The Ancient Getahovit Cave – Tavush, Armenia

The ancient cave Getahovit-2 in the Tavush province of Armenia surprised specialists with its artifacts in 2018. During excavations, microliths, tools and decorations made of animal bones, as well as plant remains were again discovered here.

As archaeobotanist Roman Hovsepyan told, the plant remains found in the cave make it possible to judge the vegetation and climatic conditions of the historical periods when the cave had been inhabited. According to him, the analysis of these findings may allow researchers to suggest that the flora in the region has not undergone any significant changes since that time.

Among the important plant finds are seeds of wild grapes and the Karas Caucasian tree, which still grow in the area. Studies of the cave show that the wood and fruits of this tree were used by our great-great-ancestors.

As for grape seeds, their discovery in the cave during previous expeditions encouraged the Ijevan Wine and Brandy Factory to finance the excavations this year.

As the head of the archaeological expedition of Getahovit cave and employee of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia Irena Kalantaryan told, two Getahovit caves at an altitude of 960 meters in the gorge of the Khachaghbyur River (a tributary of the Aghstev River) were found in 2010 within the framework of the joint Armenian-French expedition.

For several years, studies have been carried out here, discovering that people had actively used the cave between the Upper Paleolithic and the late Middle Ages.

As Irena Kalantaryan explained, scientific research of the Upper Paleolithic period is very important in Armenia due to the small number of fixed sites. Also, scientists pay special attention to the late Neolithic period, information about which is practically absent in Armenia. For Armenia and the entire region, at present, one of the key archaeological issues remains the reconstruction of the lifestyle and economy of the “Neolithic inhabitants”.

In 2018, Syrian archaeologist Ghanem Ghanem from the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums joined and took part in the expedition. He noted that participation in the Armenian expedition is a good experience for him, especially since it provides him with an opportunity to study rare historical periods. “I loved this place,” he said.

Irena Kalantaryan recalled that in 2011, a medieval burial site was discovered in the cave. It was shaped like a boat with two compartments for the dead. Moreover, one of the compartments was evidently added later. The added compartment was smaller, and the remains of the first deceased were compactly relocated into it – the bones of his legs were laid on the bones of his hands.

This burial site dates back to no earlier than the 11th-12th centuries.

In subsequent years, the study of the cave was continued, and a stratigraphic pit made in 2014 revealed the entire temporal coverage of the cave – a medieval layer, a sterile layer, Eneolithic, Neolithic, and again a sterile layer. Beneath, on the ground, a pit filled with obsidian microliths was unearthed. Radiocarbon analysis showed the Upper Paleolithic epoch – 24-23 thousand BC.

In 2016, archaeologists decided to conduct excavations on the terrace in front of the cave, and it became clear that in the Middle Ages, people used not only the cave itself but also the approaches to it. A utility pit with a large earthen vessel (which was later restored) and a small glass were found here. A ring (possibly iron) with Arabic engravings was also found.

However, in 2017, the French side decided to suspend research in the Getahovit Cave. Here, the Ijevan Wine and Brandy Factory came to the aid of the Armenian archaeologists.

As General Director of the plant Atom Yegoryan told, the plant’s management was very interested in the fact that the first temporal layers in Southern Caucasus were discovered in the cave.

They were also interested in the discovery of wild grape seeds. Perhaps in the future, it will be possible to recreate the history of the development of viticulture in the Tavush region, starting from prehistoric times.

The director noted that the plant finances a number of educational and scientific programs, as the management understands that Armenian science has financial difficulties. “We want our scientists to work here and not leave the country,” he said, adding that in the future, a historical exposition on the territory of the plant may be opened.

Պեղումեր՝ Տավուշի շրջանի Գետահովիտ 2 քարայրում

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