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On salt, copper and gold

 | 
Catherine Marro
, 
Thomas Stöllner

The exploitation of natural resources in the Caucasus in Late Prehistory

The exploitation of mineral resources in Armenia in the Early Bronze Age

Obsidian, metal, bitumen, and salt

Ruben Badalyan

Résumé

Cet article examine les ressources minérales attestées sur le territoire de l’Arménie, l’exploitation du métal (cuivre) et des sources d’obsidienne, ainsi que la distribution des matières premières au cours du Bronze ancien. Quoique les conditions agricoles aient été les principaux facteurs ayant influencé la formation des structures de peuplement, il semblerait que certains sites kuro-araxes aient été fondés en fonction de la localisation des dépôts cuprifères et des particularités géographiques (cols, ravins) permettant de contrôler les routes d’accès à ces matières premières. Cet article démontre que, dans certains cas, la présence de certaines ressources relativement rares (comme le sel) a pu contribuer à la formation de communautés multiculturelles comprenant plusieurs (sous-) groupes kuro-araxes.

Texte intégral

1The formation and functioning of any culture in a particular natural environment involves the adaptation of its economy to the local resources and the supply of scarce raw materials through trade and exchange. Generally, the natural resources that were at the basis of the Bronze Age cultures’ economy in the Armenian highlands and in the South Caucasus are abundant and easily accessible. These resources include copper and polymetallic ores, obsidian and/or flint, and other types of mineral and organic materials. At the same time, due to the complex geological structure of Armenia’s territory, the quantity and the types of natural minerals may greatly vary from region to region.

2A GIS analysis of the Kura-Araxes settlements in Armenia demonstrates that the bearers of this culture occupied almost all landscapes located between 500 and 2,000‑2,200 meters above the sea level (Haroutunian 2016). It is clear that Kura-Araxes settlement patterns first result from the existence of environmental conditions suitable for agriculture. Stone for construction, clay, and timber originated from widely accessible local sources. Equally clear is the correlation between certain Kura-Araxes settlements with copper-ore deposits on the one hand and strategic positions on the other, which facilitated control over major routes of communication, thus providing easy control over the sources of raw materials.

3The main principles of mineral resource exploitation in Armenia during the Early Bronze Age and also some new data and observations from our current research are outlined below.

Metal – copper and gold

4The exceptional richness of copper deposits in the South Caucasus in general and in Armenia in particular has long been a common assertion. While broadly accurate, this assertion requires a more nuanced examination to account for the irregular distribution of copper deposits. In Armenia copper is found mainly in two locations: the far south (the Zangezur group) and in the north-east, the Aghstev-Debed (Alaverdi-Vanadzor) area (fig. 1), which borders the Bolnisi ore district in southern Georgia as well as the Gedabek copper region in western Azerbaijan (Iessen 1935; Gevorkyan 1980; Meliksetyan, Pernicka 2010).

Fig. 1 – Map of the KA II settlements of Armenia and distribution of main copper and gold deposits (R. Badalayan, S. Haroutunian).

Fig. 1 – Map of the KA II settlements of Armenia and distribution of main copper and gold deposits (R. Badalayan, S. Haroutunian).
  • 1 The function of these tools was determined via use-wear analyses, which were conducted by G.F. Kor (...)
  • 2 As a rule, most of these discoveries elicited a natural desire on the part of the authors to state (...)

5Yet not only finished metal products but also, more importantly, implements of bronze metallurgy appear almost everywhere on the Kura-Araxes sites of Shirak, Aragatsotn, the Ararat valley, and the Gegham ridge, which are quite distant from metallogenic zones, and associated with all the subcultural complexes of the KA I and II periods. The artefacts relating to bronze metallurgy include: fragments of vessels with remnants of metallurgical slag and the presence of oxidized copper inside the vessels (Shengavit, Karnut, Garni), tuyères (Gegharot), crucibles (Karnut, Gegharot, Shengavit), molds for casting ingots (Karnut, Jrahovit), molds for casting tools and weapons (Garni, Shengavit, Gegharot), stone cylindrical and pear-shaped pestles and hammers weighing 780‑1,920 grams for grinding the ore and casting metal (Karnut)1, and other typologically comparable finds (Shengavit, Gegharot, Elar, Garni, etc.).2

6These materials confirm the exclusively local nature of metallurgical manufacturing – smelting, casting, and cold/hot hammering – performed on a domestic scale and at the household level of production thanks to a regular supply of raw materials from their extraction sites. This conclusion is supported by the results of the lead isotope analyses, which identified the copper deposits of north-eastern Armenia and, possibly, the isotopically-close ores of eastern Turkey as the source of raw materials for at least some bronze artifacts from the Kura-Araxes settlements of the Ararat valley and Shirak (Meliksetian, Pernicka, Badalyan 2009). Moreover, the settlements located outside this metallogenic zone employed various methods for obtaining raw materials. Only one metal source has been identified for the Mokhrablur and Jrahovit settlements of the Ararat valley (Gevorkyan 1980), but the settlements of Harich and Gegharot have used raw materials from multiple sources (Gevorkyan 1980; Meliksetyan, Pernicka 2010).

