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On salt, copper and gold

 | 
Catherine Marro
, 
Thomas Stöllner

Early mining and metallurgy within their broader economic context

Archaeological investigations at Nakhchivan Tepe

Veli Bakhshaliyev

Résumé

Les travaux récents menés sur le site de Nakhchivan Tepe, site plat situé sur la rive droite de la rivière Nakhchivançay près de la ville actuelle de Nakhchivan, ont mis au jour les restes d’un établissement datant du début du Ve millénaire av. J.‑C., appartenant clairement à l’horizon culturel de Dalma : de la céramique chamois décorée avec des impressions digitales est attestée à côté de céramique à décor imprimé et de céramique peinte. Ces productions n’étaient connues jusqu’à présent que dans le bassin du lac d’Urmiah ou dans les montagnes du Zagros en Iran. La découverte de minerai de cuivre, associée à la prédominance de l’obsidienne de Syunik dans l’assemblage lithique, suggère que ces groupes traversaient le Nakhchivan pour obtenir les matières premières nécessaires à leurs besoins dans les barrières montagneuses du Zanguezour.

Texte intégral

1The existence of connections between the cultures of South Caucasus and those of the Middle East (including Mesopotamia) has drawn the attention of researchers for many years. Scholars such as R.M. Munchayev (Мунчаев, Амиров 2009), O.A. Abibullayev (Абибуллаев 1982, p. 72), I.G. Narimanov (Нариманов 1985; Nərimanov 2003, p. 32), T.I. Akhundov (Akhundov 2007) and others have surmised the spread of Middle Eastern cultures towards the South Caucasus. Although such connections have been suggested by single finds on a few occasions, they may now be demonstrated by complete archaeological complexes, such as the Leyla Tepe culture (Akhundov 2007). Another such complex is illustrated by the settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe (fig. 1), which may be characterized as a Dalma Tepe site.

Fig. 1 – The settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 1 – The settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

2The settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe is located on the right bank of the Nakhchivançay river (fig. 2), at the height of 853 m asl. The settlement is located on the brink of a steep slope created by erosion and the river. The river bed now lies ca 200 m away from the settlement. Part of the settlement today is a cultivated field, and part of it was destroyed during the construction of a bridge built over the Nakhchivançay. What remains of the archaeological site now covers an area of approximately 2 hectares.

Fig. 2 – Sites mentioned in the text (map background: O. Barge, CNRS, Lyon).

Fig. 2 – Sites mentioned in the text (map background: O. Barge, CNRS, Lyon).
  • 1 This work has been funded by the Science Development Foundation monitored by the President of the (...)

3Excavations were carried out in 2017 in two soundings (3x2 m) and two excavation squares (10x10 m); they lasted for four weeks. Although the soundings have cast some light on the thickness of the occupation layer, the settlement layers in that area are fairly disturbed. Therefore, only the data of the two excavation squares will be discussed here.1

4The ceramic assemblage belongs to two different periods, which have been defined after the stratigraphy of the settlement. However, it should be noted that the ceramic groups of the two periods display common characteristics in terms of technology and ornamentation to a certain degree. The ceramics were mainly crafted by using coils, whose clay layers partly overlap. Some of the vessels are slipped, either to change the vessel’s colour or for decoration purposes. Of particular interest is the finger-impressed decoration, typical of the earlier stage of the Dalma culture: they appear as coarse, sometimes overlapping, impressions over the vessel’s outer surface. This kind of decoration technique has been compared with present-day ethnographic work (Henrickson, Vitali 1987, pp. 37‑40). The pottery from Nakhchivan Tepe is generally made with chaff inclusions, and fired to different shades of red. Pottery with sand inclusions is represented by a single example. Gray wares are also represented by a single potsherd.

5The pottery from the upper horizon belongs to the last occupation level. The associated architecture is rectangular. The ceramic production of this horizon can be divided into six groups. The first group is composed of plain pottery; the second group of painted ceramics (fig. 3, 4); the third group contains red slipped pottery (fig. 5); in the fourth group we find ceramics with an impressed decoration including fingertip impressions (fig. 6.1‑2, 6.4; fig. 7.6‑8); the fifth group comprises stamp-decorated pottery (fig. 6.3; fig. 7.7); while the sixth group comprises pottery that is decorated with horizontal stripes.

