Early wake up this morning: 6 am and we are ready to start our day of survey in the valleys of eastern Georgia!
Today the EKAS (Early Kurgan archaeological survey) team is heading to the Iori valley, a quite desolated but promising area for our research aims. EKAS is a two-year project investigating mid-Early Bronze Age burial sites in southern Caucasus, related to my PhD research topic and funded by the University of Melbourne Fieldwork grant. The period of our interest is characterised by the deposition of community leaders in barrows, also locally known as kurgans. The aim of our project is to map and record these mounds for a better understanding of the relation between these features and the landscape.
The Iori valley is wide and barren and it is crossed approximately NW-SE by one of the tributaries of the Kura river, the Iori. Several sloping hills placed on each side of the valley surround an otherwise flat countryside. Numerous mounds, either natural or artificial, stand out clearly in the landscape.
After a preliminary analysis of satellite images and Soviet topomaps, we first drove across the stunning sunflower and wheat fields which currently cover a large portion of this area of Georgia. In doing this we detected several areas of interest, which we surveyed today. First going uphill, we walked several fields with different degrees of visibility: one field has been particularly rich in finds. A bag full of obsidian and few flint flakes, some of these natural and some worked, was collected. Particularly relevant is that obsidian is not attested locally; the nearest sources exploited since the Palaeolithic are located in a radius of more than 200 km.
We continued descending the hills towards the Iori, surveying various mounds and small hills. Some of these were clearly natural and did not show any sign of anthropic activity (apart from the daily passage of shepherds and their flocks). On others we found pottery sherds and obsidian flakes, possibly attesting the use of them as burial sites. One of these in fact was a burial mound and traces of previous excavation are still visible.
What also captured our interest while surveying the boundless fields of the Iori valley was a ridge mountain with caves and cavities overlooking the whole area.
The entire team became excited while later getting confirmation from a local farmer working his fields that villagers previously visited this mountain and retrieved some archaeological finds (deposited at the local museum of Sighnaghi). Here’s our destination for tomorrow…