7It is clear that for some of the artifacts found on Armenian settlements, the raw materials originated not only from Armenia or the South Caucasus, but also from regional Near Eastern and/or Aegean sources. In any case, some of these artifacts do not match Armenian and Anatolian ores isotopically and were probably imported (Meliksetyan Pernicka, Badalyan 2009).

8As has been frequently noted (see for example Meliksetian, Pernicka 2010, p. 41), direct evidence of extractive metallurgy is much more difficult to find because the continuing mining of deposits destroys traces of previous operations. The rare surviving evidence of ancient extractive metallurgy cannot always be accurately dated. Yet in the past decades, in one of Armenia’s metallogenic zones – the Alaverdi-Vanadzor area – several Kura-Araxes settlements that are clearly and specifically related to copper deposits have been discovered or reinterpreted.

9A typical example is illustrated by the Fioletovo Kura-Araxes settlement located by the upper Aghstev river. On the hill occupied by this settlement there are ore deposits with prominent copper mineralization in the form of malachite and azurite, as well as traces of mining work in the form of numerous depressions and craters: their diameters range between 1 to 10 meters, they are accompanied by dumps of crushed copper ore, which were piled at random, but in a single line along the ore deposits (Goginyan 1964; Geologija Armianskoj SSR 1967; Trifonov, Karakhanyan 2004; Gevorkyan, Palmieri 2001; Meliksetyan, Pernicka 2010; see also Gevorkyan 1973, 1980).

  • 3 For a list of the sites belonging to the Ayrum-Teghut group, its localization, and possible dating (...)

10Moreover, the GIS analysis of settlement patterns has demonstrated that the extension of the Ayrum-Teghut Kura-Araxes subcomplex (KA II) corresponds almost completely to the limits of the Alaverdi-Vanadzor copper ore district.3 Equally significant is the fact that most of the territory of this copper-ore district is occupied by Ayrum-Teghut sites only (fig. 1). In other words, the inhabitants of this zone effectively enjoyed a monopoly over this resource and, apparently, specialized in metallurgy. Although the Kura-Araxes sites of this region are known through limited exploratory work, it is precisely at these sites that the greatest concentration of bronze metallurgy implements is recorded.

  • 4 This work was conducted by Dr Suren Hobosyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National A (...)
  • 5 Not to be confused with the Chalcolithic settlement of Teghut near Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin) in th (...)

11Thus, in recent years, exploratory research4 on the copper deposits located by the village of Teghut5 has identified a series of synchronous single-layered Early Bronze Age sites, in whose cultural layers were found pieces of malachite and azurite (Teghut I/Dzori gekh; the ore fragments were found scattered over the ground or inside vessels), as well as fragments of crucibles and ceramic tuyères (Teghut II/Kharatanots; fig. 2‑3). The finds described below originate from a single context, represented by a distinctive stone structure.

Fig. 2 – The crucibles from the Teghut II/Kharatanots settlement (V. Hakobyan).

Fig. 2 – The crucibles from the Teghut II/Kharatanots settlement (V. Hakobyan).

Fig. 3 – The tuyères from the Teghut II/Kharatanots settlement (N. Mkhitaryan).

Fig. 3 – The tuyères from the Teghut II/Kharatanots settlement (N. Mkhitaryan).

12Samples of ceramic crucibles (eleven fragments from seven or eight crucibles: eight rim fragments, including a spouted one, and three vessel bases) from Teghut II represent classic fire-resistant crucibles in which copper was melted, as evidenced by the presence of an inner slag layer (dark gray and 2‑4 millimeters thick), which contained remnants of oxidized copper. The crucibles’ diameter is 10‑20 centimeters, while the thickness of the walls is 1.6 to 3.5 centimeters. Two samples of crucible (both with a spout) were found at Ayrum II in the same geological-geographical and cultural-chronological contexts (Esayan 1976, p. 25, tab. 12, fig. 9, tab. 16, fig. 17).

