The Albanian language and culture, including the shqipetar, dardan & dalmat ethnonyms are not European, nor are they Illyrian in origin either, as we shall see below. Although the Dardanians were not originally Illyrians, they ARE the ancestors of many living Albanians & the culture-bearing population that brought Albanian culture, Albanian language & Albanian ethno-tribal identity to the Balkans.


The Dardanians were an Asiatic, Anatolian tribe from the Southern Caucasus. They migrated to the Thraco-Illyrian border sometime around 1300 BC. In Dardania, Thracians lived in the East & Illyrians in the West. Dardanians were always ruled by an Illyrian ruling class. Another branch of the Dardanians eventually entered Central Dalmatia & were quickly assimilated by the surrounding Illyrians. In Central Dardania, they maintained their distinct Anatolian culture even after they were defeated by Alexander the Great in 335 BC. Later, in 168 BC, in retaliation for supporting the Macedonian Greeks, the Romans massacred 150 000 Illyrians in Central Albania (Illyris) & Epirus. What was left of the Asiatic Dardanians then gradually moved into Central Albania after 168 BC. There, they mixed with the small surviving Illyrian population.


This work has been divided into 5 parts:


Part 1: Illyrians & Albanians: 2 skeletally & linguistically different populations



Part 2: Dardanians, Albanians & the Caucasus: occipital flattening & ‘cradling practice’ proves the continuity of modern Albanians with Anatolian Dardanians from Asia Minor & the South Caucasus



Part 3: Dardanians, Albanians & Anatolians: Western historians & anthropologists locate the Dardanians in Anatolia before 1300 BC

(NEW!!! NEW !!!)


Part 4: Illyrians & Dardanians: Dardanians are considered as a separate onomastic province from Illyrians in linguistics



Part 5: Dardanians in Illyris: Dardanians migrate to Central Albania (Illyris province) after 168 BC & assimilate very few Illyrian survivors





Part 1: Illyians & Albanians

skeletally & linguistically different populations


Work done in Yugoslavia and Albania in the late 1980s and early 1990s and compiled by John Wilkes helped to bring an end to Illyrian-Albanian myth…



In the matter of physical character, skeletal evidence from prehistoric cemeteries suggests no more than average height (male 1.65 m; female 1.53). Not much reliance should perhaps be placed on attempts to define an Illyrian anthropological type as short and dark-skinned similar to modern Albanians.


            John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 219


            Blackwell Publishers



In other words, Illyrians & Albanians are morphologically different people - so they cannot represent an evolutionary continuity from one to the other. The basis on which continuity is claimed for these two different ethnic groups is purely linguistic:


The evidence for (llyrian origin) is primarily linguistic; its significance has become clear only with the development of the (modern) science of historical linguistics.


Noel Malcolm

Myth of Albanian National Identity: Some Key Elements

Quoted from:

Albanian Identities: Myth and History

Edited by: Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers & Bernd J. Fischer

Page: 74


The linguistic associations between Illyrian & Albanian rest on the few associations between Illyrian toponyms & Albanian vocabulary.


But Albanian & Illyrian languages belong to two different linguistic branches of Indo-European: Illyrian - centum; Albanian - satem, making them mutually exclusive of one another. Wilkes elaborates:


In the case of Illyrian, the problems appear to be multiplying: if Illyrian belongs not to the satem group but to the centum, the common etymology of Gentius and gens must be discarded. There is no evidence in fact that Illyrian belongs to the satem group but the argument that it does is crucial to the case that modern Albanian is descended from Illyrian.


John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 73


            Blackwell Publishers


Below, Colin Renfrew shows that Albanian and Illyrian belong to two linguistic branches of the Indo-European family:


Centum (western branch)    |   Satem (eastern branch)

















Table XIII The centum/satem subdivision


Taken from Renfrew, Archaeology & Language, pg: 107


A centum language cannot evolve into a satem language anymore than Swedish can evolve into Sanskrit. Illyrian could not possibly evolve into Albanian on the exact same grounds. Albanian is a satem language, transplanted to the Balkans at approximately 1300 BC, when the culture bearers of Albanian ethno-tribal identity & language settled along the Thracian-Illyrian border.


John Wilkes concludes his book with a caustic condemnation of the state of Albanian Archaeology, accusing Albanian scholars of deliberately distorting the facts:


On the other hand, it is hoped that the unfortunate distortions which have marred outstanding progress in Albanian Archaeology will soon be corrected. As new guidebooks are demonstrating, the Albanian culture, as fascinating and varied as any in that quarter of Europe, is an inheritance from several languages, religions and ethnic groups known to have inhabited the region since prehistoric times, among whom were the Illyrians.


