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Polish archaeologists locate a 2,000-year-old city lost to the annals of history

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The city of Bassania was a thriving economic power in Eastern Europe until it was suddenly stilled and promptly forgotten.

Most people have heard of the lost city of Atlantis or the fabled city of gold, El Dorado, but few remember the ancient city of Bassania. Before the 1st century, Bassania was a major city in Eastern Europe, roughly three times the size of the modern Albanian city, Shkodër. However, after the 1st century there was no further recording of its history, no records of its people, and even the location was lost. That is, until now.

A team of Polish archaeologists from the University of Warsaw were studying what appeared to be a natural formation of rocks when they identified it as a 3-meter-thick city wall. The site had long been dismissed as a natural formation because time had weathered the sandstone into unassuming mounds of dust and rock.

Head of excavations and director of the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre of the University of Warsaw Prof. Piotr Dyczek said it was only recently that his team started searching around Shkodër for the lost city. He credited modern technology with the discovery, commenting, “Thanks to the use of various methods, including non-invasive ones, we have located relics of a huge ancient city.”

Tech Times explains how they were able to identify the city, just from its wall:

The city wall is massive. Measuring 3 meters thick, the wall is made from huge stone blocks packed tightly against each other. In between the stone blocks are earth and small stones filled in to close off any gaps.

Dyczek says the construction is typical of fortress walls and other defensive structures built during the Hellenistic period. This suggests that Bassania was part of the Illyrian kingdom that came under Roman rule in 165 BC and became no more during the 1st century AD.

This hypothesis seems to have been confirmed by the presence of an abundance of ancient coins and ceramic artifacts unearthed around the site. These relics were all dated between 4th century BC and 1st century AD.

Most of what we know of Bassania comes from the writings of the ancient Roman historian, Livy, who recorded the war between Rome and the army of Gentius, the last king of Illyria. However, even though there are records from surrounding sites of the same era, much is left unsaid as to the fate of Bassania.

Historians have theorized that Bassania was destroyed by war. New research supports this theory, claiming the city was conquered and destroyed by the forces of Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. The Romans would have slaughtered most of the population and taken what few remained as slaves or hostages, leaving the city of Bassania empty and with no one to remember it.

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