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  • Himara Cave
  • Himarё
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    Credits

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    Monuments

    Periods

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    Chronology

    • 4500 BC - 1945 AD

    Season

      • The cave at Himara is situated within a low limestone outcrop along Spilë beach in the middle of the modern town of Himara. It forms the largest of three adjacent cavities, located at the base of a low cliff c. 30 m high and 100 m from the present day shoreline. The cave is over 30 m long with an irregular opening c. 8 m wide and 7 m high, facing west to south west. During this season a 3 x 3 m test pit was excavated along the northern wall of the front section of the cave. Excavations at Himara Cave revealed a largely unbroken sequence of deposits recording often intensive human activity at the cave from the Early Bronze Age. Basal deposits of the 2.4 metre sequence are of a typical beach type, reflecting the proximity of the coastline. Present sea-level is 1.30 m below the base of these deposits indicating the change in relative levels, attributable to the sedimentary infilling of the bay and localised tectonic factors. It is clear that the Holocene sea level is likely to have flushed out deposits surviving from earlier prehistoric periods. A radiocarbon date from an overlying hearth feature associated with Copper Age artefacts shows this depositional phase ended c. 3,400 BP. From c. 3,000 BP, the cave sedimentary sequence indicates a generally wetter climate and episodes of ponding. By 2,300 BP conditions turns to be drier. The Bronze Age ceramics at Himara show a predominance of local fabrics and it is not until the onset Iron Age and the beginning of the Archaic period when imported wares dominate, indicating that by this time the area was very much part of regional trade networks. The lack of earlier Mycenaean influence is interesting, although not altogether surprising, as a similar lack of Mycenaean presence is recorded on Corfu. The local Bronze Age coursewares of finger impressed and incised decoration share many similarities with regional (Epirote) pottery from sites such as Dodana in north-western Greece. While it is not possible to regard the ceramic assemblage at Himara as typical, since cave sites are often ascribed functions that may colour the assemblage, no evidence to suggest specific usage outside general domestic habitation at this time has been forthcoming.
      • The investigations of 2003 along with those of the previous year, undertaken at the Himara cave, extended over an area of 3 x 2 m, comprising 6 trenches of 1 x 1 m. The excavation revealed new and significant data regarding the history of the Himara bay and the origin of the cave’s deposits, the flora, fauna and the environment, the additional habitation layers, and the absolute and relative dating, which relied on the C14 analyzes. The stratigraphy demonstrates the existence of several habitation layers, spanning from the Bronze Age until the Later Roman period. As suggested by the lack of the discovery of stable living structures, the cave was used as a temporary settlement, at shorter periods of time. The lithic finds of atypical shapes found at the lower layers (0, 80, 088, 099 and 100), hamper the definition of their dating. The flint chips discovered at the upper level of layer 100 (a gravel deposit, considered as the cave’s bedrock, above which soil deposits were laid), in terms of their shape and dimensions seems to belong to the Mesolithic time. Few artefacts, consisting of fine and thick-walled wares and two bone fragments, one of which seem to be part of a pin, were uncovered in the US 094 and 099, above the bedrock level. The outer parts of the uncovered pottery vessels are slip- painted and decorated in dense finger pinchings, a decoration technique used since the Bronze Age. Among the pottery finds, a fragment decorated with dark brown paint on the natural ochre to light brown surface of the vessel was distinguished. It seems to be an imported pottery, probably from a centre at Greece and might date to the end of the Middle Mycenaean (MM II b), or the beginning of the Late Mycenaean period (LM), which cover the 16-15th Centuries BC (Late Bronze Age). The excavation of the upper layer (US 088), revealed only locally hand made ceramic vessels of well-baked clay mixed with fine sand. The discovered fragments seem to belong to medium and large size vessels. Infrequent fine wares painted in slip were also found in this layer. All the materials discovered are dated at the Late Bronze Age (14-11th Centuries BC). The successive layer (080) contained locally hand made ceramic vessels, some of which were painted with bitumen at their both sides, typical decoration of the Early Iron Age (11 – 9th Centuries BC.) US 035 and 038 relates to a layer which contained numerous pottery fragments of various shapes (rims, handles, bases) of local production (cooking pottery) and imports (mainly Corinthian and Corcyrean cups, kotyle, skyphos, kylix, etc., of black varnish), which date from the end of the 7th Century to the beginning of 5th Century BC. Among the ceramic materials, especially in the layer of the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods, an increased presence of imported materials, coming mainly from Greek and Italian centres, but also from closer territories, such as Apollonia, was noticed.

    Bibliography

      • Francis, K. D., Bescoby, D. J. & Gjipali, I. (Forthcoming, 2009), A preliminary investigation of two prehistoric cave sites in southern Albania, in Annual of the British School at Athens.
      • I. Gjipali, 2009, Kërkime prehistorike në Shqipërinë jugperëndimore, in Iliria XXXIII, 2007-2008: 108-134.