Metallurgy Within Trans-Caucasia

The importance of metallurgical data for the formation of a Central Transcaucasian chronology

Archaeology in Georgia, as in other countries, is the science which studies human activities in the past and tries to reconstruct this past as comprehensively as possible. It was stated that the past is the main thing in our life, everything that exists belongs to it (A. France). Indeed, to reconstruct the past, archaeology needs as many ingredients based on the full range of technical and natural sciences as life itself is diverse. More and more archaeology becomes a meeting field for various sciences.

As scientific development is easily attainable in the zones of contacts and interactions between different sciences, completely new perspectives are opened for archaeology through its integration in other sciences. Archaeometallurgy is among the most important branches developed in consequence of this qualitative change - or better: the transformation of archaeology. In Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, three laboratories carry out analysis of metal artefacts: the State Museum of Georgia, the Metallurgical Institute and the Centre for Archaeological Studies. The metal inventory was investigated by Josef Grdzelishvili, Ferdinand Tavadze, Tamar Sakvarelidze, Rusudan Bachtadze, Tsisana Abesadze, Tina Dvali, Givi Inanishvili, Teimuraz Mudzhiri, Natela Saradzhishvili and others.

The study of metal and other kinds of artefacts, together with chronological and environmental studies, are usually considered as three of the prime areas of modem archaeological science. At the same time chronological studies are essentially connected with artefact studies. Already in the first half of the 19th century, Christian Thomson based the first archaeological periodisation on the kind of substances used for the artefacts and classified archaeological material by the chronological order as belonging to the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. This correlation of time and type of material in use was known even to the old Greeks.

Among all types of artefacts, metal objects in general and tools and weapons in particular, are subjected most of all to innovations - the development of society is considerably connected with their functional abilities. Therefore metallurgical data of the ancient societies - of one and the same geographical zone - have, in contrast to the data of other archaeological sources, such as pottery, architecture, burial habits and others, which are more apt to indicate the genetical relations, a special importance in the establishment of a relative chronology.

The first and second ..radiocarbon revolutions", the use of the radiocarbon dates for the creation of absolute time-scales first and the use of calibrated 14C dates afterwards, provoked the separation of the areas dated by the 14C technique - the northern periphery of the Near East and Europe - from the areas with historical chronologies, /.e. the Near East. The separation of these two regions from each other caused something like a "geological gap" - a "fault line" between them (Renfrew 1973: 104, Figs. 20, 21). The need to fill this gap is an urgent task of the contemporary archaeological studies. Besides the further improvement of the geochronological methods, it demands an intensive stimulation of the research in the field of relative chronology on both parts of the above-mentioned gap, and, as much as it is possible, to connect them.

One of the regions along the ,,fault line" is the Caucasus. Therefore chronological problems of this region have paramount importance in the foundation of a general Near Eastern - East European chronological system; it seems that the Caucasus is an important link in the Old World's chronological chain. The inclusion of the Caucasian chronological evidence into the common Near Eastern - East European chronological system must be preceded by the formation of an all-Caucasian chronological scale.

The Great Caucasian Ridge represents a barrier dividing the Caucasus in two main parts: Transcaucasia or the South Caucasus, and the North Caucasus. At the same time, the role of the pathes crossing it permits to consider the Caucasus as one and the same geo-political zone. Among the Caucasian regions Central Transcaucasia (i.e. Eastern Georgia, old Iberia) holds a key position (Fig. 1) - it is encircled by all other Caucasian regions (Western, Southern and Eastern Transcaucasia, North-Western and North-Eastern Caucasus), and therefore it represents a basis for the elaboration of the all-Caucasian chronological scale (Figs. 2, 3).

The more or less contemporary Kül Tepe II 14C date should also be taken into consideration: 3766-3543 cal B.C. (LE-163). Recently three dates were received from the AMS Facility at the University of Arizona for Satkhs, the site which is situated in Dzhavakheti (8 km northeast of Nino Tsminda), i.e. in the southeast direction from Amiranis Gora and Kura-Araxes layers of which have ceramic parallels with Mokhra Blur (Ararat valley), Kvatskhelebi and Amiranis Gora: 3072-2916 cal B.C. (AA-7768), 3343-3043 cal B.C. (AA-12853) and 3301-2926 cal B.C. (AA-12854) (Isaak et a/. 1994: 26, 28f). One date was obtained from a level associated with Early Bronze Age materials of the north-west Armenian site Horom in the Shirak valley: 3371-3136 cal B.C. (AA-7767) and two dates were from a tomb of the same site: 3341-3048 cal B.C. (AA-10191) and 3990-3823 cal B.C. (AA-11130). All three vessels of this tomb reveal in the opinion of the excavators relatively early forms of the Kura-Araxes culture (Badaljan et al. 1994: 14,Table Illc).


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