Research  •  Education  •  Conservation

Project ArAGATS is a collaborative archaeological research program dedicated to the exploration of southern Caucasia’s rich past and the preservation of modern Armenia’s diverse cultural heritage.  Our mission is to investigate critical anthropological and historical problems in the region from the earliest times through the modern era, utilizing cutting-edge techniques of field study and laboratory analysis.  In order to do so, we are committed to educating and training a new generation of archaeologists in contemporary approaches to analysis, to presenting the results of work in both scholarly and popular fora, and to preserving the region’s sites and material culture for succeeding generations.

Founded in 1998 by Dr. Adam T. Smith (Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago) and Dr. Ruben S. Badalyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Yerevan), Project ArAGATS is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2008.

To date, our investigations have been focused in the Tsaghkahovit Plain of Central Armenia which lies just under the northern slopes of Mt. Aragats.

In 1998 and 2000, we completed the first systematic intensive regional survey ever conducted in the South Caucasus.  This work recorded a complex history of settlements, ranging from large Early Bronze Age (Kura-Araxes) villages, to stone-walled Late Bronze Age fortresses, to well-planned towns of the mid-first millennium B.C.  But beyond the restricted confines of these settlements our survey recorded a landscape crowded with the cemeteries, irrigation canals, reservoirs, and corrals of millennial of occupation.


Our investigations have been principally guided by an overarching effort to describe the emergence, and re-formulation, of social and political institutions in the region. This concern with institutional formation initially arose from an abiding interest in the unique constellations of authority that forwarded the emergence of early complex polities in southern Caucasia at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. However, these concerns soon broadened to envelope both the constitutive practices of Early Bronze Age village life and the remarkable political re-structurings attendant to the virtually unknown world of post-Urartian towns. Even as we continue to develop a sense of the specific institutions that shaped social, economic, and political life over three millennia in the Tsaghkahovit plain, it is clear that authority in the region was produced within a shifting landscape dominated by the distinctive built environments of the village, the fortress, and the town.

Project ArAGATS is committed to bringing the archaeology of Armenia and the South Caucasus to the classroom and the public at large through teaching, lectures, and scholarship opportunities.


Course Information:

For information on courses taught by ArAGATS members at Cornell University and Purdue University, click on the links below:

Adam T. Smith
Lori Khatchadourian
Ian Lindsay

Project ArAGATS Scholars:

The ArAGATS scholars program was developed in order to help nurture young archaeologists in Armenia.  Offered in association with Project Discovery!, ArAGATS scholarships allow one graduate student from Armenia to spend 10 weeks in Chicago working with the ArAGATS team.

The first ArAGATS scholarship was awarded to Diana Mirijanyan who visited Chicago in the spring of 2008.  Ms. Mirijanyan’s work focuses on the Medieval period.

Currently, the ArAGATS scholarship program is on hiatus pending further funding.


Project ArAGATS is committed to the protection of Armenia’s archaeological resources and improving the conservation of materials.  Currently, we are working to understand how the archaeological monuments of the Tsaghkahovit Plain can serve as resources for regional development.  Plans are currently in development to preserve the site of Gegharot so that it can host both tourism and remain a site of active archaeological investigation.