13In addition to the crucibles from Teghut II, four samples of ceramic tuyères with cylindrical (outer diameter of 2.0‑3.25 cm, internal diameter of 0.95‑1.0 cm) and cone-shaped (internal diameter 0.75‑0.34‑1.85 cm) axial holes were discovered. As in the previous case, it should be emphasized that a few comparable discoveries precisely originate from the contemporaneous sites of the Debed and Aghstev river basins – such as the settlements of Jaghatsategh (Esayan 1976, p. 176, tab. 1, fig. 2) and Babadervish (Makhmudov, Munchaev, Narimanov 1968, p. 19, fig. 4.1).

  • 6 For Armenian gold deposits and their exploitation in antiquity, see Gevorkyan, Zalibekyan 2007.

14Gold items, of course, are not characteristic of the Kura-Araxes culture. Individual gold finds are dated to its final stage and/or to the subsequent Early Kurgan period. Yet, paradoxically, a particularly impressive piece of evidence testifies to the existence of high-tech and large-scale gold mining in an early stage of the Kura-Araxes culture: the Sakdrisi mine (Gambashidze et al. 2010; Hauptmann et al. 2010; Stöllner et al. 2010; Stöllner et al., this volume). Contrary to common views (Gevorkyan, Zalibekyan 2007), this example demonstrates that in the Еarly Bronze Age gold could be extracted not only from alluvial river deposits located near their primary sources. In Armenia, scattered and primary deposits of gold6 are mainly associated with the aforementioned copper sources and directly correspond to multiple Kura-Araxes sites, especially the settlements of the Aghstev (Fioletovo, Margahovit), Marmarik (Meghradzor), and Sotk-Masrik (Sotk I, Sotk IV) river valleys (fig. 1). Current research on these sites in this context has gained increasing relevance (Kunze et al. 2011; Wolf et al. 2011; Kunze et al. 2013; Wolf et al. 2013).

Obsidian

15Obsidian had a very prominent role in Kura-Araxes utilitarian activities, which is also reflected in its symbolic world. Apart from weaponry and toolmaking, obsidian was used as temper in ceramic productions (Navasardyan 1990, p. 133). Obsidian was also used to mark the eyes of paired anthropomorphic figures that served as andirons (Zvelis Rabati, Berikldeebi; Ordjonikidze 2000), to make jewelry (see a pendant from Shengavit in Simonyan 2013; pendants and beads from burial 56 of Amiranisgora in Gambashidze et al. 2001), while a piece of obsidian was sometimes embedded in the basis of ceramic vessels (burial 6 Samshvilde in Mirtskhulava 1975, pp. 76‑77; burial 12 Velikent in Gadzhiev et al. 2000, p. 101, fig. 60.5), and large obsidian blocks were placed in tombs as part of the funerary assemblage (Gegharot, Talin, Jrvezh).

  • 7 Unfortunately, the thorough technical study of obsidian artifacts has been carried out only on a l (...)

16In general, more than 90% of the Kura-Araxes chipped stone industry is made of obsidian. However, the range of more or less standardized, finished tools is relatively limited – these are mainly spear- and arrow-heads and, very rarely, sickle blades; since the latter were mainly manufactured from flint. Most of the remaining obsidian finds are mainly amorphous pebble nuclei, retouched and unretouched flakes, scrapers on flakes, a few blade fragments, etc., which demonstrate the post-Neolithic degradation of blade-knapping techniques and the users’ apparent under-specialization in obsidian. In other words, during the Еarly Bronze Age we are apparently dealing with an ad hoc production of tools rather than with industrial-scale manufacturing.7

17In any case, the local resources amply satisfied the obsidian requirements of the Kura-Araxes population. The multifaceted and systematic study of these resources includes geological, geochemical, and archeological studies (Karapetyan 1972; Karapetyan, Sagatelyan 1966; Karapetyan et al. 2001, 2010; Mkrtchyan 1971; Keller, Seifried 1990; Keller et al. 1996; Badalyan, Kikodze, Kohl 1996; Blackman et al. 1998; Oddone et al. 2000; Badalyan 2001, 2010; Badalyan et al. 2001, 2002; Badalyan, Chataigner, Kohl 2004; Cherry, Faro, Minc 2008; Chataigner, Barge 2010; Chataigner et al. 2003; Chataigner, Gratuze 2014a, 2014b).

