Skopje, 23 November 2021 (MIA) – The Ulpiana Archaeological Park is one of the largest ancient urban centers in Kosovo, spread across a surface of 35 hectares, only 12 km southeast of Pristina.
Our colleagues from KosovaPress hosted us and gave us, the journalists from the Association of the Balkan News Agencies (ABNA), the chance to see the site which dates all the way back to the 1st century.
The north gate is its main entrance, fortified by defensive walls. The gate is guarded by two rectangular towers and two horseshoe towers in addition. This is where the visitors’ imagination kicks in as in they impatiently wait to hear the details about this archaeological park. Our hosts emphasize that Ulpiana was founded and urbanized by Marcus Ulpius Traianus. The city’s greatest development is noted between the 3rd and 4th century, when it gets the epithet Municipum Ulpiana Splendidissima. After the earthquake in 518, Ulpiana was leveled, only to be restored by Emperor Justinian I and renamed from Ulpiana to Iustiniana Secunda.
The walk through the archaeological park was more impressive by the minute, notebooks were filling up, and so were photo albums alongside lesser known facts. Humbly, unimposingly, our hosts presented us with this wealth.
Ulpiana has an early Christian Basilica form the 6th century, from the time of Justinian I, containing a narthex and an exonarthex, two side annexes and a crypt next to the apse. The Basilica is fortified with four round towers situated at its angles, according to the archaeologists, who add that they found traces of a pagan temple with a portico. The planimetry of this monument contains four pieces for a divine statue at the temple. The portico’s floor was fully covered in mosaic tiles and decorated with geometric motifs. 22 donor inscriptions were found in the episcopal Basilica, written in Latin, but they were all in poor condition.
Gathering ground for local and foreign archaeologists
We continued our visit to the recognizable thermal baths that were discovered as part of a big complex that was meant for socialization as well as hygiene. We heard that Macedonian archaeologists whose experience was exceptional and significant were part of the research of this complex. These baths were active from the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century. Traces of ancient heating systems were discovered here as well. Turkish archaeologists also worked on this site, having found priceless objects, ceramic lanterns, metals, 4th century coins and other materials exhibited at the Kosovo National Museum in Pristina.
Prehistoric moving items were discovered here as well, from the New Stone Age, through the Bronze and Iron Ages. We found out that the center of Ulpiana, according to a Roman urban plan, is situated at a crossroads of two main roads – Cardo Maximus which connects the north and south gates, and Decumanus which connects the east and west sides of the gate.
Archeotourism in Ulpiana
Information exchange from the spheres of culture, art and tourism is only one aspect of ABNA’s program and strategic goals. ABNA meetings focus on presenting the national cultural and historic wealth. Our colleague, Skender Krasniqi, KosovaPress CEO and our Pristina host, announced an opportunity to report from Ulpiana. Upon arrival, we witnessed the challenge that the great antique wealth posed not just to archaeologists, but to journalists, explorers and tourists alike, and that’s why the hosts invest in the development of archeotourism.
Visitors can find out that the first Ulpiana digs were made in 1953 by the late Emil Cershkov, a pioneer of Kosovo archeology, because he was the one to discover Ulpiana. He also discovered Memoria in 1956, which is located at the north necropolis of Ulpiana. Multiple tombs, three sarcophagi and a unique white marble sarcophagus dating from the 3rd century, brought from Paros Island in the Marmara Sea.
Ulpiana is an excellent archeotourism site because of its accessibility, clearly defined trails to move around the site, multilingual information boards and a guide whose professionalism and expertise enables getting clear information about the Roman city very quickly.
As a municipium, Ulpiana is a tourist, recreational and hangout spot. That was the impression we got as we and our colleagues from Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey and other countries from the Balkans and Southeast Europe left, thankful to our KosovaPress hosts for the opportunity to put the Ulpiana Archeological Park into the ABNA archives.
Translated by Dragana Knezhevikj