Excavations Begin

In archaeology, things never quite go precisely as one expects, no matter how much one plans. That was certainly the case here – we had expected to start digging the village at the foot of Aragats, which seemed to be 12th/13th century, on Monday. This was a site that we could see on google.earth and had been informed was called Ambroyi. It was this site that we had selected because it fits into our research plan of documenting the medieval pottery in Armenia and because of its probable relationship to other sites in the area, most notably the nearby caravanserai, whose pottery its surface materials closely resemble.

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Arai  Caravanserai, excavated by Kate Franklin in 2011

However, when our collaborator Frina Babayan visited this site, she consulted with the site’s passport (which each site in Armenia has) and determined that the site we had selected was not the site of Ambroyi as described in the passport. We had selected the site on the basis of its material culture and suitability for our research design, but she felt that we needed to investigate and find the site that was known as Ambroyi according to the Armenian Cultural Management passport system, even though it was not the site we had selected and had a different assigned date according to the 1989 passport description (16th-18th centuries).

It was then that we started to look in earnest for where the recorded site of Ambroyi was located. Thanks to the help of the local Arai village inhabitants, we found  a second site located further up on the shoulder of Mt. Aragats. At the initial village site we could see the outlines of walls and stones on the ground, and there was even more preserved here. This was not surprising, given that it was said to date to the early modern period. Frina decided that this was where we should excavate rather than the site that we had initially selected, and we agreed, with the aim to expand our potential material sequence to encompass the Early Modern period in Armenia, which is little studied and historically very important.

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After the site was cleaned on Monday and the vegetation removed, we returned to start excavating on Tuesday, in a room of one of the structures we could see on the suface. Basically, we spent Tuesday removing the top soil and coming down on wall collapse. On Wednesday, we removed the wall collapse and found fill and the pottery throughout seems to be consistent the early modern date. It is our hope that we will come down on secure early modern contexts and then onto material from the medieval period, thus establishing a clear sequence of occupation at this village site. If we do not find medieval material here, this has implications for our understanding of how settlement in the region changed through the last millennium.

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