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|w 34 CNRS Networks cnrs I international magazine Archaeology Ongoing CNRS collaboration is training a new generation of archaeologists in the Caucasus. Unearthing Azerbaijan’s Unique Treasures BY Marion Gi rault-Rime Created in 2011, the LIA AzAr2 (Azerbaijan: Archaeology and Archaeometry) combines archaeological research with a program aimed at training Azerbaijani students and young archaeologists to use modern archaeometrical methods and techniques. These include radiocarbon dating, bio-archaeology, paleobotany, paleozoology, paleometallurgy, anthropology, geomorphology, and landscape archaeology— scientific disciplines not yet taught in Azerbaijan. It is the second partnership between the CNRS and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences. The first one, the LIA AzArLi (Azerbaijan: Archaeology and Linguistics), was launched in 2007 and was the country’s first international scientific collaboration. A hotbed of disc overies Since becoming independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan’s fast-paced development, including construction and land development, has unearthed numerous archaeological sites—confirming the crucial role that the region played during the Neolithic (6th millennium BC) and Chalcolithic (5th and first half of the 4th millennium BC). Jointly headed by CNRS researcher Bertille Lyonnet1 and Farhad Guliyev, director of the Museum of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Baku, the LIA AzAr2 has been participating in excavations at Mentesh Tepe, in western Azerbaijan, which have yielded exceptional discoveries extending from the Neolithic to the end of the Early Bronze Age (5800-2300 BC). As the only site in the region with such a long and uninterrupted chronology, it will be key to understanding the dynamics behind development and social transformation in the Southern Caucasus. One of the most interesting findings at Mentesh Tepe is a Neolithic grave containing the remains of at least 27 people. Researchers hope to determine whether this grave was linked to a specific event (war, catastrophe, epidemic), a ritual, or tradition. A kurgan—raised burial mound—dating back to 2416 BC was also recently uncovered, revealing the remains of a chariot and two women adorned with jewelry. Further analysis of the items should provide a wealth of information regarding the status of those buried and the ties between the Caucasus, the Steppes, and Greater Mesopotamia. promotin g exchan ge As part of the LIA project, a group of Baku University students are invited every year to work alongside archaeologists at the excavation site, where they can use new field techniques. Some of the students were also able to enroll in the archaeological departments of French universities. The first two, in their third year, came to France in 2013, with the financial support of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A third PhD student was able to spend some time at the CNRS LSCE2 in Gif-sur-Yvette (near Paris) to learn the basics of radiocarbon dating, and find out how to use and configure a portable X-ray spectrometer (XRS) at the LPC2E3 in Orléans. The LIA AzAr2, which will end in 2014, will have helped an entire generation of Azerbaijani archaeologists become familiar with the newer wideranging scientific techniques used today. Hopefully, these exchanges will outlive the LIA, and will continue to revolutionize archaeology in that country. 01. Proche-Orient, Caucase: langues, archéologie, cultures (CNRS / Collège de France / INALCO / EPHE). 02. Laboratoire des sciences du climat et de l'environnement (CNRS / CEA / UVSQ). 03. Laboratoire de physique et chimie de l'environnement et de l'espace (CNRS / Université d’Orléans). Contact information: PrOCauLAC, Paris. Bertille Lyonnet > blyonnet@wanadoo.fr 01 Two female skeletons and their jewelry, as well as the remains of a wooden chariot, in a raised burial mound dating back to 2400 BC. 02 Students on the dig of Mentesh Tepe. © photos : mission Mentesh Tepe 01 02


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