Remarkable Discovery in Kosovo Sheds Light on Byzantine Emperor Justinian's Dardanian Origin

Kosovo’s historical landscape gains unprecedented depth as evidence emerges illuminating the origins of the esteemed Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Spearheaded by Professor Christophe J. Goddard, an alliance of international and local experts has unveiled a monumental inscription at the hallowed Ulpiana archaeological site. Emperor Justinian’s dedication, shared with his wife Theodora, not only enriches Kosovo’s comprehension of Byzantines’ legacy but also challenges prevailing historical assumptions about the Dardanian people.

On August 14, 2023, the news of this remarkable discovery was shared on a Facebook post by Hajrulla Çeku, Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports of the Republic of Kosovo. The insights the minister gives there add a uniquely authoritative perspective to this seminal discovery.

Professor Christophe J. Goddard and his alliance of international and local experts who unveiled the monumental inscription at the hallowed Ulpiana archaeological site. | Photo: Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports of the Republic of Kosovo, Hajrulla Çeku / Facebook
Professor Christophe J. Goddard and his alliance of international and local experts who unveiled the monumental inscription at the hallowed Ulpiana archaeological site. | Photo: Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports of the Republic of Kosovo, Hajrulla Çeku / Facebook

Introduction to Ulpiana Archaeological Site

Ulpiana, an archaeological site near Prishtina in Kosovo, occupied 35 hectares of land at the crossroads of major Roman routes. Its significance stemmed from its location linking the Dalmatian coast, Dacia, and Thessaloniki. As part of Moesia Superior, the city played a pivotal role during the Dacian conquest and was a crucial stopover for journeys between the Eastern and Western parts of the Roman Empire.

The name Ulpiana suggests its connection to Trajan, the conqueror of Dacia. Geographer Ptolemy mentioned the city, and dedications confirm its municipality status in the 2nd century. Unlike the northern Dacian counterpart, it wasn’t granted Roman colony status by the emperor.

Ulpiana Rediscovered: A Nexus of Roman Influence

Situated around 11 kilometers southeast of Pristina, Ulpiana resurfaces as a nexus of political, monetary, and cultural pursuits during the Roman era. This Roman-Illyrian city, whose origins trace back to pre-Roman times, has been under the meticulous scrutiny of archaeological investigation since 1954. The recent unearthing of an inscription, featuring the phrase “Urbem Dardania“, emerges as a profound testament to Emperor Justinian’s Dardanian lineage and challenges the notion of Dardanians being assimilated into Roman culture.

The inscription’s resonance stems from its eloquent defiance of historical assumptions. Arben Hajdari, a distinguished Professor of Archaeology at the University of Prishtina, underscores the magnitude of this revelation, emphasizing that the inscription serves as a palpable link to the enduring identity of the Dardanian people. Through dedicating an inscription to a city within Dardania, Emperor Justinian disrupts the prevailing narrative of Dardanians undergoing Romanization. Milot Berisha, at the helm of the Archaeological Park “Ulpiana,” emphasizes the preservation of the inscription as a testament to the city’s Dardanian heritage.

The inclusion of Hajrulla Çeku’s insights, as the Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports, resonates with communal enthusiasm, encapsulating the local pride enveloping this remarkable discovery.

Hajrulla Çeku visits the Ulpiana archaeological site along with Professor Christophe J. Goddard and team. | Photo: Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports of the Republic of Kosovo, Hajrulla Çeku / Facebook
Hajrulla Çeku visits the Ulpiana archaeological site along with Professor Christophe J. Goddard and team. | Photo: Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports of the Republic of Kosovo, Hajrulla Çeku / Facebook

Historical Reimagining: Implications and Insights

The discovery’s impact extends beyond rekindling historical inquiry; it unfurls profound insights. Professor Christophe Goddard, who embarked on the journey to Ulpiana in 2016, initiating excavations a year later, underscores Kosovo’s archaeological distinctiveness; He started his research there in 2017 though.

Goddard marvels at the site’s untouched state, a rarity in Europe, even likening its significance to the revered Pompeii. The ongoing “European Archaeological Mission in Kosovo: From Ulpiana to Justiniana Secunda” project, bolstered by substantial funding from the European Union, continually enriches Kosovo’s grasp of the region’s historical tapestry and cultural heritage.

Emperor Justinian’s inscription transcends its physical embodiment, resonating through scholarly discourse, cultural narratives, and the collective consciousness of a nation. Kosovo’s archaeological pursuits stand as a poignant reminder that history is not confined to textbooks; it resides within the fragments of ancient cities and the stories they echo. As the excavation narrative unfolds, the inscription’s message reverberates: history is a mosaic woven from threads of identity, culture, and legacy, awaiting revelation by generations yet to come. The discovery is really something that amplifies the profound local attachment and pride surrounding this historical disclosure.

A Glimpse into Timelessness

The discovery of Emperor Justinian’s inscription at Ulpiana stands as a testament to history’s enduring nature and the resilience of heritage. It transcends mere artifacts, resounding through scholarly dialogue, cultural narratives, and the collective memory of a nation.

Professor Christophe J. Goddard
Professor Christophe J. Goddard

Kosovo’s archaeological journey, now enriched by Professor Christophe J. Goddard led the team’s discovery of a monumental inscription at Ulpiana, reminding Kosovians that history flourishes beyond textbooks; it lives within the echoes of ancient cities and the tales they whisper. As the excavation narrative unfolds, the inscription’s message resonates: history is a tapestry woven from threads of identity, culture, and legacy, awaiting embrace by generations yet to unfurl.

A Community’s Connection: Hajrulla Çeku’s Reflections

Hajrulla Çeku’s Facebook post on the new Ulpiana discovery adds a layer of local engagement, underscoring the depth of connection between the discovery and the community. His words reflect the shared pride in unearthing this monumental inscription, a relic that bridges the gap between past and present. This connection amplifies the sense of ownership, reminding us that history isn’t just a distant account but a living narrative that resonates with individuals, families, and communities.

Hajrulla Çeku, at Ulpiana archaeological site.
Hajrulla Çeku, at Ulpiana archaeological site.

Preservation and Ongoing Exploration

Amid the excitement, the inscription serves as a poignant call for preservation. As researchers meticulously document, study, and protect this historical artifact, they ensure that future generations can continue to learn from its message. The inscription doesn’t just reveal the past; it challenges us to reflect on Kosovians’ own connection to history and the importance of safeguarding it.

Final Words: Echoes Through Time

The inscription by Emperor Justinian echoes not only through the centuries but through the hearts and minds of those who unearthed it. This discovery, led by Professor Christophe J. Goddard, encapsulates the essence of history as a living, evolving story. Kosovo’s archaeological journey carries us beyond the confines of textbooks, inviting us to connect with the past, challenge assumptions, and preserve the legacy for future generations. In the end, it’s not just an inscription on stone; it’s an inscription on the collective memory of humanity.

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