Monumental Inscription Sheds Light on Emperor Justinian’s Dardanian Origin at Ulpiana

In archaeological site Ulpiana during excavations, a team of archaeologists has uncovered a monumental inscription dedicated to Byzantine Emperor Justinian of significant historical importance. According to archaeologists, this site provides evidence of the Dardanian origin of the great Byzantine emperor.

Located approximately 15 kilometers from Prishtina, at the archaeological site of Ulpiana, a dedication inscription for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora – ‘Urbem Dardania,’ which means ‘city in Dardania’ – has been found. 

According to archaeologists, this provides evidence of the Dardanian origin of the great Byzantine emperor.

In the same location, last year archaeologists had already discovered an ancient basilica from the sixth century.

Emperor Justinian (527-565) was born in Tauresium, believed to be near present-day Skopje.

Arben Hajdari, Professor of Archaeology at University of Prishtina, stated to BIRN that this inscription holds immense historical weight, representing the most significant findings ever in Kosovo’s archaeology.

Hajdari emphasized that a crucial element of the inscription is the mention of the city of Dardania, indicating that the Dardanian people did not Romanize and did not lose their identity.

“This is very important, considering the fact that archaeological literature has invested a lot, with many articles and studies attempting to argue that the Dardanians had lost their identity, were Romanized, and disappeared in the Middle Ages. This discovery holds great significance from this perspective,” he explained.

Photo courtesy of Minister of Culture Hajrulla Çeku.

The inscription extends through the central part of the basilica, and the researchers have conducted excavations over an area of more than 460 square meters, identifying various ornamentations with floral and faunal motifs.

“The inscription left us astonished because it is preserved in a way that seals the fact that we are indeed dealing with a Dardanian city, built by an emperor of Dardanian origin,” said Milot Berisha, the head of the Archaeological Park “Ulpiana” and archaeologist.

On the other hand, Professor Christophe Goddard from the ‘Ecole Normale Superieure’ in Paris visited Ulpiana for the first time in 2016, and excavations began in 2017.

Goddard highlighted that Kosovo is a unique place for archaeology, as he believes it is rare to find an untouched place in Europe. According to him, aside from Rome, Kosovo stands out in Europe.

“What you can see here is a place that has been untouched before us. We are sure about this; there is no doubt. This is very unique in Europe, with only 1 percent or perhaps around 2 percent known. So, imagine we have something like two Pompei here – one is 35 hectares, and the other is 19 hectares,” Goddard told BIRN.

PM Albin Kurti, after a meeting with the project leaders, stated that such a discovery is a “rare proof of Justinian’s connection with Dardania, his place of origin, and evidence of successful international cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Culture, Hajrulla Çeku, considered it a discovery that shapes history. The inscription presents very rare evidence and demonstrates the emperor’s proximity to the province of origin.

The excavations are supported by the European Union with a funding of 1 million euros, as part of the project “European Archaeological Mission in Kosovo: From Ulpiana to Justiniana Secunda,” launched in December 2021 and expected to conclude in December 2024.

Furthermore, since 2017, there has been a collaboration agreement for these excavations between the University of Prishtina, the Institute of Archaeology, and the “Ecole Normale Superieure” Institute from Paris.

18/08/2023 - 21:10

18 August 2023 - 21:10

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