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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Heritage: The Balkans
First broadcast September 2007

Ruins in Butrint, Albania

The Balkan Wars of the 1990s left many Balkan cities and historic buildings in ruins.

Archaeological broadcaster and writer Malcolm Billings visits key sites in the region and finds out how reconstruction projects are restoring its cultural heritage.

Part 4: Butrint, Albania

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The Roman city of Butrint, in Albania, is an example of archaeology that was first explored for political ends.

Under Mussolini, archaeologists were despatched to the all but forgotten ancient city on the Adriatic to underline the Fascist state's claim to Roman origins and territorial expansion. Much was uncovered, and one of the best preserved Roman cities of the Mediterranean world began to emerge.

During the Cold War, Khrushchev wanted to put a submarine base on the site but Hoxha, the communist leader of Albania, refused. Decades of obscurity followed along with neglect and near dereliction of Ottoman historic towns in southern Albania.

The Roman site is once again under excavation with substantial donations by two British peers, the Lords Sainsbury and Rothschild. We trace the history of the site and see its unique finds.

Southern Albania is being opened up for the Albanian tourist industry. We interview Lord Rothschild, the Albanian minister for culture and the archaeologists about what can be done to save this unknown glimpse of the past on the Adriatic shore.

Series Producer: Brigid O'Hara; Executive Producer: Anthony Rendell.


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