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Tsaghkahovit Update: Getting the Band Back Together

A crack team from the village of Tsaghkahovit has started work this week in what is lyrically known as Burial Cluster 12, a remarkably complicated Late Bronze Age cemetery south of the main fortress.

Abbey Road, Tsaghkahovit Style?

Abbey Road, Tsaghkahovit Style?

The excavations, led by Maureen Marshall (UChicago) and Levon Aghikyan (Institute of Archaeology, Armenia) are exploring mortuary remains from a bioarchaeological perspective.  We will post finds and discoveries here as they become available.

Aragats 2015: New Season, New Sites

Project ArAGATS began its 2015 season last week, continuing excavations at Gegharot and Tsaghahovit and continuing a new program of survey in the Upper Kasakh river valley.  We also initiated a new program of excavations at the site of Aparani Berd on the outskirts of the town of Aparan.

The site of Aparani Berd seen from the south.

The site of Aparani Berd seen from the south.

These new excavations represent the first systematic efforts to explore the remains of one of the largest sites in the upper Kasakh river valley.  Stay tuned for updates.

Engaged Archaeology, Ithaca Edition

From Assemblages:

Elementary school students dig archaeology | Cornell Chronicle.

The week of June 15-19, professors Adam T. Smith, anthropology, and Lori Khatchadourian, Near Eastern studies, led a mini-course on archaeology at the Elizabeth Anne Clune Montessori School of Ithaca. Nine children ages 5-8 spent five mornings exploring aspects of archaeological research.

“It was an opportunity for students to learn about the research being done by archaeologists at Cornell’s Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies and begin to understand the importance of studying and preserving humanity’s deep past,” said Smith….

The excavations in plastic tubs were a highlight! More at the link.

Project ArAGATS, Aragats Foundation, and Engaged Archaeology

The Aragats Foundation is committed to utilizing Armenia’s heritage as a basis for educational initiatives both in the US and in Armenia.  When you teach archaeology, you teach not only history, but also mathematics, language, architecture, materials science, zoology, botany, economics, anthropology….  The list goes on.  Any subject can be taught through the lens of archaeology.
Last summer, under the auspices of an Engaged Anthropology grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Aragats Foundation Advisory Board member Maureen Marshall led a workshop in the village of Tsaghkahovit that brought the results of her analysis back to the community where her research had been conducted.

Dr. Maureen Marshall working with students in the village of Tsaghkahovit

Dr. Marshall conducted her PhD research in Armenia under the auspices of Project ArAGATS, receiving her degree from the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology in 2014.  Upon completion, she was eager to return the results of her work back to the communities in Armenia where we work.  In her workshop, Dr. Marshall was joined by two other members of The Aragats Foundation, Dr. Lori Khatchadourian and Dr. Ian Lindsay.

The 2014 workshop in Tsaghkahovit was an important first step in our mission of promoting an engaged archaeology that brings the benefits of research directly back to the communities that live amidst Armenia’s extraordinary ancient heritage.  The Aparan Heritage Center, when it is a reality, will become a center for teaching heritage to communities throughout the region.

Gegharot Shrines, in the News

The Late Bronze Age shrines at Gegharot discussed in the recent American Journal of Archaeology article by Adam T Smith and Jeffrey Leon have made it into the mainstream scientific (and not so scientific) news.

West Terrace Shrine at Gegharot

LiveScience originated the article–thanks to Owen Jarus for a thoughtful, accessible piece.

The article was picked up by YahooNews, DiscoveryNews, Fox News, NBC News,  and the DailyMail.  The latter news outlet gave the shrines its own unique spin, proving that even the Bronze Age can be sensationalized!

UPDATE: Sensationalized headlines from the Late Bronze Age:

DailyMail: “How Bronze Age rulers got HIGH to predict the future: Armenian shrines reveal bizarre practices of fortune tellers 3,300 years ago”

Ancient Origins: “Despite possible efforts to alter the future, a greedy ancient polity went down in flames”

UPDATE 2: An additional story ran in the Cornell Chronicle

Project ArAGATS and “Drone” Archaeology

Ian Lindsay and Alan Greene pilot the Project ArAGATS drone.

The use of remotely controlled aerial photography platforms (or more sensationally, “drones”) has received a lot of press in the last few weeks.  The New York Times ran a story on the use of drones in archaeology last week focused primarily on work in the Andes.  This summer, Project ArAGATS deployed a DJI Phantom 2 to help document sites within our study area in central Armenia.

Cornell has posted a brief note about this work on their tumblr feed.  And now Purdue has released a more extensive story profiling our project pilot, Ian Lindsay.  In the article, Lindsay notes:

“It’s a good alternative to kites, balloons or sitting in the bucket of a crane with a camera trying to visually document these ancient sites. Drones offer a detailed aerial perspective that we’ve never had before, and by leveraging this technology archaeologists can be more efficient in the field as drones give us an immediate sense of spatial science scale useful for planning excavation.”

The first video project is now posted online on the vimeo feed of The Aragats Foundation and below:

Ancient Aragats: An Orientation from Aragats Foundation on Vimeo.

