Royal Tombs of Selca e Poshtme

Pogradec, Albania

The Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme are located near the town of Pogradec in Albania. On the right bank of the river Shkumbin lie the remains of the ancient city of Pelion and the accompanying necropolis. The Roman Via Egnatia led past it towards Thessaloniki. Though there are traces of human activity in Neolithic times, the settlement proper dates to the Iron Age through to the Illyrian urban period (5th to 2nd centuries BC), and reached its height under settlement by the Illyrian tribe of Enchele in the later Iron Age and was also occupied in the Roman period as traces of a municipal building show. From the 4th to 1st centuries BC the city was the royal residence of Illyrian kings and therefore, also probably an important political and economic centre.

According to excavations, the settlement has five phases of occupation. Selcë I to III are divided into late Neolithic, early Bronze Ageand Late Bronze Age, all represented by different ceramic forms. The settlement was continuously inhabited from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age. During the 6th to 5th centuries BC the settlement developed as a proto-urban center on the road that ran along the river Shkumbin connecting the coast of Albania to Macedonia. From the Iron Age there is a permanent settlement at the site.

Around 570 BC/550 BC the phase of Selcë IV began, evidenced by traces of burnt dwellings, pottery, including imports from Corinth in the lower horizon, and some Ionian wares. In the upper horizon, local, red-brown painted pottery, wheel made pottery with two handles and Ionic and Attic products were found. The local potters copied Greek models and were also influenced by their style. During the 4th century the acropolis was fortified by an encircling wall of well-cut stone.

In the 4th and 3rd centuries BC Selca was an important trading centre and was the administrative centre of the Illyrian region of the Dassaretae. Terraces were created in order to develop the settlement across the hilly terrain. In the 3rd century monumental tombs were cut into the rock around the acropolis, some with Ionic columns. One of these tombs was reused at the end of the 2nd century and a wide array of finds were discovered therein, including weapons, bronze vessels, ceramics and gold jewellery. The construction of the Via Egnatia, which bypassed the city, led to its decline.

During the 4th century AD Selca, as a military and administrative centre, was re-fortified with stone walls bound with mortar. Houses were constructed from reused Roman and Illyrian masonry. On the basis of coin finds two elements phases of construction can be determined. The first from the time of Valentinian I (364-375), the second from the time of Justinian I (518 - 565) to the years 547/548. The city was of economic and political importance before being conquered by the Slavs who destroyed the last remains of the Illyrian city.

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Founded: 6th century BCE
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in Albania

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