In the hills northwest of the modern city of Durrës (Albania), the ancient Epidamne-Dyrrhachion, Vangjel Toçi unearthed from May 1970 to October 1971 a huge votive deposit dating from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period: about 1.8 t of figurative terracotta fragments with a majority of protomai (probably the largest find of this kind in the Mediterranean world), about 4 t of ceramic shards, more than 600 bronze coins, as well as some fragments of stone sculptures and bronze objects. The excavator then identified the sanctuary as that of Aphrodite; but, despite its exceptional importance, this excavation remained entirely unpublished and was forgotten once it was backfilled.
In 2002-2003 an Albanian-French team was formed with the ambition to study and publish as a whole all the field data and finds from this sanctuary, one of the very few found in Southern Illyria. Since then there have been annual one-month campaigns, within the framework of an agreement between the University of Lille (research unit Halma UMR 8164), the French School of Athens and the Institute of Archaeology of Tirana. In addition to the storage, classification and restoration of the objects, this work has achieved several important results: the characterization of the ceramic crafts of Dyrrhachion (production of vases, figurines); the characterization of votive and ritual practices in the sanctuary; the new identification of the sanctuary as Artemision, argued on the basis of the terracotta repertory, votive inscriptions and textual data. This is all major information for the topography of the ancient city.
Since 2014, the team has been engaged in the preparation of the publication in the form of a monograph; the state of progress, with half of the chapters and catalogues written, makes it possible to envisage the deposit of the manuscript by 2023. The support of the Shelby White & Leon Levy Foundation will enable the continuation of the annual missions to the Durrës Museum and will give Albanian colleagues, in particular, the opportunity to stay at the library of the French School of Athens where they will have access to the documentation essential for the the chapters for which they are responsible. Finally, two meetings of the team will be organized, one in Berlin and the other in Athens, to prepare together the synthetic chapters and to harmonize those prepared individually by the members of the team.
The publication project is directed by Arthur Muller, University of Lille (Emeritus).