A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The ancient past haunts the future of a disputed Serbian province.
In the shadow of the Prokletije ("Cursed") Mountains that mark the eastern border of Kosovo with Albania, two archaeologists dig at a site known as Vlashnya. Excavations have shown continuous human settlement here since 5000 B.C. During a recent visit, I could see why people had lived at Vlashnya through the ages—the settlement is perched on a ridge that overlooks a long, fertile valley and a ribbon of two-lane highway that was once a part of an ancient trans-Balkan trade route.
Though Vlashnya doesn't attract much popular attention, even the site's most modest artifacts add fuel to the fight over who should control this land, Christian Serbs or Muslim Albanians. The Serbs base their claim to the province on a rich legacy of Orthodox churches and monasteries, along with evidence of Slavic occupation in Kosovo going back to the eighth century A.D. The Albanians, on the other hand, point to still older sites, including Vlashnya, that they say prove their ancestors were living in Kosovo at least two thousand years earlier.
Beth Kampschror is a freelance journalist based in Sarajevo.