Naxcivan Archaeological Project



Associate Professor of Anthropology

Project Summary

Since 2008, Drs. Lauren Ristvet (U. Pennsylvania), Hillary Gopnik (Monash U.), and Vəli Baxşəliyev (Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences) have directed excavations on Mt. Oglanqala in the Şərur region of the autonomous republic of Naxcivan (part of Azerbaijan but separated geographically). In this most recent season, they examined a part of the mountain occupied from 200 BCE- 100 CE. Previously, only a 4m test trench from 2008 was dug in that area. Our 2019 team comprised of American, Austrailan, and Azerbaijani, professors, post-docs, PhD candidates, master’s students, and undergraduates set to work supervising excavation carried out by local men, washing, sorting, analyzing, drawing, and cataloguing pottery, mapping finds and contexts on ArcPad, and documenting our methods and decisions in daily summaries. In addition to work done for the project, we adjusted to an unfamiliar schedule and environment. On our days off, we explored other local archaeological sites, more of Naxcivan City, and Shahbuz National Reserve.
While the final C-14 dates and human samples are still being processed in labs back in the United States and in England, early analysis shows some significant findings:
● A large, multi-phase building appearing mostly Roman in design and manufacturing technique, but with medieval additions and pottery from multiple periods. The building has extensions to the North and East suitable for further study.
● A medieval burial ground (tentative dating ~1200-1300 CE) of over 20 excavated bodies housing primarily infants and children, though some adults (including one with a potential case of dwarfism) were found. Bones were sent to be housed at the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan.
● Artifacts: a bone pin carved in the shape of an antelope, beads found in burial pits, corroded metal arrowhead, and four grinding stones.
After the close of the season I examined trends in the growing, storing, and eating practices of the region, expanding into the rest of the European steppe to establish a comparison. I looked at articles employing botanical, osteological, and architectural approaches to quantifying and classifying different grains and measuring the degree to which agricultural practices shaped diets and settlement organization.