Erina Baci on an archaeological survey in Peja, Kosova. Photo by Zhanta Gjyshja.

As we continue with our Student Research Spotlight series, we meet another member of the Museum’s 2018 cohort of Ph.D. students.

Erina Baci’s research focuses on the prehistory of the Balkans. In a sense, archaeology connects Baci not only to the past but also to her own history. She was born in Albania and spent part of her childhood there, and she has always been enamored of the past. Growing up, she heard stories of the Illyrians. Her father’s hometown contains one of the country’s most famous archaeological sites: the royal tombs of Selcë e Poshtme. Early on, Baci decided she wanted to know the facts behind the common myths and stories, and this led her to pursue a career in archaeology.

Baci earned a bachelor’s degree in archaeology at the University of Toronto, St. George. During her time there she worked on materials from many regions, including the Near East and Eastern Europe, and she developed many skills and interests, including micro-refuse analysis, ceramic illustration, and archaeological digitization. Baci had her first field experience at a field school, excavating a historic site in Toronto. Following that experience, Baci excavated in Sechelt, British Columbia, with the Shíshálh Nation and Gary Coupland and Terence Clark.

In order to complete her master’s degree in applied anthropology, Baci moved to Mississippi State University. There she began working with Michael Galaty, who is now the director of UMMAA. For her thesis, she used world systems theory and spatial analysis to study settlement patterns in Albania from the Iron Age to the collapse of the Roman Empire. Her research addressed the interactions of native Illyrians with other groups of people, mainly the Greeks and Romans.

Baci plans to continue her research on Albania and Kosovo. She suggests these places are understudied, particularly given their prominent position in the Mediterranean. Last summer she was the GIS database manager for a project known as Regional Archaeology in the Peja and Istog Districts of Kosova (RAPID-K), directed by Galaty, Sylvia Deskaj-Galaty, and Haxhi Mehmetaj. With her knowledge of GIS and spatial statistics, she plans to study how native communities in the Balkans interact with foreign forces and how indigenous communities perpetuate their lifeways in the face of colonialism, even when maintaining worldviews happens “underground.” 

At UMMAA, Baci finds that her work is a good fit with research that the faculty and other graduate students are doing. She enjoys the challenging coursework and the community of scholars with whom she collaborates.