18Armenia’s young volcanic formations occupy an area extending from the west-northwest to the south-east along a 300 km‑long chain of individual volcanic highlands, ridges, and plateaus. Javakheti (Kechut), the Aragats highland, the Tsaghkunyats ridge, the Gegham, Vardenis and Syunik massifs and the Zangezur ridge all belong to this chain (fig. 4), where more than twenty obsidian sources have been identified; they belong to at least fourteen different chemical groups.

Fig. 4 – Obsidian sources of the Armenian highlands (R. Badalyan).

Fig. 4 – Obsidian sources of the Armenian highlands (R. Badalyan).

19Due to the nature of the raw material and the way it may be found (exposure, screes containing pieces of various sizes), external traces of early obsidian exploitation have not been identified – only workshops located by the raw obsidian beds have so far been recognized. The mining of obsidian did not involve stripping, quarries, or the opening of mines and tunnels. However, both the existence and the dating of obsidian exploitation may be surmised from the presence of different sources of raw materials in the cultural layers.

20The vast majority of these deposits, which contain virtually inexhaustible reserves of high-quality obsidian, were systematically exploited in the Stone and the Bronze Ages, as evidenced by the presence of perennial workshops in the vicinity and by the geochemical analysis of artefacts dated between the Neolithic and the Early Iron Age. Some deposits, whose raw materials are characterized by low physical-mechanical properties resulting from perlitization (Mets Arteni), the presence of large quantities of microphenocrystals and spherulites (Khorapor, Spitakasar), or from minor features and exits (Aghvorik, Sizavet), were apparently only rarely visited; even during the exploitation of the main deposits (Mets, Pokr Arteni and Spitakasar, Geghasar, respectively).

21Subsources of obsidian were also exploited, such as the deposits of pebble beds, terraces, and alluvial fans that were subsequently formed; they may be located as far as a dozen kilometers from their primary sources. Among them, the most suitable for toolmaking were the relatively large obsidian pebbles from the Marmarik river, the upper reaches of the Kasakh river, the middle reaches of the Hrazdan river, and possibly from the Vorotan river.

22The analyses of a representative series of artifacts demonstrate that throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, two primary practices in obsidian extraction predominated. The first of these involved the simultaneous use of 3 to 7 sources, one of which is clearly dominant (50‑80%) (Badalyan 2001). This multisource model is particularly well identified on the Early Bronze Age settlements of the Ararat valley, the Shirak and the Tsaghkahovit plains and the Aghstev‑Debed basin. Thus, at least ten sources of obsidian have been recorded for the Kura-Araxes settlements of the Ararat valley. Each settlement used the obsidian from 3 to 5 different deposits (tab. 1; fig. 5.1). The settlements located in the western part of the valley (Armavir, Metsamor) mainly used the Arteni volcano to obtain obsidian, from which they collected 60‑70% of their raw materials (fig. 6). In the central zone of the valley (Mokhrablur, Voskeblur, Norabats, Shengavit, Jrahovit, Dvin, Aygavan), the settlements primarily used the obsidian from Gutansar and Hatis (50-92%); further south, at Kültepe I (near Nakhchivan), the obsidian came from Geghasar (50%).

Tab. 1 – Obsidian sources attested on the Kura-Araxes sites from the Ararat valley.

Tab. 1 – Obsidian sources attested on the Kura-Araxes sites from the Ararat valley.

Fig. 5 – 1: The distribution of obsidian on the Kura-Araxes sites of the Ararat valley; 2: The distribution of obsidian on the Kura-Araxes sites of the Shirak plain (R. Badalyan).

Fig. 5 – 1: The distribution of obsidian on the Kura-Araxes sites of the Ararat valley; 2: The distribution of obsidian on the Kura-Araxes sites of the Shirak plain (R. Badalyan).

Fig. 6 – The Kura-Araxes settlements of the Ararat valley with neighboring obsidian sources (R. Badalyan).

Fig. 6 – The Kura-Araxes settlements of the Ararat valley with neighboring obsidian sources (R. Badalyan).

23A similar situation is attested on the Kura-Araxes sites of Shirak. There, obsidian from 14 sources has been identified, and each settlement made use of 3 to 7 deposits (tab. 2; fig. 5.2; fig. 7). Overall, the majority of the obsidian (54.6%) originated in the south from the Arteni deposit, and its content in the layers decreases from south to north. In this case, close interactions are quite obvious with neighboring regions to the west, from where a significant proportion of the raw materials (28.95%) arrived. Relatively recently conducted analytical studies (Chataigner, Gratuze 2014b) have corroborated the theories based on cartography (Badalyan et al. 1996; Badalyan 2010) and confirmed that part of the obsidian of Shirak came from the Kars-Sarıkamış deposits.