            John Wilkes

            The Illyrians

            Chapter: Prehistoric Illyrians

            Page: 280

            Blackwell Publishers



In Part 2, we will reconcile these facts in order to arrive at a non-contradictory theory of Albanian ethnogenesis.




Part 2: Dardanians, Albanians & the Caucasus:


Occipital Flattening & ‘cradling practice’

proves the continuity of modern

Albanians with the Asiatic Dardanians & the South Caucasus


Occipital flattening is a phenomenon that occurs in human morphology when the rear of the head is flattened. It is characteristic exclusively of Albanian Dinarics and tribes in Asia Minor & on the Caucasus side of the Iranian Caspian shore and is caused by a peculiar cradle used by Albanians, and Anatolians alike.


It shows a continuity between Albanians & Anatolians that is too peculiar and strange to be coincidental and implies that this archaic custom could only have been transmitted through the Anatolian Dardanians, the only Bronze Age Balkan population that can be traced directly to Anatolia.


There has been much discussion upon the subject of occipital flattening, both in Albania and in Asia Minor; there are two definite schools, one which believes that it is natural and racially determined, the other that it is a form of artificial deformation caused by cradling.

            Carleton Stevens Coon

            Races of Europe

            (Chapter XII, section XIII)

            Albania and the Dinaric Race

            Macmillam Press



We know today the flattening is not genetic. It is caused by a particular cultural practice common to Albanians, Anatolians and Caucasians, too peculiar to be coincidental.


Coon made further remarks in his writings about the similarity between Albanians and non-Europeans. In the late 50s, Coon went to excavate Belt Cave on Iran’s Caspian shore, a region located immediately next to the Caucasus & Anatolia.  His remarks are implicit:


Physically, the people looked more European than any others I had seen in the Middle East, both in their facial features and in their clothing. Many of them particularly resembled northern Albanians, a people whom I had studied in 1929 and 1930 and I soon saw one reason why.


In Albania, mothers strap babies to cradles, which they carry with them as they go to the market or go about their work. Although the infants’ heads are no bound, the immobilization of their shoulders forces them to lie on the back of their heads. As a result the heads are flattened in infancy and this condition is retained throughout life. As soon as I saw a pair of young mothers carrying their babies in such cradles, I knew why these people looked so much like Albanians.


Here was a surviving culture closely linked to the origins of European civilization, lived in by a people of European physical type, in the one part of Iran which has enough rainfall to preserve the forest on which its technological aspects depended.


There could be no question of this culture having come from Europe. The whole trend of history has gone in the opposite direction.


The Seven Caves

Carleton Stevens Coon

Chapter 4: Belt Cave and the Caspian Shore

Page: 135

Knopf, New York, 1957



After noting that Caspian Iranians share a common physical type, material culture and the unique cradling practice with European Albanians, Coon nullifies any possibility that this Caspian coastal population could have come from Europe or anywhere from the west.


The men who inhabited these houses wore round black caps, homespun jackets of wool of black sheep, white woolen trousers bound by the ankles and rawhide buskins with the hair left on the skin. Ruddy cheeks, thin noses, blue of gray eyes. Where were we now? We might have been back in the Balkans in Albania, Yugoslavia or even farther west in the Tirol.


The Seven Caves

Carleton Stevens Coon

Chapter 4: Belt Cave and the Caspian Shore

Page: 132

Knopf, New York, 1957



Coon is fairly straightforward here. The cradling practice shared by Albanians, Anatolians, Caucasians and Iranians of the south Caspian shores, combined with the resemblances in physical type and clothing imply a near-Caucasian origin for the Albanians and their Dardanian ancestors. The Dardanians migrated northward into the Caucasus, then into East Anatolia and by 1300 BC to West Anatolia – at a time when ancient and contemporary historians trace the Dardanians to Troy. This is entirely consistent with Western scholars’ descriptions of the Dardanians as a wandering tribe of vagabond warriors.




Part 3: Dardanians, Albanians & Anatolians:


Western Historians & Anthropologists

Locate the Dardanians in Anatolia before 1300 BC



The accepted version was that the Dardani were kindred people of the Trojans who had degenerated in their new home to a state of barbarism.


Though for a time probably subordinate to Epirus, the Dardani maintained an independence that was later eroded by Macedonia and finally extinguished by the Romans… After 335 BC nothing is reported of them


John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 144, 145


            Blackwell Publishers


Wilkes elaborates:


In the Greek and Roman world…the Dardani…came to be linked with a people of the same name who dwelt in Asia Minor and who gave their name to the district of Dardania from which the modern name Dardanelles is derived. Other coincidences of ethnic names supported notions of a connection between the Balkans and Asia Minor. A current explanation cites as a likely context the large-scale movement of peoples…(around 1200 BC) when some of the well-established powers around the eastern Mediterranean were afflicted by attacks of the ‘sea-peoples’.


