August 07
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YEREVAN. – A small cave Getahovit-2 that is covering an area of ​​about 64 square meters in the Tavush region of Armenia keeps information about the Middle Ages, the Eneolithic (5-4 millennium BC), the Neolithic (6-5 millennium) and the Upper Paleolithic (more than 20 thousands years ago).

The layers of the Upper Paleolithic are also found in Agithu 3 cave in Syunik region of Armenia, but interestingly in Agithu, ancient layers date from 40,000 to 23,000. Meanwhile, Getahovit is an additional source belonging to the time interval from 25,000 to 23,000 to the present time (calBP), which corresponds to the upper layers of Agithu, that is, the study of Getahovit can fill in the gap in our understanding of the Upper Paleolithic population of Armenia, especially since the Agstev Valley is quite different geological and geographic world than the canyon of the Vorotan River. However, due to lack of funding in 2018, the excavations in this unique cave can be stopped.

As explained by Irena Kalantaryan, the head of expedition in Getahovit cave and worker of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, in Armenia, a scientific study of the period of the Upper Paleolithic is very important because of a small number of fixed monuments. The scientists pay special attention to the late Neolithic period, as there is almost no information about this period in Armenia. For Armenia and the entire South Caucasus region, one of the key archaeological issues is recreation of the way of life and economy of “Neolithic inhabitants”.

Two Getahovit caves at an altitude of 960 meters in the gorge of the Khachakhbyr River near the Getahovit community of Tavush region were found in 2010 as part of a joint Armenian-French expedition.

During the test excavations, it was decided to explore Getahovit-2 cave, as although it is smaller in size, it has a greater archaeological potential.

Scientific research in the cave started in 2011: first, archaeologists “opened” medieval layers, then - copper-stone (Eneolithic) - with characteristic white layers, remnants of animal bones and tools made of bones and obsidian.

The first unique find is a medieval burial, shaped like a boat from two compartments with two dead bodies. It is obvious that during the later burial a smaller compartment was built, and the remains of the first dead were collected into it: the bones of his feet were laid on the bones of the hands.

Irena Kalantaryan says that the burial dates back to not early than 11-12 BC and is in accordance with the rules of that period: the dead are lying on their back with the hands crossed on the chest. However, it is unclear why they were buried outside the church cemetery. Perhaps they were sectarians or did not have an opportunity to leave the cave.

In subsequent years, the study of the cave continued, and the stratigraphic pits made in 2014 revealed the entire time frame of the cave: the medieval layer, then the sterile layer, the Eneolithic, the Neolithic, again the sterile layer, and below, the 73-yam structure, filled with obsidian microlites. Radiocarbon analysis showed the era of the Upper Paleolithic, that is 24-23 thousand years BC.

Irena Kalantaryan says that medieval finds are very diverse: there are traces of fireplaces, fires and toners used for a long time, ceramic utensils. On the ground you can see the remains of objects made of plant material: perhaps, wood.

In 2016 the archeologists decided to excavate the area of a terrace in front of the cave, and it became clear that in the Middle Ages people used both the cave and the adjacent territory. A hole with a large clay vessel and a small jar were found.

They also found a ring, perhaps an iron one, that was engraved in Arabic. According to the expert, the inscription is read as Lillahi Lah. The ring testifies to the status of the owner, and shows that he is married.

Medieval layers in Getaovit cover from the period from 10 to 13 century. According to historians, in 9-11 centuries the valley of the river Agstev, as part of the Bagratid kingdom, was in the possession of the Kuritids, and in 12-14 centuries of the Zakharids.

“White floor”, or more precisely gray-blue is the layers of copper-stone age. Perhaps it is calcite precipitation, but there is an opinion that it is the ashes of burnt coprolites.

Traces of the pickets. Sometimes they have a canonical form, which means there could be some buildings. But, the tracks are chaotically located, but interestingly they are always located near the hearth. Irena Kalantaryan suggests that something was dried or smoked on the pickets near the fireplace.

Under the wall there is an anvil made of stone, on which obsidian was processed to create tools.

There is another interesting and unclear structure from the clay. The scientists called it a drainage, suggesting that it was used to drain liquid.

Interestingly, the bones found in the cave are the bones of wild animals, that is, the cave was inhabited by hunters at all times.

The cave also gave information about what fruits the ancient people ate. Seeds of wild grapes are found in the Eneolithic layer. According to the leader of the expedition, this finding is of particular importance, since wild grapes are the progenitor of the cultivated grapes, and this can shed light on the process of domestication of grapes and the origins of winemaking.

The remnants of the Carcass of the Caucasus, hawthorn, blackberry, strawberry, hedge-rose and plum were found in the cave. This indicates that the gathering of plants was important part of the life of the inhabitants.

“Subsequent studies of the cave are very important; its scientific potential is very large. It still has to say its word about the epochs about which we do not yet have sufficient knowledge. It can tell about the late Neolithic-Eneolithic and Upper Paleolithic,” Irena Kalantaryan says.  

According to the archaeologist, a cave can become a tourist destination, but these are plans for the future. Now the most important question is funding.

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