spiral-like buds, the small circles formed of twisted
wire speak of the continuity of tradition in the preparation of decoration
objects. The origin of the latter objects should be sought in the circles found
in the graves of the first centuries of our era.
of the elements of the Illyrian tradition, which needs to be mentioned, is one
aspect of the spiritual world, the cult to the dead and the cult of the burial,
an area where the indicators of the traditional character are very sensitive.
elements of the Illyrian culture that came to the Arber culture through the
centuries bear testimony to the continuity to the fact that the same population
inhabited our territory.
The inclusion of Illyria in the Roman Empire strongly influenced the penetration
of a series of elements in the culture of the local inhabitants. In the first
centuries of our era, the products of the Roman craftsmen flooded the market
thanks to the economic and administrative strengthening of the Empire.
When the provinces became more powerful in the III-VI Centuries A.D., the local
element revived and strengthened and this trend became more clear and active in
the course of Late Antiquity in the IV-VI Centuries A.D.
Byzantine Culture Component
The third component of the Arber culture, the Byzantine one, comes as the
natural historical consequence of the inclusion of the country under the
umbrella of the Byzantine administration and culture. Durres was an open port
that connected the Adriatic to Constantinople and as such it became an important
flourishing centre of the Byzantine culture in the middle of the Arber culture
territory as it helped spread the best products of the time. We could cite as an
example a group of decorations, especially earpieces that were produced under
the influence of or were copies of the Byzantine models. The Byzantine models
gave a possibility to the craftsmen of the Arber regions to work special and
beautiful forms of earpieces in mostly silver and bronze, which little by little
became property of the Arber population of the territory along which the Koman
presence of the Byzantine decorations imported by the locals or the products
realized copying the Byzantine models in the Arber culture shows that the best
decorations of the Byzantine culture, the most advanced at the time, has spread
among the Arbers.
Christianity as a Factor in the Formation of the Arbers
Both branches of Christianity, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, have been known in
Albania. Christianity began spreading in Illyria since the apostles’ times as an
illegal religion but it was not until the first half of the IV Century that it
was recognized as an official religion by the Roman state. In the territory of
Illyria, the full conversion of the Paganism into Christianity was performed
during the V-VI Century A.D.
Archaeological discoveries, such as the 50 Paleo-Christian churches discovered
all over Albania, are very important to highlight the importance Christianity
played in the Albanian lands during late antiquity and the early middle ages.
a direct consequence of the dissemination of the Christian faith in the Illyrian
lands, the early buildings of the Christian cult began in the IV Century in the
province of Preval, whose centre was Shkoder, the province of New Epirus, whose
centre was Dyrrah, and the province of Old Epirus, whose centre was at Nikopoje.
Historical church records and administrative lists prove that the following
archbishoprics were in existence in our country: Skodra, Lisus, Dyrrahu,
Skampini, Apolonia, Aulona, Bylis, Amantia, Buthroti, Foinike, Anhiasmi
(Saranda), Adrianopolis (Teqe e Melanit, Gjirokaster). As you can see by their
geographical distribution, they cover the whole territory of Albania and are not
only established in the main centres but also in the interior of the country.
Historical Meaning of the Cultural Changes from the Late Antiquity to the Early
The written sources mention the Illyrians for the last time in Christian
history of Euagri (Euagr II, 18) when it talks about Byzantium’s war against the
Avars in the year 584. The Byzantine chroniclers of the XI Century A.D. would
continue since then to use the name Albanoi, Arbanitoi.
two above-mentioned historical facts, too much detached from each other, two
denominations of the same population in a span of four centuries show that the
services and help of archaeology, linguistics and anthropology are urgently
required to explain the huge leap from ILLYRIANS to ARBERS.
Roman culture left too strong traces in Illyria but the most powerful influence
was in the cults. The Illyrian deities were unified with those of the Roman
pantheon. This is was first of all shown in the clothing of the local gods, who
were given Roman attributes (interpretatio romana). However, the local gods
continued to have an important role in the daily life of the local inhabitants.
This is a significant indicator of the resistance of the locals to the Roman
pantheon and consequently to Romanisation in general.
strongest arguments testifying against Romanisation are the data coming from the
entirety of these linguistic and archaeological data has led the Albanian
scholars to the conclusion that during Illyria’s occupation by Rome the
Illyrians preserved many elements of their material and spiritual culture and as
a consequence the local ethnic element was preserved.
Seen from the totality of changes, the makings and un-makings, the period of
Late Antiquity was a decisive period in the history of South Albanians because
it was the time when the converging process of the material and spiritual
culture took place and it received the first impulses of another process, the
process of the formation of the early Albanians—the Arbers.
