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Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

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Light and Shadow: Isolation and Interaction in the Shala Valley of Northern Albania

The data associated with this publication are within the manuscript.

There are few places in Europe as remote as the Shala Valley of northern Albania. The inhabitants appear lost in time, cut off from the outside world, a people apart. But this careful interdisciplinary study of their past and way of life tells a very different tale, overturning much of what we thought we knew about Shala and “persistent” peoples everywhere.

The residents of this mountain tribe spent centuries inside the bounds of the Ottoman Empire, yet they retained not only their Catholicism, but also their political autonomy, forming a flexible, resilient society. Employing survey archaeology, excavation, ethnographic study, and multinational archival work, the Shala Valley Project uncovered the many powerful, creative ways in which the men and women of Shala shaped their world, and successfully fought for their survival. The researchers also unveiled a new, deeper history for the region—one that reaches back to an unexpected fortified Iron Age site. The people of Shala may serve as an example in our modern age, in which tribal people still seek to preserve some degree of independence from capitalist economies bent on their incorporation.

Series: Monumenta Archaeologica 28

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