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Ararat Plain Southeast Archaeological Project

Curatorial Section

Near East

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The Ararat Plain Southeast Archaeological Project conducts survey and excavation at the southeast edge of the Araxes river valley in Armenia. The project aims to explore how people have moved through and lived in this landscape over time, with a particular focus on the Bronze to Iron Age transition and the modern period. The fieldwork combines studies of archaeological ceramics with landscapes, and experiments with new technologies for recording and analyzing data towards open online publication.

Time Period Studied

The Ararat Plain Southeast Archaeological Project (APSAP) investigates all periods of human occupation. Of particular interest is societal change during the Bronze and Iron ages (ca 2000-200 BCE) and the 16th to early 20th centuries CE.

Location Information

The main focus of APSAP is the southeast part of the Ararat Plain, where it intersects with the foothills of the Gegham mountains to the east, especially within the Vedi river valley. Additional work is planned for the Getik river valley north of Lake Sevan. Past work has also been conducted in the Vayots Dzor province.

  • Dr. Peter J. Cobb, Assistant Professor, University of Hong Kong
  • Dr. Elvan Cobb, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Hong Kong
  • Arthur Petrosyan, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
  • Boris Gasparyan, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
Project Summary

The southeast Ararat Plain has historically existed as a border region between surrounding polities. During the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, it lay near the southern extent of the Lchashen-Tsitelgori culture, while it became a zone of contention between the Ottomans and their neighbors to the east in the early modern era. In between, during the Roman Period, the Armenian Kingdom shifted alliance between Rome to the west and the Parthian empire to the east. The capital city of this kingdom was located just west of Vedi at Artaxata. Today, the Vedi river valley sits near the intersection of Armenia, Turkey, the Naxçivan region of Azerbaijan, and Iran. Our project aims to understand the impact of these dynamic circumstances to daily life in this region.

Archaeologically, the southeast Ararat Plain is also situated among better studied areas: the major Urartian citadels in the north Ararat Plain near Yerevan have been investigated for over a century, while recent work by the Penn Museum in Naxçivan to the south helps us contextualize this region. Our area of study includes the Vedi River valley and the surrounding foothills and mountain ranges, from the Gegham mountains to the northeast, to the Urts range to the south. Our methods combine extensive and intensive surface survey with targeted excavation of select sites. We also experiment with digital methods to improve data collection, analysis, and sharing. For example, we hope to 3d scan ceramic sherds towards automatic shape analysis.

Of particular importance is the engagement of our project with multiple communities, beginning with the local population where we work. We also hope to introduce Near Eastern Archaeology to new audiences in Hong Kong and mainland China, while continuing to engage with the international community. Towards these goals, we plan to develop a program of video documentation of the archaeological process and we invite volunteers from anywhere in the world to join the project.

Resources & More Information

2018 Fieldwork in Armenia
Archaeological Survey in Vayots Dzor
Digital Humanities in the Field
Why Our Library Equipment Got Dusty
Barev Dzez!

Interested in joining the project?

All Penn Students and Volunteers are welcome to join us for summer fieldwork, please contact

People Associations

Foothills on the edge of the Ararat plain. Photo Peter Cobb.
Landscape survey in Armenia. Photo Peter Cobb.

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