Fig. 3 – Painted ceramics from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 3 – Painted ceramics from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 4 – Painted pottery from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 4 – Painted pottery from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 5 – Red-slipped ceramics (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 5 – Red-slipped ceramics (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 6 – 1, 2, 4: Finger-impressed decoration; 3: Comb-impressed decoration (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 6 – 1, 2, 4: Finger-impressed decoration; 3: Comb-impressed decoration (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 7 – Impressed decoration from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 7 – Impressed decoration from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).

6The second period is divided into two stages. But the pottery assemblage of the first period is also attested in the second period, with some changes. The red burnished ceramics with black paint for instance gradually disappear. The painted pottery appears sometimes in red, and sometimes in yellow and cream. The proportion of impressed ceramics increases. It should be noted that impressed ceramics have so far not been found in the lower layers of the settlement of Kültepe near Culfa (Abedi et al. 2014, p. 38, fig. 10.1‑3, 10.5‑8) where other types of Dalma Tepe ceramics, mainly painted, are attested. This means that ceramics decorated with impressions are characteristic of the early stage of the Dalma Tepe culture. Part of the pottery of this period is decorated with wide stripes of red paint. In one case, black paint is used instead. Unfortunately the decoration was not preserved in its entirety. Therefore, it is not possible to restitute the full pattern of this decoration for the moment. Certain changes are also visible in the evolution of plain ceramics. Some of these ceramics are coated with red paint inside and outside; they are well-polished and were undoubtedly used to serve food.

  • 2 The faunal remains have been studied by Rémi Berthon (MNHN), whom I would like to thank here warml (...)

7The study of animal bones from Nakhchivan Tepe has shown that the residents were generally engaged in cattle and caprine herding. Hunting occupied a minor place in the economy. The presence of a few dog bones, as well as the bone of an equid, may be noted.2 Botanical remains have not been found so far. Remains of charcoal found throughout the occupation layers are insignificant. The wet-sieving of ashy remains from the various hearths brought to light during the excavations has so far not yielded any results. Future research will hopefully reveal more information on the economy of the ancient settlers of Nakhchivan Tepe.

  • 3 The analysis was carried out by the CEDAD in Lecce (Italy). The conventional radiocarbon ages of t (...)

8The pottery of the settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe can be dated to the first half of the 5th millennium BC.3 The lower horizon of this site has been dated by the radiocarbon analysis of a piece of charcoal to the 4945‑4722 BC (cal.) time span (2 sigmas) (fig. 8).

Fig. 8 – 14C date obtained from a piece of charcoal sampled in the earliest occupation level, Nakhchivan Tepe (Reimer et al. 2013).

Fig. 8 – 14C date obtained from a piece of charcoal sampled in the earliest occupation level, Nakhchivan Tepe (Reimer et al. 2013).
  • 4 The geochemical analyses have been graciously carried out by Dr Marie Orange (Southern Cross Unive (...)

9The site of Nakhchivan Tepe matches well with other Chalcolithic settlements recently found in the valleys of the Nakhchivançay and Sirabçay rivers (fig. 9) between 2010 and 2016 (Бахшалиев 2014; Бахшалиев 2015). Altogether, they make it possible to establish a periodization of the Chalcolithic period of the South Caucasus that includes Azerbaijan. Moreover, it should be noted that the ceramic evolution of Nakhchivan Tepe stands in close parallel to that of Dalma Tepe. Painted ceramics belonging to the Dalma Tepe culture have been found on the settlements of Uzun Oba and Uçan Ağıl (Baxşəliyev 2017, pp. 117‑124). One example of impressed decoration has also been found at Uçan Ağıl, but nowhere else so far. Similar ceramics are also occasionally attested on a few sites of the Karabagh region (Ахундов 2017, pp. 197‑198, табл. 22.1, 56.1 et al.). These finds could be related to the fact that many of the sites located in the Lake Urmiah basin usually obtained their obsidian from the region of Syunik (Khademi et al. 2013). In Nakhchivan, they generally used the obsidian from the region of Gökçe (present-day Sevan) (Бахшалиев 2015, p. 143). Although the obsidian beds of Syunik are closer to Nakhchivan than those of Gökçe, the obsidian from Syunik comes second in percentage (Бахшалиев 2015, p. 143) with one major exception: the mountain sites located in the Sirab area, such as Uçan Ağıl, Bülov Qayasɪ or Kolani would preferably use the obsidian from Syunik (Orange et al. forthcoming). Interestingly enough, this is also the case of Nakhchivan Tepe, whose preliminary analyses have shown that the obsidian beds of Syunik are predominant (16 artefacts) before those of Geghasar (14 artefacts) and Meydan Dağı in eastern Anatolia (5 artefacts).4

Fig. 9 – Chalcolithic sites from the Sirab basin (Bakhshaliyev, Novruzov 2010).

