Butrint (Albania), Archaeology, Heritage and Tourism

Submitting Institution

University of East Anglia

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Since 1995 Richard Hodges and a team from the School of World Art Studies (ART, UEA) have guided the development of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Butrint, Albania, a major Adriatic port and fortress, occupied from c.600 BC until its abandonment from around 1500 AD. The impacts centre on (i) excavation, interpretation and publishing, (ii) the protection of cultural heritage, (iii) job-creation and capacity building, (iv) establishing a standard for the management of related assets in Albania, and (v) tourism, visitor figures having risen from under 1000 per year in the 1990s to 281,441 during the REF period.

Underpinning research

Key UEA researchers based in the School of World Art Studies (with dates):

Richard Hodges, Professor; Scientific Director, Butrint Foundation (1995-present).

John Mitchell, Professor, (1975-present).

Sally Martin, Research Associate (1996-2005).

Will Bowden, Research Associate (2000-2005; UEA PhD 2000, now University of Nottingham).

Karen Francis, Research Associate (1996-2005).

Oliver Gilkes, Research Associate (1997-2010).

David Bescoby, Research Associate (2005-present, UEA PhD 2003, now based in the School of Environmental Sciences, UEA).

Andrew Crowson, Research Associate (2001-present).

Sarah Leppard, Research Associate (2006-2010).

The wider research has involved a comprehensive archaeological investigation of the urban site of Butrint and its regional context. In the period 1994-99 large-scale archaeological, archival and environmental surveys were undertaken. This included extensive historical research on the province (see the monograph by W. Bowden, Epirus Vetus (2003)), and excavations on the eastern shore of Lake Butrint, which included the sites of villas established by the Roman elite (c.100 BC-400 AD). Following this, between 2000 and 2008 large-scale excavations were made of the centre of Butrint, on the `acropolis' defined by the cyclopean masonry of the early Greek settlement and all the later, key sectors of the ancient and medieval city. These excavations are reported in interim form, in a series of guidebooks and in an on-going series of monographs. Six monographs drawing upon the research excavations have been published up to 2011. These include Roman Butrint, eds Hansen and Hodges (2007) and Byzantine Butrint, Hodges, Bowden and Lako (2004), as well as a popular book Eternal Butrint (2006/2011) in English/Albanian (the Albanian edition of Eternal Butrint was funded by Botimet Toena, Tirana, Albania), an extended guide to Albanian archaeology (published by I.B.Tauris in July 2012) and 7 guidebooks in English and Albanian on aspects of Butrint, and on Gjirokastra and Saranda, two other historic sites which the research team helped to evaluate and publicize. Three further research reports on the excavations are in preparation. Individual monuments and structures were researched and published, including the Roman Theatre (Oliver Gilkes, The Theatre at Butrint (2003)), the Early Christian Baptistry (John Mitchell, The Butrint Baptistry and its Mosaics (2008) also published in Albanian, and a major late Roman residential complex (Richard Hodges and Will Bowden, eds., Butrint 3: The Triconch Palace (2011)). A full list of publications can be found at http://www.butrint.org/downloads/Butrint_Bibliography.pdf

Since 2000 the Butrint Foundation/ART team has worked with the Albanian Ministry of Culture to embed the students formerly trained at UEA and at Butrint (see below). In 2005, supported by UNESCO, the Butrint model was adopted by the Ministry of Culture for seven other archaeological sites. In 2005 with the inscription of the Museum town of Gjirokastra as a World Heritage Site the Butrint managerial model was adopted, and then again (with UNESCO inscription) at the Museum town of Berat. In 2006-7, Hodges instigated national discussions which led to the formation of a national archaeological team, including alumni of the UEA programme. In 2011, the digital media team of UEA alumni that prepared the Sites and Monuments Record under Butrint Foundation/ART supervision were transferred to the Ministry of Culture, and by December 2012 under Butrint Foundation/ART supervision had created an open access resource. Finally, in April and May 2012, Hodges organized public fora to encourage the reform of the public sector responsible for cultural heritage practice. The first forum considered the role of private enterprise and the appropriate frameworks for cultural heritage in the next decade. The second examined further capacity building to ensure the progressive reform of the sector with the involvement of private enterprise.

References to the research

A Selection of Publications:

Sally Martin, The Butrint Management Plan, London, Butrint Foundation, 2001.

Richard Hodges, `Rejecting Reflexivity? Making post-Stalinist archaeology in Albania, in N.Brodie & C. Hills (eds.) Material Engagements: Studies in Honour of Colin Renfrew, Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2004: 145-64.

Oliver Gilkes, The Theatre at Butrint: Luigi Maria Ugolini's Excavations at Butrint 1928-32, London, British School at Athens, 2003.


William Bowden, Epirus Vetus, the Archaeology of a Late Antique Province, London, Duckworth, 2003.


John Mitchell, The Butrint Baptistry and its Mosaics, London, The Butrint Foundation, 2008 (also in Albanian).

Richard Hodges, Eternal Butrint. A World Heritage Site in Albania, London Periplus Publishing, 2006 (Albanian version: Butrinti I Përjetshëm, Tirana, Botimet Toena, 2011).

Since 2000 UEA has audited a total of £3,309,244 income secured for the project from a range of sources, principally the Butrint Foundation and the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI), but also including grants from the British Academy (2001, 2006) and the Albanian Ministry of Culture (2001). This total includes £388,465 (2000-2001) from PHI to give bursaries to Albanian graduate students studying in the School of World Art Studies (see the Butrint Foundation annual reports 2001, p.21 and 2002, pp. 8, 30).

