• Shira

Breath taking views, dung samples, and wonderful people who made my work in Armenia unforgettable

I’ve returned last week from 10 days in Armenia, and what can I say besides; I’m in love!

I was invited to Armenia to join the Ararat Depression Project to check the potential contribution of phytolith analysis to the project. The project which is led by Ariel Malinski-Buller from Monrepos, and Phil Glauberman and Boris Gasparyan from the Archaeological and Anthropological Institute NAS AR, isn’t directly related to the MC but rather to Pleistocene hunter-gatherer population dynamics in the Ararat Depression, Armenia.


As the team palynologist Sebastian Joannin and I have arrived to the base camp rather late on the first day, we randomly joined a group that was going to the site of Asni where they excavated a test pit near an Iron Age shrine. There was my first treat for the excavation, as they have identified not one, but probably 2 medieval dung plaster floors which I sampled for micromorphology. On the way back to the hotel I’ve noticed the dung cutting from an enclosure floor that were drying on the side of the road to be used later most probably as fuel, and it has become clear to me that working in Armenia has actually a lot to do with the MapDung project.




The fierce, yet easy to bribe dogs of “doggy lake”

On the next day we went to an area named by the team “doggy lake” where the geologists were sampling tephra layers as part of the Ararat Depression chronological work. As the sampling took longer than expected, I’ve used this opportunity to collect more dung samples as well as to make a section in a sheep enclosure area. The Armenian shepherds are usually accompanied by very territorial dogs which can be very scary, but once we supplied some helpings from our lunch, we were accepted as part of the pack =)



Ararat 1 Cave. photo courtesy of Ariel Malinski-Buller

The rest of the days were dedicated for sampling sediments and plants for a reference collection in the Ararat 1 Cave and its vicinity, with the constant present of the magnificent Ararat mountain in the background. The work in the cave was very dusty, but the excellent excavation team, the nice food, and the end of the day beer, made the time fly by.





Ararat mountain

On our day off, we went on some touring, and experienced two of Armenia attractions: The Greco-Roman temple of Garni, and the Medieval Geghard monetary which is partially carved into the mountain. I think this was my favorite part as we were both lucky to stumble upon some shooting of a music clip of an angelic choir, but mostly, because of the monastery’s cat…







On the last day, back in Yerevan I was lucky to get the help of a very talented local botanist from Yerevan Botanical Garden, Ivan Gabrielyan, who helped me to identify all the plants I’ve collected and showed me his interesting fossilized leaves collection. I’ve ended the season with quite a lot of samples, some words in Armenian, nice memories, and most importantly with new colleagues and friends.

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