For the past few weeks we have been exceedingly busy in our work, completing survey of the surrounding areas, mapping and laying out trenches as well as starting excavation.  The selected areas for excavation are that of living areas well as burials.  These two different areas results in a variation in the type of material remains that are uncovered allowing for a more well rounded understanding of how these people went about living their daily lives.


One of the most intriguing finds uncovered from one of these living areas was these four pieces of decorated ceramic, which were once all part of one object.  The decoration on this ceramic is zoomorphic, meaning it contains pictures of animals.  The design here appears to have that of a jaguar or leopard.  This is one of the first zoomorphically decorated pieces of ceramic to be found in this area of Naxcivan, this is considered a very important find.


Another ceramic find was encountered in the Kurgan burials.  After excavating through the topsoil of one of these burials, a whole ceramic pot was found.  This pot has now been handed over to the Carlos Museum conservator, Katie, who has come to the site to help conserve precious objects that are uncovered during excavation.  Katie is working to rid the pot of insoluble salts that have coated the outside of the vessel, covering the painted decoration on this pot. With her meticulous work, we will be able to get a better idea of what this piece of ceramic would have looked like before it was put into the ground.


Along with all of the hard work, there is still time for fun and laughter.  One of the main pick-me-ups of the season so far is the weekly vegetable mascot.  While preparing dinner on break day, a lovely carrot with little nubs resembling arms was found so of course he became our very first mascot.  We named him Ramon, made him a hat out of a cucumber slice and an end of another carrot, and gave him a glorious face.  Throughout the week we would check on him and see how he was doing.  As you would suspect, he aged quite rapidly… fabulously, but rapidly.  By the next break day, we held a nice little burial for him and we have found our next mascot, Tyrone the beet.


Be sure to follow our Facebook page for more updates regarding finds and other posts!

-Kellen ‘16

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We’re here and ready to excavate 2015

The goal of this season’s excavations is to further investigate the Middle and Late Bronze Age (about 2000 to 1200 BCE) occupation of the area around Oǧlanqala that we first encountered last season. The intriguing finds from last year (including a possible ritual area with almost a meter of clean clay covering 4 beautifully painted pots and a feasting pit) left us with more questions than answers, and we hope to answer some of them this season.

We arrived at our dig house in Dize, Naxçivan a few days ago and have begun laying out trenches and preparing for the season.

There was a terrific storm that first night in Dize with thunder, lightning, and torrential rain of biblical proportions for a land in spitting distance of Noah’s mountain. And spit it certainly did do. But all our tents held up much to our relief. The storm was actually a pleasant thing because it brought a cool wind that blew the flies and mosquitoes away and stopped the dogs from barking, the roosters from crowing, the cows from mooing, and all the other unidentifiable animal sounds, so the weary travelers got much needed sleep assistance from the wind

A tour of the site the next day presented several options for excavating potential settlement at the base of Qizqala (the hill opposite Oǧlanqala), mound burials (called

Looking for the right kurgan to excavate

Looking for the right kurgan to excavate

kurgans) on the ridges across the fields from Oǧlanqala, a possible Bronze Age cemetery, not to mention further exploring the ritual area excavated last season.


Selin recording positions, marking, and numbering the burials.

Some of this work is rescue archaeol
ogy because bulldozer cuts of an old gravel quarry exposed burials that are now eroding out of the side of the quarry cut.

Selin Nugent (Emory ’12 and now a PhD candidate at Ohio State) has isolated 8 more potential burials in the side of the quarry trench.

selin and kellen

Selin Nugent (Emory ’12 and PhD candidate at Ohio State) and Kellen Hope (Emory ’16) examine the eroding burials

On the home front, Emin and Mirqasim, the boys from the farm where we live are learning to juggle and throw and catch an American-style football, thanks to Donald McManus (dig photographer and Prof in the Theater Department at Emory).

There is a new store in the neighborhood!  Emin guided us to it to

day. Their only soccer ball was a Coca Cola ball, so there must be some cosmic connectionto Emory University. It was quickly purchased and is now a treasured possession.IMG_2632

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Pot day

Black on red painted Middle Bronze Age (about 2000 BC) jar from one of our burials

Black on red painted Middle Bronze Age (about 2000 BC) jar from one of our burials

Our first two weeks of excavation were frustratingly uneventful. I really had nothing to report. Very hot days for work with rainy afternoons, little sleep (and some mandatory camp bouts of stomach bug), combined with no finds of any importance made everyone testy and on edge. We had set up 4 different trenches: three where we thought there might be some domestic occupation associated with the palace/fortress we had excavated in past seasons, and one over a circle of stones that we were pretty sure was a Bronze Age (2500 to 1200 BC) burial mound. But after two weeks of excavation in the “settlement” area we were digging through a massive mud-brick platform footed (we thought) with large stones, and in the burial mound…nothing…more rocks, dirt, and pebbles. Then two days ago, all in one day, we uncovered 13 complete Bronze Age pottery vessels, 10 in the burial mound and 3 as a complete surprise in the deep test trench in the “settlement” area that I had been excavating with increasing frustration. Turns out that what I had thought was a stone foundation to the mud-brick platform was actually the marker stones for a Bronze Age burial mound on which the platform had been built at least a thousand years later.
So far we have 17 complete vessels, 4 partial human skeletons (although the salty soil makes bones disintegrate easily) and a lot of animal bone (lamb, goat, rabbit) that we assume was buried to accompany the dead in the afterlife.


New “pot shelf” was added to our store room to hold all our complete vessels

In my burial there was also a meter-deep roasting pit full of charcoal, ash, and many, many animal bones (we await our zooarchaeologist, Hannah Lau, who is due to arrive tomorrow and can tell us more exactly what they were cooking for their burial feast). In my trench, one of the bowls had been placed directly in the arms of the deceased, and on emptying the dirt from it back at the house I found the remains of a nice chunk of leg of lamb which had apparently been stuffed into the bowl for future consumption.  The fact that we smiled in shared recognition of the joy of a good meal when we found it some 4,000 years later reminds us why we go to all this trouble.


The deceased’s arm reaches around a jar and into the bowl containing a nice portion of leg of lamb


Lamb leg bone wedged into a bowl in the burial. We will do flotation on the dirt around it to see if we can find out what herbs were used to cook it with.


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Beginning the dig

We arrived about a week ago in various groups by plane from around the world. There is one airport in Naxcivan, and it isn’t large. They oddly have a classic airport shuttle  though to take you the 50 yards to the terminal. It took us a few days to unpack and organize the house and buy the long list of needed supplies in the Naxcivan City bazaar,  including anything that was too big to bring from America (shovels, tables, plastic chairs, plastic shelves, plastic drawers, plastic…well you get the idea).

At the beginning of this week we finally could hire 16 local men (many really boys doing a summer job) and begin excavation. We opened four different areas of excavation: 3 in the valley to expose what we hope will be the houses of an ancient village, and 1 in the hills in an area peppered with kurgans (piles of stones that mark burials).  So far, we have mostly cleared surface areas, but in the next week we hope to figure out what is really going on.  The kurgan excavation (directed by our senior grad students Selin Nugent (Emory 2012) and Susannah Fishman) are particularly intriguing as today while cleaning to outline the stones of the potential burial Selin found a phalanx of a young child which had gotten worked to the surface by rodent activity probably.  We have high hopes for an intact grave with grave goods.  As always in archaeology we end the day saying…we’ll find out more tomorrow.

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Getting ready to go!

Many large Amazon boxes in my living room. Two days left to pack them in crates and get to the airport. We suspect we just might be overweight in our baggage….

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