Fig. 9 – Chalcolithic sites from the Sirab basin (Bakhshaliyev, Novruzov 2010).

10Thus, the tribes from the Lake Urmiah basin had seemingly access to the obsidian deposits of the Zangezur mountain range through Nakhchivan. It should be noted that a stone hammer was recently found in the Nakhchivançay valley, not far from Nakhchivançay Tepe, which displayed traces of copper ore over its surface (fig. 10): since some copper ore was also found in the occupation layers of Nakhchivan Tepe, all this evidence suggests that connections between the Zangezur Mountains and the south were not only established around the exploitation of obsidian, but also around the procurement of copper.

Fig. 10a‑c – Stone tool with traces of copper ore; this tool is a stray find that was discovered some 3 km to the north-west of Nakhchivan Tepe by the shore of the Nakhchivançay river (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 10a‑c – Stone tool with traces of copper ore; this tool is a stray find that was discovered some 3 km to the north-west of Nakhchivan Tepe by the shore of the Nakhchivançay river (V. Bakhshaliyev).

Fig. 10a

  • 5 This settlement is called by some researchers Pushti Kuh (Henrickson 1983, p. 436) or Kuhi Sefid ( (...)

11Dalma Tepe ceramics were first identified and described on the eponymous site by Charles Burney’s excavation in 1959, and later in 1961 by Cuyler Young (Hamlin 1975). Similar ceramics were also brought to light at Hasanlu, Haji-Firuz (Voigt 1983, p. 20) and Tepe Seavan (Solecki, Solecki 1973). Dalma Tepe pottery has been found in Iran and Iraq together with typical Halaf and Obeid ceramics. Similar ceramics were collected during a survey in the Zagros Mountains, in the Kangavar valley for instance on sites such as Seh Gabi B (Henrickson 1983, pp. 153‑169) and Godin Tepe (Young 1974; Henrickson 1983, pp. 172‑173), where Dalma Tepe period layers are attested (Levine, Mcdonald 1977). Numerous Dalma Tepe ceramics were also found in the Mahidasht valley, among the surface materials of 16 settlements. Among these sites, we may note the settlement of Tepe Siahbid (Henrickson 1983, pp. 305‑314), as well as Choga Maran (Henrickson 1983, p. 317), where a sounding was opened, and Tepe Kuh5, which was only surveyed. Among the material from Tepe Kuh, which was collected from the surface, Dalma ware clearly predominated (Henrickson, Vitali 1987, p. 38). Similar ceramics have also been found in Iraq on the settlements of Jebel, Kerkuk (Henrickson 1983, p. 39), Tell Abad, Kheit Qasim and Yorgan Tepe (Henrickson, Vitali 1987, pp. 39‑40). It should be noted that Dalma ware also predominated in the Kangavar valley, but in the Mahidasht valley, it seems to be less frequent. While Dalma ware amounts to 68% in the Kangavar valley, in Mahidasht this figure falls to 24% (Henrickson, Vitali 1987, p. 39). Dalma ware is clearly less frequent in the south. This type of ceramics was known to be widespread to the south and the west of Lake Urmiah, we now know that it was also present in the north of Lake Urmiah (Abedi 2017), and extended as far as Nakhchivan. In Iranian Azerbaijan, this culture is also attested in the settlement of Kültepe-Culfa (Abedi et al. 2014), Ahranjan Tepe (Talai 1983), Lavin Tepe (Hejebri et al. 2012), Ghosha Tepe (Hejebri, Purfaraj 2005, p. 304), Idir Tepa (Abedi 2017, p. 80) and Baruj Tepe (Alizadeh, Azarnoush 2003a; Alizadeh, Azarnoush 2003b). Similar ceramics have been discovered in this area on more than a hundred sites. Some of these settlements were occupied by sedentary populations, while others were visited by tribes living a nomadic way of life (Abedi 2017, p. 80). According to Abedi, this culture blossomed in north-western Iran, and extended from here to the south and to the west of the Urmiah basin (Abedi 2017, p. 80). The chemical analysis of Dalma ware from Iranian sites has shown that it was produced locally (Henrickson, Vitali 1987, p. 40).

