During the summer of 2000, the joint Armenian-American Project ArAGATS continued our regional archaeological investigations in the Tsaghkahovit Plain. The goal of this field season was to complete the documentation of the regional archaeological landscape as an initial component of a planned multi-year examination of southern Caucasia’s earliest complex societies.
This season, we performed a systematic, transect-based walking survey of approximately 53 km2 in the highlands surrounding the Tsaghkahovit plain. These investigations extended the roughly 32 km2 that had already been surveyed in 1998, allowing us to in large measure complete the survey of the slopes surrounding the Tsaghkahovit plain (small additions ot the survey were conducted in 2004).
In the course of the 2000 survey we discovered several new fortified settlements, including a cluster of small outposts in the Pambakh slopes (Tsilkar, Ashot-Yerkat [above right], and Poloz-Sar [below left]) and two fortresses on the Aragats slope (Gekhadzor and Sahakaberd).
In total, we recorded 193 discrete cemeteries within the two survey provinces on the Aragats and Pambakh slopes. 184 of these cemeteries were composed of cromlech tombs–stone circles surrounding earthen or stone-lined chambers–typical of Late Bronze and Early Iron Age mortuary architecture, a density of roughly 5.3 cemeteries per sq. km.
We also continued our test excavations in the region. AtGegharot fortress, we opened 3 trenches. Calibrated AMS dates from all three fortress sites confirm the ceramic sequences, with Late Bronze Age occupations beginning at Gegharot in the early 15th century and ending at Tsaghkahovit between the late 14th and early 12th centuries.
Excavations at Hnaberd Fortress (left) examined both the large citadel and several burials in adjacent clusters. The citadel excavations revealed a major fortified citadel with a complex stratigraphic history. Although initially constructed in the Late Bronze Age, the site was extensively rebuilt during the mid-1st millennium BC (perhaps contemporaneous with the Iron 3 period lower town at Tsaghkahovit). However, even occupation levels from the later period appear to be far less robust and not as well-preserved as at Tsaghkahovit. No excavations were undertaked in the sizable town visible just outside Hnaberd’s southern wall but this will certainly be an important objective in future seasons.
Excavations of select burials in two clusters to the east and south of Hnaberd uncovered materials recovered from these exactions suggest that the mortuary landscape documented by our survey was produced as part of the same socio-political processes of the Late Bronze Age that produced the fortresses.
The conclusion of the survey resulted in the preparation of time-series maps of the Tsaghkahovit Plain from the Neolithic through the Medieval Period. These can be seen in the links below.
Following the 2000 field investigations, several lines of analysis were pursued, including spatial analyses of site distribution data, compositional analyses of both obsidian (XRF) and ceramic (INAA) remains, C-14 excavated sites, and basic analysis of recovered human remains.