Test Excavations


In 1998, test excavations were carried out at Tsaghkahovit in order to better define the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age occupation of a single site by establishing the chronological relationships between a cemetery, extramural settlement, and fortress and to investigate the unusual extensive terrace system.  Pursuant to these objectives, we opened five exploratory operations at the site: two on the fortress hill (one atop the citadel and one on a western terrace), two in the settlements (one in the South settlement, one in the Southeastern settlement), and one in East Cemetery 1, on the eastern edge of the site.  Initial examination of the ceramics recovered from the citadel trenches (n=587 for trench 1, n=791 for trench 2) descried two major components of the wares recovered from the disturbed wash layers: Middle Iron Age (53% in trench 1, 27% in trench 2) and LB/EIA (22% in trench 1, 69% in trench 2). No architectural remains or living floors were documented in association with the ceramic materials above the ash layer. Below the ash layer, the later wares virtually vanish in both trenches leaving 81% LB/EIA wares (15% were not diagnostic).  During the terrace operation we recovered two large storage vessels and a butter-making vessel, all attributable to the Late Bronze Age.  In order to define the occupational sequence of the settlements we opened test trenches in two rooms of the south and southeast settlements. In the south settlement, we excavated the western half of room A (8.35 m x 3 m). Although bearing a superficial resemblance to Late Bronze and Early Iron Age constructions from the surface, a vertical exposure of the wall face in room A (with parts of clay facing material still visible) reveals the closely hewn stones, intervening rubble fill, and regular courses that are more widely known from later eras.  The ceramic materials recovered from room 34 (n=483) were dominated by Middle Iron Age and Classical period wares (93.8%).

Our last excavation unit was two stratigraphically superimposed burials where the mortuary construction associated with cist A was built atop the cromlech surrounding cist B. Both chambers were stone lined and capped with large basalt blocks. In cist A we found 4 LB II vessels but no skeletal material. In chamber B we found 2 whole and 2 partial LB II ceramic vessels in association with a handful of human bones, including the top of a cranium and several long bones. The ceramics found in both chambers echo materials recovered from the fortress trenches in both form and design, suggesting contemporaneity between the cemetery and the fortress.


In 2000 at Gegharot fortress, we opened 3 trenches: one against the interior of the eastern wall, one on the north terrace, and one east of the fortress. Both the citadel and terrace excavations revealed well preserved Late Bronze Age occupation levels, including terrace architecture preserved to a height of 2.5 m.  Interestingly, ceramics from the terrace occupation floor at Gegharot amplify Martirosian’s findings in the adjacent cemetery, suggesting evidence of a slightly earlier Middle Bronze Age IV/Late Bronze Age I initial occupation based on key transitional forms and decorative styles paralleling materials from Nerking-Getashen, Tsakalandj, and Talin and reminiscent of Karmir-Berd and Sevan-Uzerlik horizon elements. 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 Tsakahovit between the late 14th and early 12th centuries.


In 2000 we also opened a test trench at Hnaberd fortress.  Ceramic remains confirm an original Late Bronze Age construction episode but rebuilding during the 1st millennium BC has obscured most of the Late Bronze Age level. However, we were able to isolate a Late Bronze Age level in trench F1 on the northwestern interior of the fortification wall.  Excavation of Hnaberd cemeteries 14 and 18 uncovered ceramics, metal, and lapidary remains.  Excavation of Hnaberd Area A Tomb 1 revealed a cromlech of the “budding type”. The area of “budding” (Cist b) contained several vessels. The central chamber, Cist a, were the poorly preserved human limbs and skull. There were also several animal bones,  a small wire spiraled bronze ring, 2 small tubes of bronze ribbon, 60 or more beads made of carnelian and paste of different colors though mostly blue, and several vessels of the Late Bronze II ceramic horizon.


In 2000 we excavated a kurgan at Mantash cemetery 8, Tomb 3.  The primary chamber, Chamber A, was a pit located in the center of the kurgan beneath two capstones, and measured approximately 210cm E-W and 180cm N-W.  The dromos, designated Chamber B, was on the west side of the main chamber.  It was a circular pit measuring 90cm in diameter.  In Chamber A, we uncovered a bronze dagger, carnelian, four ceramic vessels, other sherds, an obsidian projectile point, and obsidian flakes.  No human remains were found.  In Chamber B we found a large concentration of a variety of beads (mostly paste and carnelian), three vessels were found against the south wall of the chamber, just south of bead concentration.  Vessel 1 was broken, while Vessels 2 and 3 were whole.  Assorted sherds were also recovered from chamber.