Catherine Marro (CNRS, Laboratoire Archéorient, UMR 5133)
Veli Bakhshaliyev (Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences)
How Eveha Participates
The 2014 fieldwork season
The project is based around three main research areas. The first of these involves further excavations at the site of Kültepe I, which was excavated in the 1950s and 1960s, in order to gain a better understanding of the stratigraphy, of which only a very broad overview had been published. Excavations are focused on the earliest phases of occupation of the site, dating to the Neolithic, but also on the transition between the Chalcolithic and Kura-Araxes periods.
Another aspect of the project is aimed at studying archaeometallurgy, and this year the site of Zirinçlik was explored. Evidence for early metalworking here (axe moulds, slag, etc.) turned out to be rather disappointing, as the site had been heavily eroded. The excavations at Zirinçlik also fit in with the project’s third research area, which examines transhumance sites in the Sirab region. It was in the context of this aspect that excavation took place at the Sorsu camp site.
Considerable efforts were once again concentrated on the vast site of Duzdagi, coordinated in the field by Thierry Gonon for Éveha International. Work in several trenches was begun, continued or completed this year.
These trenches are located in two different zones: firstly, to the west, is Window 2 (particularly its lower part), where the Aras Basin Archaeological Project has focused its excavations since 2011. Secondly, in order to examine mining structures in different types of saliferous formations, work began this year in the central part of Window 4, approximately 500m north of previous zones. In this area, the possibility of access to the underground sites looked promising.
In Window 2, several different extraction techniques were found close together. Based on initial evidence, these variants appear to be more or less contemporary. In this zone, where extraction was largely carried out in the open air, the rapid erosion of the salt has heavily masked tool marks, which are essential elements of technical studies in mining archaeology.
Mine shaft M7, the most southerly point excavated, is a simple shaft, completely vertical, approximately 4 metres deep and with a mostly regular diameter of about 1 metre. Tool marks are poorly preserved as a result of intensive leaching of the walls. However, it seems likely that they were made using stone tools, and are therefore very early (Kura-Araxes or Iron Age).
Mine M1, north of this zone, is home to two different extraction techniques, indicating a relative chronology. Firstly, to the west, where the salt bed was visible at the surface, the first people to exploit the mountain in the Kuro-Araxes period, carried out an extraction “en casquette”. These extractions “en casquette”, as well as those in shafts, remain relatively small-scale.
Later, during the Iron Age, exploitation developed to the east of the above-mentioned sites. Here, the extraction faces were protected from erosion by a significant deposit of colluvium measuring several metres and which was probably deposited very rapidly. Here, the mining was done by removing slabs of salt 5-10cm thick from a huge flat area. These slabs seem to have had standardised dimensions, and were probably commercialised.
Window 4 revealed the first genuine remains of the ancient underground tunnels. These consist of a series of adjoining porches which exploit the full depth of the salt bed (2-3 metres), over a distance of about 20 metres. To date, these are the largest known extraction zones at the site, and they were predominantly worked using stone tools. Only the central zone was subject to later mining using explosives. Again, it appears that here the products extracted were standardised, probably with a view to commercialisation. A sondage in the most northerly porch revealed a sherd of pottery dating to the Kuro-Araxes period and a small hearth, which will be radiocarbon dated. Excavations in the entrance zone produced a rather unusual artefact: a pair of rope shoes. We are also waiting on the radiocarbon date from this object. This fascinating area will be studied in greater depth over the course of the next field season.