Relation of Arber Culture with the Avar-Slavic
the early Middle Ages, the Slavs moved on and gradually settled in the Balkans.
As a consequence, the ethnic map of the Peninsula suffered changes. The mass
arrivals of the Slavs did not take place in the same way and with the same
intensity in the whole Balkans. The eastern regions, such as Thrace, and the
northern ones were to suffer more invasions. The rivers Morava and Vardar were
the main routes the Avars and Slavs used because they aimed to take Thessalonica
farther east and Constantinople. The western regions were not affected by the
big wave of the Avars and Slavs but they could not escape small groups of this
wave, which happened to pass by.
sources, which naturally are not complete for this period, do not make mention
of inhabitants who have fled the western provinces and neither do they mention
the names of Slavic clans established in those areas.
dearth of facts from the written sources has been complemented in many aspects
by the material archaeological resources of the Arberor culture, which we made
known in the very beginning of this presentation about the Koman culture. They
are a testimony of the unity of the Arber culture discovered in the whole
territory of our country, its autochthonous character and consequently its
They also show that the process of the formation of the Arber population was not
a closed process developed on the basis of conservatory elements in an isolated
mountainous environment. On the contrary, the process of the formation of the
early Albanians, the Arbers, took place over a wide territory that covered
almost all the territory where South Illyria developed having at its basis a
long tradition of many centuries.
Southern Version of the Arber Culture.
The discoveries made in the last decades of the XX Century in some Arber
cemeteries of the early middle ages in the territory of South and South-Eastern
Albania opened new and broader vistas to help scholars study the features of the
Arber culture in those previously unknown territories. The highlighting of this
new culture made possible its comparison with the better-known culture of Koman.
data about this new culture come from the medieval graves discovered in the
tombs of Prodan and Rehova (Kolonja region), Piskove and Rapcke (Permet region),
Dukat (Vlore region), Patos (Fier region) and some separate graves in the region
of Skrapar. The archaeological material discovered in those graves belongs to
two time periods; the early middle ages, the VII-VIII Centuries and a later
period, the IX-XI Centuries.
* * *
totality of the linguistic and archaeological data and their historical
interpretation leads to the conclusion that the thesis of the autochthony of the
Albanians is directly connected to the Illyrian source. The present-day
Albanians lived in an over-ancient territory, which has been inhabited by Paleo-Indo-European
populations, was inhabited by the Illyrians in historical (ancient) times and by
their successors the Arbers in the early Middle Ages.
am offering you the most acceptable explanation scholars have made about the
birth and use of the name Arber.
national and medieval name of Arber and Arberi (Albani) has been inherited by
the Illyrian. The historical sources, especially the works of the ancient
authors, write about names of place, people and populations formed with the root
arb (alb). These names are encountered chiefly in the territory of South and
Central Illyria; arbaios – means for Arbers in an inscription of
the III Century B.C. found in Finiq; the city of Arbon is mentioned by
the historian Polibius in the II Century B.C.; the city of Albanopoli as well as
the Albans one can run across in the works of Ptolemy, II Century B.C.; the
population called abroi and the city of Arbon, with its inhabitants
called arbonios and arbonites are mentioned by Stephen the
Byzantine in the VI Century A.D.
of these data, fragmented as they are, the remark of Ptolemy that in the rear of
Dyrrah there lived an Illyrian tribe by the name of Alban, arbanite, constitutes
the basis of the dissemination and use of this name with a wider implication.
During the VII-VIII Century A.D. and later, this population became ever more
important. The local medieval population that had preserved its ancient name
gave the name to the region, Arbanon, Arberi. Initially, it was the name of a
definite territory limited in space. Later it spread even to the other
inhabitants of the provinces, which shared the same characteristics with the
people of arbanon, including Prevalitania, New Epirus, Old Epirus and
Dardania. Arbanon was initially the name of a small territory, which kept
growing until it became a general denomination. The generalisation of the name
was favoured by numerous converging economic, cultural, linguistic and ethnic
factors, which were the same for all the population of the provinces we
mentioned and which consequently were called by the same name, Arberi.
This is a synthesis of the historical development of the inhabitants of our
country based on the studies of the linguists, historians, archaeologists and
anthropologists. But there is also another truth; the fact that the
Albanian people lives in this territory, handing down from one generation to the
other its language and culture shows that it is an ancient people. It has been
giving and taking to the neighbouring peoples and cultures but it always
preserved its own independence.