18 January 2006
The Illyrians and Bosnia’s valley of Pyramids 12000 BC
Semir Osmanagic believes Pyramid was made by the the Illyrian people, who inhabited the Balkan peninsula long before Slavic tribes conquered it around A.D. 600. Little is known about the Illyrians, but Osmanagic thinks they were more sophisticated than many experts have suggested.
Illyria is a name that has been applied to the western part of the Balkan Peninsula but the origins of the Illyrians remain unclear. Archaeology has, though, been a little more helpful in explaining who the Illyrians were and ancient writings have provided clues as to their origins.
It is understood that the Illyrians were a tribal people governed by chieftains, but the ancient written records tell little else of their culture, their language and their origins.
It may be that the Illyrians were Indo-Europeans of an Aryan race - a Caucasoid people who are believed to have originated from the Caucasus Mountains in today’s Georgia republic south of Russia.
Other research into ancient texts suggests evidence of an Illyrian migration from what is now present day Turkey.
Albanian scholars and philologists alike contend that the meaning of the Illyrian name comes from the Albanian interpretation of the Illyrians, ‘Iliret’.
The root in ‘Iliret is ‘i lir’ which simply means, ‘free’. Thus, the meaning of ‘Iliret’ is ‘freemen’ and the meaning of Illyria is ‘land of the free’.
It appears that the Illyrians settled in the Balkan Peninsula at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, sometime in the middle to late second millennium BC, although there is also evidence of artifacts resembling Illyrian types that date much earlier.
The Illyrians were bearers of the Hallstatt culture - a period in history that denotes the transition from the use of bronze to iron in Central and Western Europe. Objects found in Illyrian burial places suggest more than average funeral rites; a known characteristic of the Hallstatt culture.
Some other things are known about the life of Illyrians. Human sacrifice, for example, played a role in their ceremonies. The ancient historian, Arrian, records the Illyrian chieftain, Kleitus, sacrificing three boys, three girls and three rams just before his battle with Alexander the Great.
Much of what we have learned about the Illyrians has come through archaeological exploration. The most common type of burial among the Illyrians was ‘tumulus’ or ‘mound’ burial. The kin of the first tumuli would be buried around that and the higher the status of those in these burials, the higher the mound.
Archaeology has brought forth numerous artifacts placed within these tumuli such as weapons, ornaments, garments, and clay vessels – items needed for the journey into the Illyrian afterlife.
Through archaeology, it is known that the Illyrians used many weapons and excavations have produced swords, javelins, battle-axes, bows and arrows as well as battle knives.
When it came to defences, the Illyrian military equipped itself with wooden and leather shields that were embossed with metal. Their defences also included breastplates, helmets and leg protection, but those were probably reserved for the military elite.
The geographical location of Illyria, deeply wooded and mountainous, made them a difficult race to conquer.
The Illyrians, who were known to be a warlike people, were naturally incorporated into the Roman military and Illyricum itself became a leading recruiting grounds for Roman legions. The Romans even used the territory of Illyricum as a strategic defence because of its mountain ranges and valleys.
In the late fourth century AD, when the Roman Empire became divided into the western and eastern empires, Illyricum would also be divided. The southern half of Illyricum was incorporated into the Byzantine, or Greek empire and northern Illyricum remained as part of the Roman, or Latin empire with the river Drin as the boundary between northern and southern Illyricum.
The Illyrians in the highlands were not as Romanized as their lowland counterparts and some Illyrian highlanders would continue to reject Roman rule or ignore it altogether, such as the Albani tribe, or the Albanians as they are modernly known.
The Roman geographer, Ptolemy, first records the Albani in the first century AD. Obviously, modern day Albania gets its name from them - although the Albani would soon be able to overthrow their Roman rulers.
During the fifth century, Rome was overrun by the Visigoths - Germanic tribes who ransacked everything in their path, eventually capturing the western empire and ending Roman rule in 476.
The Illyrians in the highlands were protected from these invaders and there was also little impact on the southern Illyrians, who were still under the protection of the Eastern empire.
Later, however, the Slavic tribes - the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes - conquered all of what was once Illyria proper. The inhabitants of Illyria then had to adapt to Slavic domination and culture. Thus, the Illyrians became thoroughly Slavonized and by the late ninth century AD, they disappeared into Slavic society all together except for the Albanians.
As the last surviving tribe of the Illyrians, the Albanians have preserved a part of the Illyrian tongue and tradition that exists to this day.
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