Details of the impact

The Butrint archaeological park was defined in the 1960s by the communist government of Albania as a means of obtaining hard currency from foreign communist party members visiting the country. In 1992, on the occasion of the election of Albania's first democratic government, UNESCO inscribed it into its world heritage list. The Butrint Foundation (registered charity 1135705) was founded in 1993 and since 1995 has operated in collaboration with members of the School of World Art Studies, UEA. The result of the BF/UEA collaboration has been to undertake major research excavations in Butrint and its surrounding areas and establish an archaeological park that (i) protected the cultural assets, (ii) provided employment as a result of infrastructure development and revenue from tourism, (iii) served as a means of presenting Albanian heritage to the public and the academic community, (iv) provided a standard for the management of archaeological sites throughout Albania. These have been instrumental in attracting visitors to the site: 77,156 (ticketed visitors) in the first three quarters of 2013, a rise from under 1000 in 1998 (see further details below).

Supported by the Getty Conservation Program, UNESCO, the World Bank and the Albanian Ministry of Culture, the aims of the park were defined in 1998. Following Richard Hodges' secondment to the Albanian Ministry of Culture in 1999, the area of the park was increased and established in Albanian law, and UNESCO revised its inscription from less than 0.2 km2 to cover an area of 29 km2. In 2003 the park was further enlarged to include Lake Butrint with support from Ramsar. In 2005 a museum and wetland trails were established at Butrint to outline the emerging history of the site as our research was revealing it and to display finds from our recent excavations.

From 2000-12 the Butrint Foundation/ART team has assisted in capacity building in financial management, tourist development, infrastructural planning strategies, conservation strategies as well as archaeological training including cultural heritage management. The Butrint Foundation has supported a research programme involving a twin track approach: (i) capacity building and management in Albania (for Albanians from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro), and (ii) large scale excavations involving teaching, outreach and publication programmes, mostly focussed at the World Heritage Site at Butrint. The capacity building and the management process was launched with a two-day conference organized at Saranda, Albania by Richard Hodges in April 1998. In 1998 Butrint was visited by less than a thousand people; the impact during the REF period is that between 2008-10 an average of 46,000 visited Butrint each year, rising to 69,150 in 2011 and 78,300 in 2012, of whom almost half were Albanian nationals. (Visitor numbers quoted here relate to paid ticketed entries to the site, an estimated 5000-7000 additional visitors per year receive complimentary entry (students, archaeologists, journalists, etc). No assessment exists yet for cultural heritage tourism in Albania as a whole. But at Butrint the National Park permanently now employs 6 full-time staff and on a part-time seasonal basis up to 24 other staff. Of the permanent staff, one studied in UEA; another took part in a training programme in the Broads Park, Norfolk. Nationally, the deputy head of cultural heritage management in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism trained at UEA, as did many of the new national salvage archaeology unit (founded in 2006), and all the digital resources team. UEA-trained personnel have from time to time been involved in the management, presentation and development of both the Berat and Gjirokastra World Heritage Sites since 2005.

From 1998-2004 bursaries were provided to enable Albanian students to come to UEA to study for MA degrees which involved research dissertations based on work in Butrint and the region around it. This was made possible by two grants from the Packard Humanities Institute totalling £388,465. The capacity building for Albanian students has been reinforced by the programme of research excavations (reported in many monographs, guidebooks, academic articles and popular articles and the Butrint Foundation annual reports) and conservation practice which have included an annual summer school (in July each year since 2000). The Butrint programme has also had an explicit UK economic impact apart from its wider research aspects. It has employed research assistants from the heritage, museum and archaeology sectors. Two PhDs at UEA were part- funded by the programme: Will Bowden (awarded in 2002) (now Associate Professor at Nottingham University) and David Bescoby (awarded in 2004) (now Adjunct lecturer in Environmental Sciences at UEA).

In 2009 the latest element of the strategy was launched, involving the hand-over of all strategy responsibilities to the Butrint National Park administration as of 1 January 2012. With one embedded Albanian team member in place, this transition is now effective, with the Park as of January 2012 launching its own discussion of a third iteration of a Management Plan (for 2012-17).

Sources to corroborate the impact

Testimonials received from

  1. The Linbury Trust
  2. Director, American School of Classical Studies at Athens
  3. Former British Ambassador to Tirana, Albania

Butrint National Park and Butrint Foundation evidence

  1. Total ticketed visitor numbers of 285,846 from 2008 to 2012; for growth since 2010 see main text above. (Confirmed in an email from the Butrint Foundation Project Manager, 09/09/13). For a public access web interface to Butrint prepared by the Butrint Foundation/ART team: http://www.butrint.org
  2. IADB database, housed by the York Archaeological Trust, has been connected to the Butrint website at http://www.iadb.org.uk/
  3. The annual Butrint Foundation annual reports are filed with the Charity Commissioners (registered charity 1135705). The 2012 report can be accessed at http://www.butrintfoundation.co.uk/#!about1/cqba
  4. A full list of publications from 1997 up to 2010 can be found at
  5. A review of the Butrint guide books by Archibald Dunn in Antiquity 84 issue 326 (2010), pp. 1183-85. http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/084/ant0841183.htm
  6. A review of the Butrint archaeological summer school is to be found in Current World Archaeology 52, 2012.
  7. A review of Butrint 3: The Triconch Palace (2011) in Antiquity 86 issue 332 (2012), p. 582: `This is an excavation report that ... will offer guidance and inspiration to future excavators.'