Tab. 2 – Obsidian sources attested on the Kura-Araxes sites from the region of Shirak.

Tab. 2 – Obsidian sources attested on the Kura-Araxes sites from the region of Shirak.

Fig. 7 – The Kura-Araxes settlements of the Shirak plain with neighboring obsidian sources (R. Badalyan).

Fig. 7 – The Kura-Araxes settlements of the Shirak plain with neighboring obsidian sources (R. Badalyan).

24Similar cases have been identified at Gegharot in the Tsaghkahovit plain and Berkaber in the Aghstev-Debed basin. Each of these settlements obtained their obsidian from four sources, with a preference (75%) for the Tsaghkunyats ridge and Chikiani. It should be noted that such cases often arise when their provision of obsidian comes in isolated samples from relatively distant sources.

25Together with the multisource collection of obsidian, a single-source strategy also existed. Instead of extracting obsidian in the immediate vicinity of the site or from single-deposit areas, certain communities apparently chose to focus on one source of raw materials (Badalyan 2001). Such cases have only been demonstrated by a few analyzed obsidian series from the Kura-Araxes settlements of Lanjik in Shirak and Tsikhiagora in Shida Kartli, where 100% of the obsidian originates from Arteni and Chikiani, respectively.

26Overall, the emerging picture is remarkably similar to those of the preceding and subsequent eras (it should be stressed that, for a given area, the primary sources remain consistently stable throughout all of the examined periods). This fact indicates that geological and geographical realities determined its primary features, explaining its static character.

27Yet, the fact that the settlements located next to a stable, abundant source of obsidian did not contain substantial, trade-related quantities of obsidian from other sources indicates that contacts between communities were not economic in nature or, at least, were not inherently based on obsidian extraction or trade. The obsidian from South Caucasian sources found on settlements with dominant flint industries must be examined in this context; this is the case of Velikent on the Dagestani Caspian coast. It is no coincidence that all the samples originate from different sources: Chikiani, Arteni, Geghasar (Gadzhiev et al. 2000). In other words, the circulation of obsidian not only developed between economically-driven points of contact, but also in the context of other interactions, which must be explored more deeply in order to uncover the complex web of relations and factors that shaped the Kura-Araxes cultures. Additionally, we may note the absence of relatively direct links between obsidian deposits and settled communities, in particular during the Kura-Araxes period. It appears that the region’s saturation with obsidian deposits obviated the need for resource control. Inside the volcanic highland zone, the settlements were located within a range of 20/30‑60 kilometers from the main obsidian sources; on its periphery, they were located within 200‑300 or more kilometers.

28Various factors determined the extent of obsidian distribution, including the complex character of natural resources in one region or another, the presence or absence of additional incentives for human circulation, such as pastures, deposits of copper, salt, and other raw materials. In most cases, low-lying (1,400‑2,000 m) deposits presented no problems, while snow-covered highland (2,500‑3,000 m) deposits (Geghasar, volcanoes of the Vorotan group) were apparently visited seasonally, during the summer pasturing seasons for cattle.

Bitumen

29Among the key raw materials used by Kura-Araxes tribes was bitumen, an organic material with highly adhesive properties. Bitumen was used in various aspects of handicraft production and the household economy. In addition to its well-known uses for binding sickle blades to wooden or bone yokes and attaching arrowheads to shafts, documented by finds from Gegharot, Karnut, Harich, Shengavit, Garni, and Serker-tepe, bitumen was used to repair pottery vessels and similar items by covering cracks, gluing fragments, and filling chipped edges (Gegharot, burial N3 of Aragats, fig. 8.6; Mets Sepasar, Teghut I/Dzori gegh, fig. 8.2, Ardasubani crupt).

Fig. 8 – Samples of Kura-Araxes ceramics with bitumen; 1, 4, 5: Gegharot; 2: Teghut I/Dzori gegh; 3: Aragatsi berd; 6: Aragats, tomb 3 (V. Hakobyan).

Fig. 8 – Samples of Kura-Araxes ceramics with bitumen; 1, 4, 5: Gegharot; 2: Teghut I/Dzori gegh; 3: Aragatsi berd; 6: Aragats, tomb 3 (V. Hakobyan).

