We have started excavations within the medieval (AD 12-15th c) settlement at Arpa, located in the current village of Areni. Our 2016 excavation program consists of a number of test trenches located through the preserved areas of the settlement, which is itself being dug into by the contemporary Areni village cemetery. This adds an urgency to our explorations, as every week new areas of the site are being reserved, cleared and dug for gravesites. At the same time, the active digging in the settlement (which extends along a broad slope to the south of the village, beyond the reconstructed 14th c Sb. Astvatsatsin church) provides us with additional data about the geological and archaeological strata of the site beyond our own investigations. For instance, a recent grave digging brought to light this fragment of a medieval stamp-decorated redware jar or karas (here’s an image of a complete one in the national museum).
We are delighted to announce that MASC: VDSRS is embarking on a second season of research in Vayots Dzor, with support from the RA NAS Institute of Archaeology and the Social Sciences Research Council InterAsia Program. Our work this year is centered in the town of Areni, famous for both the wine grapes grown in the ancient beds of the Arpa River, and for its rich archaeological landscape. In addition to continuing survey which will contribute to our progressing understanding of the medieval landscape of Vayots Dzor in relaiton to the wider Silk Road ecumene of the late medieval period (and the results of which will be accessible online) our primary focus is directed at the site of Areni/Arpa, which MASC/VDSRS will excavate for the first time this year.
Areni and the site of Areni/Arpa, viewed from the Aghavnadzor plateau (the site is at the base of the cliffs in center frame)
The project will be excavating contexts related to the late medieval settlement of Areni/Arpa, contemporary with the occupation of this site by Tarsayich Orbelyan, one of the most influential members of the Orbelyan Armenian princely dynasty. The exploits of the Orbelyans are known from the historical writings of one of their own, Stepanos Orbelyan (son of Tarsayich), and from the epigraphic record tied to the numerous churches, caravanserai and other buildings they founded, reconstructed, and patronized. We are excited to explore the material remains of this rich period in the history of this region, when the towns and cities of the Caucasus were oriented between Central Asia, Persia and the Mediterranean.
An early modern bridge over a tributary of the Yeghegis river, south of Shatin
I am late in posting this, but here is some great footage of the NA IAE excavations at the multi-period fortress site of Dashtadem, south of Talin in western Aragatsotn, overseen by VDSRS Co-Director Dr. Astghik Babajanyan. This video is from early in the 2015 excavations in the southeastern section of the Zakarid period (AD late 12-early 13th c) fortress wall.
The fortress dates from the AD 12th century Sheddadid period, but was used as a fortified site and renovated up until the 19th c. Excavations will continue at Dashtadem in 2016, supported in part by the US Ambassadors Culture Fund.