12Thus, we may conclude that the area of formation and distribution of the Dalma Tepe culture included Nakhchivan. Further studies will undoubtedly clarify the nature of the interactions attested between the tribes of the Urmiah basin and those of Nakhchivan. Issues related to the origins of the Dalma Tepe culture will also be clarified.

13Nakhchivan Tepe now appears as one of the most ancient Chalcolithic sites of the South Caucasus. The excavations carried out on this settlement make it possible to identify an early stage of the Chalcolithic period, while the available data suggest that the ancient occupants of Nakhchivan Tepe engaged in cattle and caprine herding.

14The remains of copper ore found in various layers of Nakhchivan Tepe also suggest that these people had a good knowledge of their environment, including copper sources. Together with the other remains of copper ore and artefacts from Kültepe I, Uçan Ağıl, Zirinçlik, and Ovçular Tepesi (see Gailhard et al., this volume), this shows that Nakhchivan was a very active metallurgical center in the Caucasus. Metal products were crafted in Nakhchivan with the use of local raw materials, as demonstrated by geochemical and lead isotopic analyses. The nozzles and the flat-axe clay casting molds, together with many other finds from Ovçular Tepesi, clearly show that copper smelting and other sophisticated metallurgical techniques had been mastered in Nakhchivan by the 5th millennium BC (Gailhard et al. 2017).

15The investigations carried out at Nakhchivan Tepe and the settlements located in the surrounding area will now make it possible to reconstruct the main features of the Chalcolithic cultures. This has been made possible by the recent discovery of several Chalcolithic sites in the Sirab area, such as Uçan Ağıl (Bakhshaliyev, Novruzov 2010), or along the Nakhchivançay river, such as Nakhchivan Tepe and Uzun Oba.

16Together with the work carried out on the settlement of Kültepe I, the information retrieved from Nakhchivan Tepe will be of great value not only for our understanding of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in Azerbaijan, but also throughout the South Caucasus and the Middle East.

Bibliographie

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Notes

1 This work has been funded by the Science Development Foundation monitored by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan – Grant no. EİF-KETPL-2-2015-1(25)-56/47/5.

2 The faunal remains have been studied by Rémi Berthon (MNHN), whom I would like to thank here warmly. According to Rémi Berthon, the horse bone probably belonged to a wild species. The study of the dog bones shows that dogs probably lived together with humans but were not part of their diet.

3 The analysis was carried out by the CEDAD in Lecce (Italy). The conventional radiocarbon ages of the samples were converted into calendar years by using the software OxCal Ver. 3.5 based on the last atmospheric dataset (Reimer et al. 2013, no. 4‑1869‑1887).

4 The geochemical analyses have been graciously carried out by Dr Marie Orange (Southern Cross University, Australia) in the framework of the PAST-OBS project directed by François-Xavier Le Bourdonnec (Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne, France).

5 This settlement is called by some researchers Pushti Kuh (Henrickson 1983, p. 436) or Kuhi Sefid (Henrickson, Vitali 1987, p. 38).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – The settlement of Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 705k
Titre Fig. 2 – Sites mentioned in the text (map background: O. Barge, CNRS, Lyon).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1004k
Titre Fig. 3 – Painted ceramics from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 353k
Titre Fig. 4 – Painted pottery from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 422k
Titre Fig. 5 – Red-slipped ceramics (V. Bakhshaliyev).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 343k
Titre Fig. 6 – 1, 2, 4: Finger-impressed decoration; 3: Comb-impressed decoration (V. Bakhshaliyev).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 223k
Titre Fig. 7 – Impressed decoration from Nakhchivan Tepe (V. Bakhshaliyev).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 962k
Titre Fig. 8 – 14C date obtained from a piece of charcoal sampled in the earliest occupation level, Nakhchivan Tepe (Reimer et al. 2013).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 162k
Titre Fig. 9 – Chalcolithic sites from the Sirab basin (Bakhshaliyev, Novruzov 2010).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 353k
Titre Fig. 10a‑c – Stone tool with traces of copper ore; this tool is a stray find that was discovered some 3 km to the north-west of Nakhchivan Tepe by the shore of the Nakhchivançay river (V. Bakhshaliyev).
Légende Fig. 10a
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 725k
Légende Fig. 10b
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 654k
Légende Fig. 10c
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12717/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 618k

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