Environment and Societies in the Southern Caucasus during the Holocene
The Southern Caucasus is a region located at a strategic intersection between the European and Asian continents. Its extremely varied topography sustained a range of climatic niches, and its mountain ranges to the north and south provided a corridor of passage between the Black and Caspian seas. The region has long served as both a passage and refuge for human populations making it a ripe zone for the study of the Holocene climate and its effects on occupation, as well as human impacts on the environment.
In recent years, research has considerably developed in this region due to the impetus of the ‘Laboratoires Internationaux Associés (LIA)’, a collaboration between several CNRS laboratories and:
– The National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia: LIA “HEMHA – Humans and Environments in Mountainous Habitats, the case of Armenia” (coordinated by P. Avetisyan & A. Karakhanyan, P. Lombard & C. Chataigner);
– The Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences: LIA “AZAR2 – Azerbaijan Archaeology & Archaeometry” (coordinated by F. Guliyev & B. Lyonnet);
– The Georgian National Museum: LIA “GATES – Georgian Ancient Transcaucasia: Environments and Societies” (coordinated by D. Lordkipanidze & E. Messager).
An LIA scientific meeting organized by Christine Chataigner was held at the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée (MOM) in Lyon between the 27th and 28th of November 2013 to develop discussion and collaboration between international researchers working on the archaeology of the region (Fig. 1).
The main aims of the LIA-Conference were to discuss the results of archaeological research carried out in the three republics of the Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia with a focus on Holocene societies, their interactions, and the evolution of the environment (Fig. 2). More than 50 researchers from the Caucasus and several European and Asian countries attended the event (Fig. 3).
The conference was divided into 6 sessions, and included over 25 papers on various topics such as past environment, resource exploitation and human subsistence during the Neolithic and Iron Age of the Caucasus:
–session 1. Vegetation and Climate: New data on seed, fruit, phytolith and pollen studies were presented with the objective of reconstructing the Holocene paleoclimate, the exploitation of wild plant resources, and early agricultural practices.
–session 2. Tectonics, Volcanism & Landscape: Volcanism as well as active faulting, its potential impact on landscape morphology and on prehistoric populations, as well as archaeoseismological explorations of architectural damage were some of the themes explored in this session.
–session 3. Environmental Crises and Cultural Change: This session focused on presenting new techniques for the analysis of lacustrine and marine sediments and on their application to the region for the establishment of high-resolution temporal proxy records. »
–session 4. Settlement Patterns: Socio-economic Aspects and Populations: This session focused on human settlement and funerary practices in the region. Spatial distribution, architecture, chronology, and the presence of kites in the Aragats area were some of the topics presented.
–session 5. Iron Age: The session included papers on the impact of Urartian culture on the environment using the Araxes plain Fortresses as a case study, and new data on the Iron Age necropolises of Azerbaijan.
–session 6. Neolithic Period: Recent excavation data from the early Holocene sites of Kmlo-2 in Armenia, Kotias Klde and Gadachrili Gora in Georgia and Mentesh Tepe in Azerbaijan were presented. In addition, new data on Neolithic agriculture in the Ararat valley (Armenia) and on archaeozoological and palaeogenetic evidence in Transcaucasia were discussed.
The LIA-Conference was a success in many regards, and especially because it brought together researchers from all of the national institutes invested in the archaeology of the Southern Caucasus (Fig. 4-5). This conference provided a venue in which new data could be presented and current knowledge and research on the Holocene of the Southern Caucasus could be reassessed, updated and taken in new directions (Fig. 6). The proceedings of the conference will be published in a special issue of Quaternary International.
The LIA-Conference was funded by a number of sources and institutions including: Université Aix-Marseille; Université de Rennes 1, Casden Banque Populaire, Ville de Lyon, Université Lumière Lyon 2, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée Jean Pouilloux (MOM), Association des Amis de la Maison de L’Orient (AAMO), Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Ministère de l’Education nationale, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
For more details about the conference, the proceedings, or to consult the list of participants and abstracts, follow this LIA-Conference link.
Jwana Chahoud est Post-doctorante
Archéozoologue, spécialiste du Proche et Moyen-Orient et de la Méditerranée orientale
UMR 5133-Archéorient, MSH Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon.