South-Central Section - 49th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM


BELMAKER, Miriam, Anthropology, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104 and SIMONYAN, Hakob, Scientific Research Center of the Historical and Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture, Republic of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia,

In 2010-2011 an expedition led by the Scientific Research Center for Historical and Cultural Heritage (directed by H. Simonyan), surveyed the region near Mt. Amul, near Gorhayk, Syunik province, Armenia. On the plateu, at the springs of the Vorotan River, 2200-2400 m’ above sea level, thousands of bifaces, tools and flakes produced on obsidian and basalt, typical to the Middle - Late Acheulean to the Upper Paleolithic, were discoverd (as well as kites, bronze-age tombs and medieval graves).

Excavations were carried out in 2012 and 2014 by the Armenian-American joint expedition (co-directors H. Simonyan and M. Belmaker) in site 12. The excavation revealed a single horizontal horizon of lithics made on obsidian. Typological analysis of the lithics indicated that blades and bladelets, carinated cores as well as end and side scrapers dominate the lithic assemblage. While the majority of the assemblage pointed to an Early Upper Paleolithic assemblage similar to Dzudzuana level D dated to 33 Ka, several other specimens, suggested a more complicated scenario. Specifically, several Levallois pieces were present in situ as well as several bifaces. The hand axes found are very similar to the Late Acheualean bifaces from the middle flows of the River Hrazdan and Talin region.

The site is situated is a very shallow paleosol which is situated as horizon A deposited above a very fast weathering regolithic. The baserock is basalt. Regional dates suggests dates close to 1.2 Ma (However, we are currently in the process of Ar/Ar dating of the Basalt).

Given that the site was so shallow, we used regolith evolution and vertical distribution of rock fragments (RF) to test if the lithic distribution indicated an in situ site. The tendency for RF percentages to be highest in the lower layer is readily explained by production at the weathering front. This supports the fact tht Gorhayk is an in situ site. Furthermore, There is no evidence for fluvial transport, as the lithics are of all sizes and were found disributed across a wide range of strikes and dips.

Gorhayk presents a new occupation of modern humans in southern Armenia during a pivotal period in human evolution and add to the corpus of lithic assemblages from the Middle – Upper Paleolithic transition in the Caucasus.

  • GOrhayk GSA.pdf (20.7 MB)