By Roman times the nature of the connection between Balkan and Asian Dardani had become altogether a more delicate matter. Then a movement in the opposite direction explained the movement: a certain Dardanus who ruled over many tribes in Asia Minor was responsible for settling Dardani west of the Thracians…


John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 144, 145


            Blackwell Publishers


Geoffrey Bibby locates the Dardanians in Ascalon, Egypt in 1192 BC, where they wages war on the Pharoah :


But business went on as usual in the land of the Hittites and all the peripheral states of Anatolia


Some of the privateers came into the town of Ascalon…They called themselves Sardinians, Dardanians, Philistines and Tekelians and they were big, brown-haired warriors with amber-mounted hilts to their long bronze swords…the fighting men roamed the streets with their predatory eyes on the virgins of the town…


Therefore, many of them banded together and struck down the amber route to the Adriatic…and across the mountains to northern Greece and Albania.


Four Thousand Years Ago

Geoffrey Bibby

Chapter 4, section 17

The Exodus: 1300 BC – 1230 BC

Knopf, New York, 1962

Page: 298


Bibby has written extensively about the Dardanians as recent Anatolian immigrants to the Balkan peninsula. Phillistines and Sardianians are well known under the term ‘Sea Peoples’ even in the Bible. The etymological connection between Sardan & Dardan is just as obvious the connection between Dardani & the Dardanelles. Note that all independent accounts of the Dardanians show them to be extremely coarse, brutal, violent & primitive by comparison to the neighbours among whom they settled, most likely by coercion. It is evident that the Dardanians’ were Sea People, as well.


We turn to V. Gordon Childe, possibly the most eminent scholar to write about European pre-history, who calls the Dardanians Armenoid and makes several interesting remarks::



At the same time, if the Takruri who attacked Egypt in 1192 BC be Teucrians from the Troad, they attest the presence of men of European aspect side by side with the Armenoid Dardanians.

            Page: 134



It looks as if, besides the Asiatic stocks, there was another element in the ruling classes of Anatolia…This is by no means inconsistent with the traditions connecting Moesians, Bythinians and Dardanians to north Balkan peoples when we recall the northerly extension and Trojan connections of the culture we call proto-Hellenic.

Page: 64


Hence it looks as if an Asiatic population occupied the whole of the plateau. The Anatolian culture as a whole should be ascribed to this stock and we may recognize their descendants among the Dardanians who resemble the Hittites in some features. But this Anatolian culture cannot be wholly regarded as Indo-European.

Page: 133



The Aryans

V. Gordon Childe

Chapter III, Section 2

 B&N, New York 1922


The Dardanians likely assimilated many non-Indo-European tribes as they journeyed from the Southern Caucasus northward and  then westward into Anatolia. Taking this westward route, the Dardanians would have been passing through Capadoccia. In the Bronze Age, all these regions were areas of extreme linguistic & genetic diversity where Ibero-Caucasian-speaking tribes co-existed with Indo-Europeans along with languages & groups which belong to neither group, almost all of which became extinct with the coming of the Turks.


From Coon’s description of living Albanian-like people on the Caspian shores, combined with the historical record tracing Dardanians’ migration into Europe from Asia, it is safe to conclude that the Dardanians must have passed  through the Caucasus as well; theoretically by 1500 BC. But to say theoretically leaves many questions unanswered:


- How long did the Dardanians stay in the Caucasus before they migrated into Anatolia?

- How long have Albanian-like people been living on the southern Caspian shores?

- Are traces of other branches of this Albanian-like population discernable in the regions through which Dardanians were known to have passed?

- How long did it take the Dardanians  to migrate from one end of Anatolia to the other?

- Was a branch of the Dardo-Albanians connected to Caucasian Albania OR is the appearance of two Albania’s in Europe & the Caucasus coincidental?


The Dardo-Albanian impact on the southern Caspian shoes, the Caucasus & Anatolia can only be judged properly after further research. More toponymic data needs to be gathered to shed more light onto this matter.  *


* All that I require to continue this research is an international directory of cities and towns world-wide. A website offering such content (for purposes of monitoring global weather phenomena) once existed 5 years ago under the address Then it disappeared 2 years ago, only to reappear under another URL a year and half ago. Then it quickly disappeared again. I had used this on-line directory to compare toponyms in Albania with toponyms in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia. I had found a total of 19 identical toponyms after comparing 60% of the toponymic data of these 4 countries over a period of 3 weeks. I didn’t check the directory for Turkey, Dagestan or Iran. I wish I had.

If anyone knows where the website formerly  found at is located, please e-mail me at I’d like to be able to integrate that research into this work but I can’t because I won’t be able to document it properly by providing a link - unless this website is still operational. I’d like to continue my research & I’d be highly indebted to whoever pointed me in the right direction.

Ultimately, 19 identical toponyms common to both the Caucasian states & European Albania suggest that the bearers of Albanian tribal identity & language spent a long time in the Caucasus because they built many settlements there that still survive. Here is the list I compiled in 2004:


Arnauti (originally a Turkish ethnonym for Albanians used commonly by Serbs & Greeks, as well)





Bali (4 shared toponyms)

Bashkimi (means victory in Albanian)



Kish (8 shared toponyms)

Kurata (9 shared toponyms)



Sheshani (5 variations)


Shipyaki (Republic of Georgia; likely a corruption of Shqipetari )

Shkoder (!)

Shekuli (means         in Albanian)



Coincidence? Unlikely.




Part 4: Illyians & Dardanians:


Dardanians are considered a completely

separate onomastic province from Illyrians in Linguistics



Illyrians & Dardanians were two separate people even in antiquity.


The excerpt below is worth reading because it sheds light on how different Dardanians were compared to the Illyrians who surrounded them. For example: out of 20 place names (toponyms) in Dardania: 4 are definitely Thracian and 8 Illyrian. This means that 8 / 20 Dardanian place names are neither Illyrian nor Thracian - nor are they Greek or Dacian. They simply cannot be grouped into any classical Balkan language:


This makes any neat apportioning of the Dardanian onomastic material less plausible and suggests that the Dardanians are better regarded as a separate onomastic province. The problems are no less in regard to the place names of the region... Out of 20 place names 4 are definitely Thracian...and 8 Illyrian. The two groups are distributed in a pattern similar to the personal names: Thracian only in the East and Illyrian mainly, but not entirely in the West.


As modern scholarship becomes more skeptical of simple theories of how change occurs in the remote past, so the homogeneities of prehistoric and historic formations have been revealed as false of illusory.


            John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 144, 145


            Blackwell Publishers


Wilkes suggests that "the Dardanians are better regarded as a separate onomastic province". In other words, they did not speak an Illyrian dialect, at least not originally.


There is also the matter of personal names. Wilkes says that Dardanian rulers always had Illyrian names. But a number of other Dardanian names have no parallel outside the area:


The ethnic affinities of the Dardanians, from whose name is said to derive the modern Albanian word for 'pear' (dardhe) as revealed by the names of their territory have been examined by Papazoglu .. The recorded names Dardanian leaders during the Macedonian and Roman wars...are all Illyrian. Native names on Roman tombstones of the 2nd to 3rd centuries are unevenly distributed in Dardanian territory, with several areas entirely devoid of evidence.


In the matter of distribution, the Thracian names are found mainly in eastern Dardania...although some Illyrian names do occur. (They) are entirely dominant in the western areas...while Thracian names are absent. In favor of (Illyrianization) may be the close correspondence of Illyrian names in Dardania with those of the 'real' Illyrians to their west including the names of the Dardanian rulers... Other Dardanian names are linked with the central Dalmatian group...


            Yet this leaves a number of Dardanian names with no parallel outside the area:


















            John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 86


            Blackwell Publishers



Note that the name Ettela could be read as Attila. A mongoloid element could have easily been picked up by the Dardanians anywhere in the Caucasus long before they ever migrated to the Balkans from Anatolia.


So, not only do almost half of all Dardanian place names have no parallels among either Thracians or Illyrians, but many Dardanian personal names have no parallel among Thracians & Illyrians also. This is unusual because no other Illyrian group (except for the Dardanians) has exclusive personal names or toponyms. Venets, Pannonians, Japodians and even the 'real Illyrians' who dwelt south of the Dardanians until 168 BC - all used similar Illyrian personal names and  their respective place names did have parallels among other Illyrian groups. The Dardanians are an anomaly; an aberration. 


We are indebted to Strabo…for a portrayal of the Dardanians: “they are so utterly wild that they dig caves beneath their dung heaps and live there but still they have a taste for music and are always playing instruments, both flutes and strings”. Though their territory and ethnic associations remain in doubt, the Dardani were, for several centuries, an enduring presence among the peoples of the central Balkans, "the most stable and conservative ethnic element in an area where everything was exposed to constant change", as the Yugoslav scholar Fannoula Papazoglu puts it…the Dardani endured.


