Human Ecology

, 39:333 | Cite as

Cross-Cultural Ethnobiology in the Western Balkans: Medical Ethnobotany and Ethnozoology Among Albanians and Serbs in the Pešter Plateau, Sandžak, South-Western Serbia

  • Andrea PieroniEmail author
  • Maria Elena Giusti
  • Cassandra L. Quave


An ethnobiological study concerning the medical ethnobotany and ethnozoology of two neighbouring communities of Serbians and Albanians living in the Pešter plateau (south-western Serbia) was conducted, the latter representing a diasporic community that immigrated to the area approximately three centuries ago. Sixty-two botanical taxa used in 129 plant-based remedies and 204 folk plant uses were recorded. In addition, 31 animal-derived remedies and 27 mineral or non-indigenous products were also documented. Approximately half of the recorded phytotherepeutical uses have been recorded for the first time in the ethnobotany of the Western Balkans and more than one-third of these uses have no correlation with Western evidence-based phytotherapy. Moreover, while both communities use approximately the same number of medicinal plants, two-thirds of the botanical taxa, but only one-third of plant folk medical uses are found in common among the two communities. These findings demonstrate that the two communities, although having lived in close proximity to each other during the past three centuries and in a relatively low biodiverse environment, have maintained or developed unique phytotherapeutical trajectories. The differences between the two folk medical biologies of these communities are reflective of the specific history of the Albanian diaspora, and of the complex processes of its cultural adaptation over the last three centuries.


Ethnobotany Ethnozoology Serbia Pešter Phytotherapy Albanians 



Special thanks are due to all the inhabitants of the visited communities, for their warm hospitality and for sharing their knowledge with the authors who collected the data in the field (AP and MEG); and to our translator and field assistant, Mezahir Haxhijaha, Rahovec, Kosovo, for his fantastic and unforgettable enthusiasm.

The authors wish to thank especially Dr. Fabio Firenzuoli and Dr. Elio Rossi (Regional Centre for Ethnomedicine, Region Tuscany, Firenze) and the Department of Health of the Region Tuscany, which made this project financially feasible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Pieroni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria Elena Giusti
    • 2
  • Cassandra L. Quave
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Gastronomic SciencesPollenzoItaly
  2. 2.Department of History of Arts and Performing ArtsUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  3. 3.University of Arkansas for Medical SciencesLittle RockUSA

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