LBA SETTLEMENT EXCAVATIONS
2003-2011 Field Seasons
Since 2003, I have led fieldwork at the LBA Settlement at Tsaghkahovit (which I’ve referred to in publications as the Tsaghkahovit South Lower Town) an LBA domestic context located at the southern base of the Tsaghkahovit fortress hill and about 100m to the east of the site’s mid-first millennium settlement excavated by my colleague, Dr. Lori Khatchadourian (Cornell University). The goals of the SLT excavations over the past several seasons have been to a) establish the presence of an LBA settlement at the fortress and generate an architectural description of domestic contexts in the LBA; b) investigate production and consumption practices and the use of space at the settlement relative to the fortress; and c) place the settlement within the broader context of political-economic patterns in the Tsaghkahovit Plain and beyond.
A combination of stratified excavations and magnetic gradiometry survey revealed several articulated constructions at the settlement. Radiocarbon dates, ceramics chronology, and site stratigraphy all point to the initial occupation of the settlement during the LBA, with a possible re-occupation of the site during the mid-first millennium BC. Results from four excavation seasons demonstrate that LBA communities invested considerable effort in constructing residential spaces, and incorporated wheat and barley cultivation into their subsistence economy. At the same time, however, the informal layout of the domestic architecture and a stratified sequence of thin occupation floors combine to suggest the continuation of long tradition of seasonal mobility stretching back to the region’s Middle Bronze Age.
As a means of investigating how the settlement was integrated into the regional economic sphere, I also undertook an NAA study of LBA sherds from the LBA settlement and compared the sources to samples from the fortress citadels at Tsaghkavhovit, Hnaberd, and Gegharot. Initial results demonstrate that production and consumption were highly localized within the plain, perhaps indicating the need to maintain boundaries with neighboring valleys. However, pots sourced to Tsaghkahovit and other nearby sites have been found in significant numbers across the plain at Gegharot, perhaps as part of ritual obligations these sites had to Gegharot’s remarkable shrine complex. Among the questions I am using these data to address is how local communities adapted to a more settled life on the plain, and how political allegiances were consolidated and maintained among mobile communities and the fortress-based political systems in which they were situated. (Click here for more information about our pottery circulation initiatives.)
In more general terms, these excavations have taken archaeological research on the LBA in new directions by investigating social and political life outside the confines of the fortress walls. Throughout the last century, the focus of research into the LBA has typically been centered within either of two archaeological contexts’ mapping and describing fortress constructions, or the excavations of vast LBA necropoli. More recently, stratified excavations of fortresses and a regional approach to analysis have resulted in great strides in our understanding of the origins of complex political institutions during the LBA. Striving for a holistic conception of political life in the LBA, the archaeology of households and communities on the Tsaghkahovit Plain is beginning to yield insight into how elite strategies affected daily practices for the largest (if less archaeologically prominent) segments of society.