30There are also reasons to believe that bitumen was used as an alternative method for manufacturing large ceramic vessels. As many examples show, large ceramic vessels were constructed from separate parts – the body and neck – which were then covered by a thin layer of clay on both sides and fired (Pkhakadze 1963; Khanzadyan 1967). Apart from this method, the assemblages from Gegharot and Tsaghkasar have documented the practice of using bitumen to glue previously fired parts – the body and neck – of medium and large vessels (fig. 8.1, 8.4). A number of samples (Gegharot, fig. 8.5; Aragatsi berd, fig. 8.3) show that corrugated and wavy edges were used to improve the adherence of the vessel’s sections. Thus, bitumen was an integral component of ceramic production, which suggests its regular procurement for the residents of Armenia’s Kura-Araxes settlements. The use of bitumen for the repair of coarse cooking vessels also suggests that this material was not rare.

  • 8 Drs P. Tozalakyan and R. Gazumyan carried out the analyses at the Institute of Geological Sciences (...)
  • 9 Verbal communication with Dr A. Karakhanyan and Dr P. Tozalakyan. C. Marro kindly pointed out to m (...)

31The analyses of bitumen samples8 of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze sites from various regions of Armenia have shown that the latter is a metamorphosed bitumen of asphaltite grade, and the samples differ in their compositions. Bitumen samples from the Pambak ridge (Gegharot, Aragatsi berd), Aragats (Tsaghkasar), and the Ararat valley (Aragats) demonstrate a high degree of correlation – 0.8 to 1.0 – while the samples from Teghut/Dzori gegh are different. While the compositions of the Teghut and Areni samples are similar, they nevertheless exhibit certain differences that prevent a definitive identification. Thus, it is possible that bitumen was systematically supplied in certain quantities from multiple sources. On the territory of modern Armenia there are no deposits of natural bitumen. But such deposits exist not only in the south, in Zagros, Mesopotamia, and the Levant (Moorey 1999; Connan 1999), but also in geographically closer regions invested by the Kura-Araxes culture. Such deposits are located in eastern Turkey (in the area between Lake Van and Malatya), in Georgia (the Natanebesk deposit), and in the Absheron peninsula (the Binagadi field).9

Salt

32Another type of mined mineral has been relatively recently documented within the context of the Kura-Araxes culture. Work carried out on the Duzdagi salt mine near Nakhchivan (Marro, Bakhshaliyev, Sanz 2010; Gonon et al., this volume; Hamon et al., this volume; Marro, this volume) has confirmed the apparent, but archeologically not obvious role of salt and has also revealed the extent of its development in the Early Bronze Age. As the researchers noted, salt deposits are located almost everywhere in the South Caucasus. In particular, significant deposits of rock salt in Armenia are concentrated within the Yerevan (Yerevan-Sevan) and Armavir-Massis salt basins (fig. 9). The former, covering 750-800 km2, encompasses the Egvard, Kanaker, Elar plateaus and the Yerevan valley, and stretches north-west all the way to Lake Sevan. The first and second Yerablur dome-shaped mounds of salt deposits are an important element of this basin (Geologija Armianskoj SSR 1966; Arzumanyan 1962, 1970).

Fig. 9 – Map showing the salt basins; I: Armavir, Masis; II: Yerevan, Sevan (R. Badalayan, S. Haroutunian).

Fig. 9 – Map showing the salt basins; I: Armavir, Masis; II: Yerevan, Sevan (R. Badalayan, S. Haroutunian).

33Among the dozens of Kura-Araxes settlements recorded on these territories, perhaps only Shengavit, which is located opposite the Yerablur dome-shaped mounds, displays a direct spatial link to a potential source (fig. 10). Although there is no definitive archeological evidence to suggest the use of these salt mines whose exploitation has only been documented for the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, H. Simonyan (2013) has argued that the mines could have been one of the preconditions for the establishment and development of the settlement of Shengavit. We must also note the exceptionally rich and varied assortment of macrolithic stone tools (fig. 11), including hammers, pestles, mortars, and chimes, some of which may somehow be linked with the extraction and processing of natural resources.

Fig. 10 – 1: The settlement of Shengavit; 2‑4: The salt dome-shaped mounds of Yerablur (Digital Globe).

Fig. 10 – 1: The settlement of Shengavit; 2‑4: The salt dome-shaped mounds of Yerablur (Digital Globe).

Fig. 11 – 1‑4, 6‑7, 9‑12: Macrolithic stone tools from Shengavit; 5, 8, 13: Macrolithic stone tools from Gegharot (photos by V. Hakobyan, drawings by H. Sarkisyan).

