TIRANA, November 21
AFP news agency says Albania’s coastline has become a magnet for treasure hunters looking for sunken relics. In a recently published story, the French news agency highlights the irreversible damage done to seabed wealth in the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
“Much of this wealth resting at the depth of 20-30 meters (66-99 feet) is easily accessible without any special equipment and has almost completely disappeared without a trace,” AFP quoted Albanian archaeologist and art historian Neritan Ceka, among those calling for urgent measures to protect the underwater heritage.
Further on he adds: “While diving at the beginning of the 1980s. I saw extraordinary richness, amphorae (terra-cotta jugs), pottery, archaeological objects which are no longer there today. Teams of European and Albanian divers have started to loot in a barbaric way”.
According to the data collected by the expedition carried out in 2006 by RPM Nautical Foundation, 40 shipwrecks dating back to the seventh century BC were located along the Albanian coastline.
However, the lack of an inventory makes it impossible to know and trace the artifacts that were stolen from the seabed and sold to the international trafficking market.
In Albania, an amphora can be sold for Euro 100. They are often purchased by the owners of high-end restaurants. In the meantime, other objects are sold in auctions and are now part of private museums.
Auron Tare, chair of UNESCO’s scientific and technical advisory body on underwater cultural heritage says that objects such as the bell of an ill-fated Austro-Hungarian ship, the SS Linz that sunk off Albania’s northwest coast with 1,000 passengers on board after striking a mine in March 1918. He highlighted that these objects must be returned to Albania.
Not only artifacts, but looters go also after valuable steel by using dynamite.
“Steel produced before any nuclear explosions happened in the world is especially lucrative, as it lacks any trace of radioactivity and can be used for sensitive medical devices and other scientific equipment,” the article points out.
Researcher and Professor Ilir Capuni helped discover a Hungarian-Croat steamer, the Pozsony that sunk off the coast of Durres in 1916 after striking a mine.
But four years later, “we found that there was almost nothing left of it,” Capuni was quoted as saying.
An underwater museum would help to preserve what remains. In June, authorities passed a law classifying the shipwrecks as cultural monuments and requiring strict licensing for diving teams.
“Albania has never had the luxury or awareness to understand the great importance that this wealth represents for the country’s history and for Mediterranean civilization,” Tare said.
Even though, he added, the waters still contain “more treasures that have not yet been discovered”.
Full story Here
Photo Credit: Elaine Ferritto Callp