Research at Duzdagi ('salt mountain' in Azeri) forms part of the Aras Basin Archaeological Project, which is directed by Dr. Catherine Marro (CNRS) and by Prof. Dr. Veli Bakhshaliyev (Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences).
Catherine Marro (CNRS, Laboratoire Archéorient, UMR 5133)
Veli Bakhshaliyev (Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences)
Location and historical summary
The site of Duzdagi is located in the enclave of Nakhchivan, an autonomous region of Azerbaijan, between Armenia and Iran.
The dome at Duzdagi measures 3km by 2km. The most accessible salt outcrops are found on the western and southern slopes. Outcrops are much less visible on the other slopes, where it is not possible to access the salt deposits directly.
This mountain was first exploited in the 5th millennium BC. Survey and investigations carried out from 2008 to 2011 recovered abundant material from this period. Mining continued during the Iron Age, both close to zones previously exploited and in a number of new areas.
In the Medieval period, more new areas of extraction appear, particularly to the south-east, but also to the north-west.
It should be noted that for all of these periods of exploitation, we are currently unaware of any settlement on the mountain or in close proximity to the mines: the extreme salinity of the area, as well as the lack of a water source, prevented people from settling this inhospitable place.
Later, probably from the end of the 19th century, the introduction of explosives into mining led to the development of large-scale extraction. The Soviet period, starting in 1923, was an extremely prosperous one for the Duzdagi mine, during which extraction methods and processing of the products were industrialised. During this time, Duzdagi salt was highly renowned and was exported all across the Soviet Union.
The exploitation of the mines slowed down considerably due to the closing off of Nakhchivan after Azerbaijan proclaimed independence in 1991, and even more so after the war against Armenia. Extraction nevertheless continues to ensure a supply of salt for the Nakhchivan population.
In the 1970s, Soviet miners made a chance discovery of the remains of four minors buried by the collapse of an ancient tunnel. These remains were dated to the Middle Bronze Age, but the discovery was not followed up with an archaeological excavation.
It was after a visit to the site in 2007 that the decision was taken to launch a research programme at the Duzdagi mines. The programme began in 2008 and is currently ongoing. The excavations at Duzdagi form part of a much wider project studying the entire Nakhchivan region.
How Eveha International Participates
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development
ANR (French Research Agency) “Mines” project (a Franco-German project)
CNRS (Maison de l’Orient Méditerranéen Jean Pouilloux, UMR 5133, UMR 8591, UMR 5140, UMR 8215)
Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Nakhchivan department
National Natural History Museum (France)
Bochum University (Germany)
Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes (IFEA – France)