Fig. 11 – 1‑4, 6‑7, 9‑12: Macrolithic stone tools from Shengavit; 5, 8, 13: Macrolithic stone tools from Gegharot (photos by V. Hakobyan, drawings by H. Sarkisyan).

34In this context, the heterogeneity of Shengavit’s ceramic collection, which is illustrated by an unusual combination of synchronous sub-Kura Araxes complexes, can be explained not only through the site’s location at the intersection of three subcultural habitats (Badalyan, Hovsepyan, Khachatryan 2015), but also by the attraction exerted by salt as an important food and technical product, which facilitated the formation of multicultural communities.

Conclusion

35Armenia’s Kura-Araxes tribes could rely on the raw materials from local sources in practically all aspects of everyday life, some of which were not utilitarian (as illustrated through the use of carnelian, agate, and other ornamental stones in jewelry). Yet, by narrowing our focus to a distinct geographic area, or a specific site, we may see how relative the concept of “local” may be.

36Kura-Araxes settlements in Armenia are located between 20 to 200 km – sometimes more – from obsidian deposits and no cases have yet been documented that would demonstrate their immediate spatial proximity to these deposits. Kura-Araxes settlements were even more distant from the sources of bitumen, which nevertheless regularly arrived in good quantities, since it played an important role in the technological pottery tradition. Also, while most sites are located outside the metallogenic zones, many of them have provided documented evidence showing that metal products were crafted from imported ores. At the same time the proximity of certain sites to the sources of copper ore is evident.

37When examining the strategies for accessing raw materials, we must take into consideration the fact that Kura-Araxes populations maintained a complex economy – dominated by farming but also characterized by various forms of animal rearing (including pasturing) – the scale of which depended upon regional conditions and resources. This division of labor could be both inter-communal (which is suggested by the presence of several burials unrelated to settlements, such as Talin, Avan/Jrvezh, Maisyan) and intracommunal, based on sex and age divisions. Accordingly, the procurement of raw materials could be carried out not only through mobile communities that acted as an intermediary between the source and the consumer, but also through the individual members of sedentary communities who extracted raw materials as a purposeful or tangential activity (such as seasonal animal pasturing).

38Since the available data suggest the existence of regular links between the source/supplier and the consumer of raw materials, it may be appropriate to pay a particular attention to the clustering of several large Kura-Araxes settlements around narrow passes, which made the control over the raw materials’ supply channels possible. During the KA II period, Kura-Araxes settlements (Gegharot, Pambak pass, 2,153 m asl; Aragatsi berd, Spitak pass, 2,378 m; and the Lusaghbyur, Jajur pass, 1,952 m) controlled nearly all passes and nodes of communication of the Pambak-ridge watershed, which marks a natural barrier between the deposits of the Bolnisi and Alaverdi-Vanadzor ore regions and the early bronze settlements of Shirak, Aragatsotn, Kotayk, and the Ararat valley. To the north of the Pambak ridge, the settlement of Tagavoranist exercised an absolute geographical domination. It facilitated control over the main west-east route, which crossed the Pambak valley and extended along the valley of the upper reaches of the river Aghstev (which flows toward the Frolovo, Fioletovo, and Dilijan copper deposits, the copper beds near the village Lermontovo, and toward the Margahovit and Dilijan gold deposits). Tagavoranist also exerted control over the north-south route, which linked the Pambak valley along the middle reaches of the river Pambak and further along the gorge of the river Debed with the Alaverdi copper deposits and the deposits of the Bolnisi and Marneuli plain. Equally clear is the proximity of the Kura-Araxes settlements to the Sotk gold deposits and the eponymous pass (2,365 m). Thus, the significance of the Kura-Araxes settlements must be evaluated not only – and perhaps less – in terms of their size but rather in terms of their ability to control routes of communications.

39Finally, as noted above, a GIS analysis has demonstrated that the geographic range of one Kura-Araxes subcomplex, Ayrum-Teghut (KA II), almost completely corresponds to the contours of the Alaverdi-Vanadzor copper-ore region. It is equally important to note that only the sites of the Ayrum-Teghut subcomplex occupy practically the entire territory of this ore region. In other words, its inhabitants exerted a virtual monopoly over these copper deposits and, apparently, specialized in metallurgy. Moreover, sites with analogous ceramics – Dangreuligora, Imirisgora, Shulaverisgora, Gaitmazi (Javakhishvili et al. 1975, fig. 55, 56) – are also known on the territory of Kvemo Kartli, near the Bolnisi ore district. An impression emerges that for this Kura-Araxes subcomplex metal-copper ore was a “culture-forming” factor.