New Publication Alert: Empires and Diversity

ArAGATS co-director Lori Khatchadourian’s contribution to the new volume Empire & Diversity has been featured in a new segment on Asbarez.com: Հայոց Հնագիտութեան Եւ Պատմութեան Նուիրուած Երկու Կարեւոր Հատորներ | Asbarez News – Armenian Edition

ՈՒԵՍԹՈՒՈՒՏ.- «Արփա» հիմնարկի վարչութեան անդամ դոկտ. Տիգրան Տալեան կը տեղեկացնէ, թէ Մայիս 13ին, Քալիֆորնիոյ համալսարանի Լոս Անճելըսի մասնաճիւղի դասախօսներու ակումբին մէջ տեղի ունեցած ձեռնարկի մը ընթացքին ներկայացուած են հայոց հնագիտութեան եւ պատմութեան նուիրուած երկու կարեւոր հատորներ։
Հատորներէն առաջինը՝ «Հայաստանի Հնագիտական Ժառանգութիւնը» («Archaeological Heritage of Armenia»), 2013ին լոյս տեսած է Երեւանի «Յուշարձան» հրատարակչատան կողմէ։ Անգլերէնով եւ հայերէնով, ինչպէս նաեւ բազմաթիւ գունաւոր լուսանկարներով հարստացած սոյն հատորի խմբագիրը՝ փրոֆ. Յակոբ Սիմոնեան, ներակայացուցած է հատորը։
Երկրորդ հատորը՝ «Կայսրութիւններ Եւ Բազմազանութիւն» («Empires and Diversity»), նմանապէս ներկայացուած է հատորի խմբագիրին՝ փրոֆ. Գրիգոր Արէշեանի կողմէ։ Քալիֆորնիոյ համալսարանի Լոս Անճելըսի մասնաճիւղի «Քոսթին» հնագիտութեան հիմնարկին հրատարակած այս հատորին մէջ հրատարակուած են հայոց պատմութեան նուիրուած երկու ուսումնասիրութիւններ, որոնց հեղինակներն են յաջորդաբար փրոֆ. Լոռի Խաչատուրեան («Քորնել» համալսարանէն) եւ փրոֆ. Գրիգոր Արէշեան (Քալիֆորնիոյ համալսարանի Լոս Անճելըսի մասնաճիւղէն)։
Հատորները տրամադրելի են «Amazon» կայքէն։

via Հայոց Հնագիտութեան Եւ Պատմութեան Նուիրուած Երկու Կարեւոր Հատորներ | Asbarez News – Armenian Edition.

US Ambassador Visits Project ArAGATS

John A. Heffern, the Ambassador of the United States of America to Armenia, visited the excavations of Project ArAGATS this week.  Touring excavations at Gegharot Kurgans, Gegharot Fortress, and Tsaghkahovit, the Ambassador tweeted his experience on his twitter feed:

Ambassador John A. Heffern with the Mayor of Gegharot Smbat Bayrakhtaryan at Gegharot Kurgan 3

Ambassador John A. Heffern (l) with Mayor of Gegharot Smbat Bayrakhtaryan (r) at Gegharot Kurgan 3

Thank you Mr. Ambassador for giving your time and attention to Armenia’s archaeological heritage.

ArAGATS 2014

The 2014 season of Project ArAGATS is underway.  As usual, a number of research projects are being conducted under the Project ArAGATS umbrella.

At Gegharot, we are continuing work in the Early Bronze Age layers of the citadel where excavations continue to reveal remarkably well-preserved stratified levels of both the early and late phases of the Kura-Araxes.

Excavations underway in T30 at Gegharot

Below the citadel, we are continuing work in a remarkable field of kurgans that appear to have been constructed at the ear lies moments of the region’s Late Bronze Age.

Excavations underway on Kurgan 3

At the site of Aragatsi Berd, we have recommenced excavations on the terrace below the citadel in order to shed more light on the site’s Bronze Age occupations.

In addition to continuing work a critical sites, Project ArAGATS has also inaugurated a new phase of regional survey focused on the upper Kasakh Valley. The goal of these investigations is to provide a foundation for a comparative regional understanding of long term settlement history in order to place the patterns detected in the Tsaghkahovit Plain within a wider regional framework.

As part of this regional research, we are using a Phantom 2 Quad Copter Drone to capture new views of the region and our sites.  We will post updates on the work during the month of July.

Aerial View of Gegharot Citadel

Aerial View of Gegharot Citadel

Spring PhDs from ArAGATS: Kathryn Franklin and Maureen Marshall

This spring welcomed two new PhDs to Project ArAGATS.

Kate Franklin completed her dissertation in the Anthropology Department at the University of Chicago entitled “This World is an Inn: Cosmopolitanism and Caravan Trade in late Medieval Armenia”.

Kate Franklin surveying research at the Medieval site of Arai

Kate Franklin surveying research at the Medieval site of Arai

The work examines the intersections of global trade and social life as constituted along the highways between late medieval (AD 12-15th c) towns and cities. Based on her excavations at the caravanatun at Arai, Franklin’s dissertation explores how medieval subjects (traders, princes, villagers, city dwellers) negotiated multiple, frequently contradictory, models of the world as they traveled.

Maureen Marshall’s dissertation, entitled “Subject(ed) Bodies: A Bioarchaeological Investigation of Late Bronze – Iron 1 (1500-800 BC) Armenia,” was also completed in the Anthropology Department at the University of Chicago.

Maureen Marshall excavating a Late Bronze Age tomb on the Tsaghkahovit Plain, Armenia

Maureen Marshall excavating a Late Bronze Age tomb on the Tsaghkahovit Plain, Armenia

The dissertation provides the first bioarchaeological investigation of Late Bronze and Iron 1 period mortuary complexes in the South Caucasus.  While her original fieldwork centered on excavations in a tomb complex adjacent to the fortress of Tsaghkahovit, in Armenia’s Tsaghkahovit Plain, her dissertation ranges far more broadly in both its engagement with data and its wider intellectual concerns.  Part reflection on traditions of skeletal studies in Armenia, part biographies of recovered lives from the Late Bronze Age, Marshall’s dissertation provides our most intimate portrait to date of lives lived in the region’s ancient landscapes.

Congratulations to both Kate and Maureen!