The 2002 field season of Project ArAGATS concentrated on archaeological excavations at two multi-component sites in the Tsaghkahovit plain of western Armenia.
Our investigations were focused on illuminating the institutional fabric and political economy that drove processes of political centralization and consolidation in Transcaucasia during the Late Bronze Age of the mid-Second Millennium B.C. To this end, we began work at Tsaghkahovit and Gegharot fortresses this summer–two sites which our prior survey and test excavations had clearly indicated boasted well-preserved LBA occupation levels that dated to the very initial stages in the emergence of complex societies in the region. At Tsaghkahovit, excavations were conducted on the Northern Terrace, Western Terrace, and Citadel. While the terrace operations revealed a single occupation of the site dating to the Late Bronze Age and yielded extensive materials related to storage and production facilities, excavations on the citadel produced strong evidence for three major periods of occupation—Late Bronze Age (stratum 1), which ended dramatically with a conflagration; late Urartian and Achaemenid periods (stratum 2, contemporary with the large village settlement sampled in 1998); and the Late Medieval period of Armenian history (stratum 3). Perhaps the most significant discovery this season from the site of Tsaghkahovit was what present evidence indicates is a large institutional complex dating to the Late Bronze Age.
Excavations at Gegharot this summer focused on two primary areas, the upper terrace (an area which test soundings in 2000 revealed contained exceedingly well preserved Late Bronze Age architecture) and the lower flanks of the hill’s western and southern slopes. Excavations in the lower flanks of the hill uncovered evidence of a very large and architecturally unique Early Bronze Age settlement that was built upon large terraces sculpted into the hillside. This settlement appears at its height (during the Kura-Araxes III period) to have extended up the entire slope of the hill as remains were found in our excavations on the upper terrace.