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Notes

1 The function of these tools was determined via use-wear analyses, which were conducted by G.F. Korobkova for the finds from Karnut. For more details, see Badalyan 1984. It is important to note that typologically similar tools were found on the settlement of Balichi-Dzedzvebi in a clearly metallurgical context (extraction, processing of gold), see Gambashidze et al. 2010, fig. 8.

2 As a rule, most of these discoveries elicited a natural desire on the part of the authors to state a priori the existence of metal workshops; next an equally natural conclusion followed concerning the metallurgical specialization of this or that settlement (for example, Amiranisgora, Khizanaantgora, Garni, Mokhrablur; see, also, Courcier 2007, 2010).

3 For a list of the sites belonging to the Ayrum-Teghut group, its localization, and possible dating, see Badalyan 2014.

4 This work was conducted by Dr Suren Hobosyan (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia). The material discussed below was discovered during the 2010‑2012 excavations. We express our sincere gratitude to Dr Hobosyan for allowing us to use his unpublished materials.

5 Not to be confused with the Chalcolithic settlement of Teghut near Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin) in the Ararat valley.

6 For Armenian gold deposits and their exploitation in antiquity, see Gevorkyan, Zalibekyan 2007.

7 Unfortunately, the thorough technical study of obsidian artifacts has been carried out only on a limited number of Kura-Araxes sites. We primarily rely on the data from Sos Höyük (Sagona et al. 1998) and on the unpublished results of the research of L. Alberton and C. Gosselin (Université Laval, Quebec, Canada) who studied the materials from Gegharot.

8 Drs P. Tozalakyan and R. Gazumyan carried out the analyses at the Institute of Geological Sciences, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, and we express our sincere gratitude to them.

9 Verbal communication with Dr A. Karakhanyan and Dr P. Tozalakyan. C. Marro kindly pointed out to me another potential source of bitumen in Azerbaijan, Naftalan (50 km south-east of Ganja), “which is famous for its bitumen (‘naft’) and is probably more important than the Absheron sources.” However, in the sources available to me the former appears primarily as a fount of therapeutic or medicinal oil extracted from wells, with no references made to deposits of liquefied natural bitumen on the surface. Nevertheless, Naftalan’s geographic position (it is 220 km from Gegharot, for example) certainly elicits attention alongside other potential sources.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Map of the KA II settlements of Armenia and distribution of main copper and gold deposits (R. Badalayan, S. Haroutunian).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M
Titre Fig. 2 – The crucibles from the Teghut II/Kharatanots settlement (V. Hakobyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 429k
Titre Fig. 3 – The tuyères from the Teghut II/Kharatanots settlement (N. Mkhitaryan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
Titre Fig. 4 – Obsidian sources of the Armenian highlands (R. Badalyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,0M
Titre Tab. 1 – Obsidian sources attested on the Kura-Araxes sites from the Ararat valley.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Fig. 5 – 1: The distribution of obsidian on the Kura-Araxes sites of the Ararat valley; 2: The distribution of obsidian on the Kura-Araxes sites of the Shirak plain (R. Badalyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 357k
Titre Fig. 6 – The Kura-Araxes settlements of the Ararat valley with neighboring obsidian sources (R. Badalyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-7.jpg
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Titre Tab. 2 – Obsidian sources attested on the Kura-Araxes sites from the region of Shirak.
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Fig. 7 – The Kura-Araxes settlements of the Shirak plain with neighboring obsidian sources (R. Badalyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-9.jpg
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Titre Fig. 8 – Samples of Kura-Araxes ceramics with bitumen; 1, 4, 5: Gegharot; 2: Teghut I/Dzori gegh; 3: Aragatsi berd; 6: Aragats, tomb 3 (V. Hakobyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-10.jpg
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Titre Fig. 9 – Map showing the salt basins; I: Armavir, Masis; II: Yerevan, Sevan (R. Badalayan, S. Haroutunian).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-11.jpg
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Titre Fig. 10 – 1: The settlement of Shengavit; 2‑4: The salt dome-shaped mounds of Yerablur (Digital Globe).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-12.jpg
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Titre Fig. 11 – 1‑4, 6‑7, 9‑12: Macrolithic stone tools from Shengavit; 5, 8, 13: Macrolithic stone tools from Gegharot (photos by V. Hakobyan, drawings by H. Sarkisyan).
URL http://books.openedition.org/momeditions/docannexe/image/12777/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 382k

Auteur

National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography

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