Gegharot, Armenian Republic (early bronze age)
Excavations at Gegharot fortress present us with a slightly different occupation history than that from Tsakahovit, one which begins with a large Early Bronze Age village (Kura-Araxes III phase) and ends with the construction of the Late Bronze Age fortress. The centerpiece of our 2003 excavations was a trench set on a small terrace on the upper west slope of the hill. There, in what was designated Operation T2E, we uncovered a remarkable in situ Late Bronze Age shrine. The shrine consisted of a curvilinear clay altar or basin set atop a clay platform, quite similar in form to shrines from Metsamor; however present indications suggest that the Gegharot shrine pre-dates the one from Metsamor by several centuries. On the eastern side of the altar was a single stone stela standing on end (two adjacent overturned stones may also have been standing stela but their original position is difficult to asses at present). The preservation of the room was extremely good, with no fewer than 12 large storage jars smashed but in situ on the floor (restoration is currently ongoing) and numerous other ware types including bowls, jars, and so-called "cultic" vessels. It is clear from the stratigraphy, architecture, and ceramic remains that the room was occupied twice during the Late Bronze Age. The initial occupation, marked most conspicuously by transitional Middle to Late Bronze (that is, Late Bronze I phase) ceramics including large storage jars with punctuate ornamentation similar to Sevan-Uzerlik horizon wares, ended in a destruction event. The room was subsequently rebuilt with new walls set atop the destroyed interior space (indeed one wall was set directly atop a large Late Bronze Age storage jar). It is also important to note the extensive repertoire of finds from the room associated with metal working, including the central portion of a tri-partite mould for making bronze jewelry, a crucible, and several bronze artifacts, including a pin and a bracelet. Further details regarding the 2003 excavations at Gegharot and Tsakahovit will be made available as the analysis of the materials proceeds.