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From ashes to posterity: news from the archaeological mission in Tava Tepe (Azerbaijan)
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From ashes to posterity: news from the archaeological mission in Tava Tepe (Azerbaijan)

Categories: Uncategorized -Culture and creativity -Archaeology and Heritage

New findings emerge from the Italian archaeological mission in Azerbaijan.

Vessel with applied decoration from the hut (Credits to the Azerbaijani-Italian archaeological mission at Tava Tepe).
Vessel with applied decoration from the hut (Credits to the Azerbaijani-Italian archaeological mission at Tava Tepe).

In Azerbaijan, with the co-financing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the mission of the Centro Studi CAMNES (Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies), directed by Prof. Nicola Laneri who studies the ancient societies of the Southern Caucasus through the ‘analysis of the kurgan (burial mounds, ca. 3,600-1,200 BC) and the settlement of Tava Tepe (ca. 14th-10th century BC).

For the column Let’s talk about Archaeology, Prof. Nicola Laneri updates us on the ongoing research.

The archaeological research of the Azerbaijani-Italian mission in the province of Ağstafa, in north-western Azerbaijan, continues this year. Between a bergamot-scented çay and a mouthful of lavash, the traditional flatbread already mentioned in the twelfth century by Nizami Ganjavi, the team led by Prof. Nicola Laneri, professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Catania, and by Prof. Baktiyar Jalilov of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, unearths every day a fragment of the forgotten history of the Southern Caucasus.

The research, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the University of Catania and the Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies, targets the site of Tava Tepe, which extends for almost two hectares a few kilometers to the west of the Kura River. Already during the last excavation season the archaeologists, including some students of the University of Catania, had found an impressive quantity of ceramics associated with some partially sunken houses built with reeds and beaten earth, remains of a phase attributed to the “warrior nomads” who used to transit here between the Late Bronze and the Early Iron Age.

Radiometric analyses have provided new dates which place the settlement layers exposed by the archaeologists between the 10th and 8th century BC, making the site the first with housing structures dating back to this phase in western Azerbaijan. The transhumant communities of a culture called “Khojali-Gedebey”, that used to spend here the colder months, have in fact left traces of their memory in the tradition of building burial mounds. Inside the burial chambers were remarkable bronze treasures with weapons and decorated belts, together, sometimes, with the remains of chariots and horses that had been companions to the deceased on his long journeys in life.

The new investigations, with the contribution of the postgraduate students of the Or.Sa. (UNISA-UNIOR) and the PhD in Archaeology of “La Sapienza” Rome, now provide new and important data on the settlement and production traditions, thanks to the discovery of a large hut which was associated with millstones, pestles, large sunken pithoi for food storage, and furnaces in the external area adjacent to the structure. The absence of valuable materials, such as bronze and iron, which in this phase begins to replace the former, together with the limited number of whole ceramic forms and the dense layer of ash associated with the findings, would testify that the hut was given to the flames before its abandonment, a ritual with a profound emotional impact, which is also attested in the funeral traditions of the area.

 

 

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