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Photo: Martin Lemke
The city of Bassania in Albania is no longer a legend.

There is always more to be discovered. Maybe just under our feet.

That is what some archaeologists found not long ago in Albania.

As Christina Ayele Djossa writes at Atlas Obscura, “Sometimes, rocks are more than crumbled pieces of the earth. Sometimes, they unveil clues about our planet’s ancient past or future. For archaeologists from the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre at the University of Warsaw, the rocks in Shkodër, Albania, turned out to be the ruins of the 2,000-year-old lost city of Bassania.

“Back then, Bassania was an economic and military stronghold, part of the Illyrian kingdom, which existed from 400 to 100 B.C. The ancient city contained numerous settlements and fortresses, one of which the archaeologists unearthed.

“What they found were ancient stones of a fortress guarded with large bastions and roughly 10-foot-wide stonewalls and gates. These defensive buildings, according to University of Warsaw professor Piotr Dyczek, are common in Hellenistic architecture. The team confirmed the age of the ruins by analyzing nearby coins and ceramic vessel fragments, which dated back to the time of the Illyrian kingdom. …

“But this city, and the Illyrian kingdom, ultimately fell to a Roman invasion in the beginning of the first century. This may be why it took so long for archaeologists to find Bassania. … The Polish and Albanian archaeologists also speculate that the location’s geological infrastructure has something to do with it. The ruins are found on a ‘hill locally called “lips of viper” in [the village of] Bushat, a few miles from Shkodër,’ wrote Dyczek. After years of erosion, the stone remnants look like a part of the sandstones and conglomerates that make up the hill. So to a passerby, it might look like a bunch of stones, not a structure made by humans.”

Now I want to know why any hill would be called “lips of viper.” Always more discoveries to be made.

More at Atlas Obscura, here.

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One of Studio 360‘s regular hosts spoke recently with a woman who believes good design can and should be used to enhance the most mundane and cheerless places.

The radio show’s website says, “Going to the DMV, doing the dishes, commuting to work: what would you change if you could? Kurt talked with designer Ingrid Fetell about how better design can make all the difference.

“Fetell wants to ‘create principles that are informed by what the cognitive sciences are showing us about the way that objects, surfaces, colors, textures, patterns make us feel, and use those as principles for designing things that really make us feel good,’ she tells Kurt Andersen. Her curiosity stems from noticing that certain things seem to universally make people feel a sense of joy — like confetti, balloons, and bubbles. ‘It was really born out of a curiosity to understand why certain things make even babies smile.’

“She points to Edi Rama as a real-life example of putting these ideas into practice. Rama, who is now Prime Minister of Albania, was named the World Mayor in 2004 after painting much of Tirana in bright colors. The results were remarkable. ‘He found that people actually started paying their taxes after the painting,’ she tells Kurt. ‘People stopped littering as much and the shopkeepers started taking the metal grates off their windows and opening glass window fronts back out to the street.’ ” More here.

I like the idea of trying to understand what makes a baby smile. Or laugh. There are so many wonderful YouTube videos of babies laughing hysterically when someone tears paper or when a dog eats popcorn. Why is that hilarious? Because it’s startling?

By the way, Studio 360 is collaborating with Fetell and IDEO “to redesign a thing, place, or experience that is unnecessarily joyless.” Send your ideas on Twitter or Instagram, and tag #bringjoy. I sent “homeless shelter.”

Paint job: Edi Rama, who became prime minister of Albania

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