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The child of Ana Zaga (Azerbaijan)
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The child of Ana Zaga (Azerbaijan)

Categories: Uncategorized -Culture and creativity

The discovery of Mesolithic human remains in Gobustan.

Resti umani scoperti nel livello 5 del riparo di Ana Zaga (circa 10.000 anni fa) – Human remains recuperated in the layer 5 of Ana Zaga rockshelter (around 10.000 years)

Between the 5th and 27th August 2022, an international team, coordinated by Dario Sigari (Università degli Studi di Ferrara, CNRS-UMR 5608 TRACES, CNR-ISPC) and Marcos García-Diez (Universidad Complutense di Madrid), carried out a fieldwork in the Gobustan National Historical, Artistic Reserve. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Fundación Palarq (Spain) and the Fundación Atapuerca (Spain) represent the main funding institutions. The Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, the Gobustan National Historical, the Artistic Reserve (Azerbaijan), University of Ferrara (Italy) and the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) are among the institutions promoting the project.

The main objective of this archaeological fieldwork is to widen the acquired knowledge about the rock art of Gobustan (since 2007 in the UNESCO World Heritage List).

The archaeological research project, started in 2019 (with an interruption in 2020 due the break out of the COVID pandemic), aims to understand the chronology of rock art and its relationships with the human groups that lived in this territory during the prehistoric times.

To answer these questions, the research activities have been focused onto: 1. The study of both the portable and parietal art of Ana Zaga site, a small “cave” with hundreds of figures engraved on its walls and an important archaeological deposit that revealed remains of human occupation, and that was excavated between the Sixties and Eighties by I. Jafarzade, J. Rustamov and F. Muradova; 2. A test pit within the Ana Zaga cave.

This excavation was done on the section that was exposed in 1977 by J. Rustamov, and that partially covers engraved rocks. In this way, it is possible to have a minimum age for the rock art and to understand the meaning of the engravings according to their relationship with the archaeological layers.

Five main archaeological layers were exposed, witnessing human occupation from Mesolithic (around 10,000 years ago) to Middle Age (around 15th century AD). Several finds were recovered: lithic tools, bones of mid-large size animals (goats, sheeps, equids, bovids) hunted by the prehistoric groups, personal ornaments, ceramic fragments, numerous bones of small animals, charcoals and seeds. These will permit to understand how the environment and the climate developed and changed during the last 12,000 years.

Together with all this material, the most outstanding findings are the human remains unearthed within layer 5, dated to the Mesolithic. The discovered bones belong to the foot of a child (between 4 and 8 years old) and they were uncovered in anatomical connection. Further laboratory analyses will help to define the age of the individual, to confirm if this foot is related to the skeletal remains found by J. Rustamov 45 years ago, and to understand the funerary ritual.

So, the human remains of Ana Zaga are a key to understand the symbolic behavior, the ancestral rites of the last hunter gatherer societies, and the meaning of the rock art close to the burial.

It is worth highlighting that these human finds enrich the poor paleoanthropological record, known so far, of those groups that lived between late Pleistocene and early Holocene, i.e. before the development of agrarian and pastoral societies, when funerary rituals by burying people became more systematic and structured.


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