AP reports from Tirana in Albania that hundreds of Roman and Greek artefacts and ancient shipwrecks sitting under Albania’s barely explored coastline are in danger of falling prey to looters or treasure hunters if not properly protected, researchers and archaeologists warn.
James Goold, chairman of the Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation, argued the objects — dating from the 8th century B.C. through to World War II — would be a great tourist attraction if properly displayed in a museum.
Goold’s RPM has mapped out the Ionian seabed from the Greek border all along to the Vlora Bay, locating at least 22 shipwrecks from the ancient times to World War II and hundreds of ancient amphorae. Those long, narrow terracotta vessels carried olive oil and wine along trade routes between North Africa and the Roman Empire, where Albania, then Illyria, was a crossroad.
“The time has come to build a museum for Albanian and foreign tourists,” stressed Albanian archaeologist Neritan Ceka.
Some amphorae may have already been looted — they are occasionally seen decorating restaurants along the Albanian coastline.
Albania is trying to protect and capitalise on its rich underwater heritage, long neglected by its former communist regime, but preservation still receives little funding from the government in one of Europe’s poorest nation.