John Wilkes

            The Peoples of Europe: The Illyrians

            Page: 144


            Blackwell Publishers


Wilkes says of the Dardanians that "their territory and ethnic associations remain in doubt". Papazoglu says that they were  "the most stable and conservative ethnic element in an area where everything was exposed to constant change". Strabo calls the Dardanians "utterly wild" and then goes on to describe their archaic living conditions. Ethnic conservatism (or xenophobia) & stability, as well as archaic living conditions persist to this very day among contemporary Albanians.


The case for Dardanian / Illyrian synonymy & for Albanian / Illyrian continuity has been adequately refuted through linguistics & anthropology. But If most of the Dardanian personal names listed by Wilkes could be translated into Albanian stem-words, then the case for Dardanian-Albanian continuity becomes even stronger than it is at this stage. That will take further research.





Part 5: Dardanians enter Albania (Illyris)

Under Roman pressure


Dardanians migrate to central Albania after 168 BC

and assimilate very few Illyrian survivors




In 168 BC, in retaliation for supporting the Macedonian Greeks, the Romans massacred 150 000 Illyrians in Central Albania (Illyris) & Epirus. What was left of the Dardanians then gradually moved into Central Albania from Central Dardania after 168 BC. There, they mixed with a small, insignificant surviving Illyrian population.


Roman treatment of Illyrians south of the Drin had reached a brutal climax following the victory over Macedonia in 168 BC. In attacks by the Roman army on Macedonian allies in northern Epirus and Illyris, 70 communities were destroyed, 150 000 of the population enslaved and the countryside devastated.


            A century & a half later, Strabo records:


" the present time desolation prevails in most parts, while in the areas still inhabited they survive only in the villages                 and among the ruins".     


            John Wilkes

            The Illyrians

            Chapter: Prehistoric Illyrians

            Page: 208        

            Blackwell Publishers




A depopulated northern Epirus & Illyris would have provided the perfect refuge for the pure, unassimilated Dardanians of Central Dardania to start over. It would have been especially convenient because Dardania is immediately to the north of Illyris. While in Central Albania, the Dardanian language & culture resisted complete Thracianization, Illyrianization & finally Romanization and developed into modern Albanian.


The Albanian language, a hybrid between Illyrian, Thracian, Latin, Slavic, Turkish, and other elements, reflects the ethnically composite origin of the Albanians.


Races of Europe

Carleton Stevens Coon



The following excerpts from other scholars shed more light on the issue of the Albanian - Illyrian myth. They are the words of Albanian scholars & dissidents:


Onomastics is of no great help in settling linguistic and ethnogenetic issues. Let's have a look at some important place names in Albanian territories, like Dajti, Shkodra, Durresi, Vlora, Burreli, Drini, Shkumbini, Tirana, etc. Are they Albanian? We can't say that, for there are no Albanian words that would explain them (as we explain, for example, Kruja with "krue" - fountain).

This might well be true, but seems pathetic in front of the fact that we can't explain through Albanian words the place names we currently use, let alone the Illyrian ones. So what?


Ardian Vebiu

(Albanian historian & dissident)



Ardian Vebiu says that it "seems pathetic in front of the fact that we can't explain through Albanian words the place names we currently use". It is not just pathetic. It is actually a debacle that very obviously nullifies any possibility of Albanian-Illyrian continuity. The meaning of names like Dajti, Shkodra, Durresi, Vlora, Burreli, Drini, Shkumbini, Tirana must be found in Anatolia, the Caucasus and on the Caspian shores of Iran.


Fatos Lubonja explains that the ethnogenesis of the Albanians was an open question among Albanian scholars in the 1950s:


For instance, the ethnogenesis of the Albanians was an open question among Albanian scholars in the 1950s, but when Enver Hoxha declared that their origin was Illyrian (without denying their Pelasgian roots), no one dared participate in any further discussion of the question. During the Communist era, literary and artistic activity as well as academic studies (especially historic and linguistic studies) all adhered to this pattern. By this means a virtual world was created in which Albanians lived within the propaganda framework of the part and of the literary, artistic and academic works, which pervaded schools, libraries, cinemas, theaters and exhibitions.


Fatos Lubonja

Between the Glory of a Virtual World & the Misery of a Real World


Quoted from:

Albanian Identities: Myth and History

Edited by: Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers & Bernd J. Fischer

Page: 96




Further Reading:


1. 15 Albanian & West European scholars reject Albanian-Illyrian continuity as Albanian propaganda



2. Albanian Internet Association Skenderbeg: more Albanian scholars reject Albanian-Illyrian continuity