2009 and earlier

“Production and perception of consonant clusters in Georgian,” October 2009

This workshop at the Tbilisi State University focused on the production and perception of consonant clusters in Georgian and other Caucasian languages.  The workshop was co-sponsored by ARISC.

“Acoustic investigation of ejectives and voicing contrasts: a typological perspective,” October 2009

This workshop, co-sponsored by ARISC, was related to an ongoing research project of the institute, on the acoustic investigation of ejectives and voicing contrasts in Georgian and other Caucasian languages.

News from the field: “Joint Azerbaijan-German excavations in the prehistoric site of Kamiltepe, Mil Steppe, Agjabedi, Baku, Azerbaijan,” September 2009

On September 8, 2009, Barbara Helwing and Tavakkul Aliyev (AZE) gave a well-attended talk co-sponsored by ARISC at the offices of the CRRC-Azerbaijan, highlighting some finds from their recent excavations. The earliest sedentary occupation in Azerbaijan is attested with the type site of Shomutepe in the area of the middle Kür River and its tributaries. Sedentary life seems to begin only later in the region further east, where the first settlement mounds are known in the fifth millennium BC, for example in the Mil Steppe and the Karabakh plain. Archaeological investigations at Kamiltepe began in summer 2009, following previous findings by Tavakkul Aliyev in 2008. The site was known as an Eneolithic settlement site through surveys and investigations by Iessen and Narimanov in the 1950/60s. It came as a big surprise though that the site turned out to consist in large parts of a massive mudbrick platform, preserved to a height of 13 layers of brick. Apparently, life in the fifth millennium BC took place around and possibly on top of this platform. Cooking ware and animal bones accumulated around it indicate that a considerable amount of cooking took place there. Such an observation would appear suitable, either if the platform served daily domestic cooking activities over a longer period, or if this was the location of a feast or ceremony. However, the monumentality of the construction within the context of the earliest sedentary sites in the Mil Steppe remains enigmatic and indicates a so far unknown degree of complexity in the fifth millennium BC communities of southwest Azerbaijan.

Lecture “The Ark and the Harp: Kingship on the Edges of the Byzantine World,” September 2009

ARISC member Stephen Rapp, Jr. held a lecture on September 10, 2009, at the Patriarchal University of St Andrew the First-Called in Georgia.  The talk shed new light on the nature and extent of the Byzantine Commonwealth, an enormous transcontinental zone of exchange and communication.  The commonwealth extended east to the Caucasus Mountains and south to the Horn of Africa.  Three non-Greek dynasties on the very edges of the commonwealth—the Georgian and Armenian branches of the Bagratid family and the Solomonids of Ethiopia—rationalized and attempted to make central their place within that extensive polycultural enterprise through the careful manipulation and rewriting of the Bible, the selective appropriation of Byzantine political ideas (e.g., the Eusebian Theory of Christian monotheistic kingship), and their fusion with local concepts of rulership.  Of special importance is the Bagratid and Solomonid claim to be the direct biological descendants of the ancient Hebrew kings David and Solomon respectively, and their imagined association with biblical relics, like the Ark of the Covenant.   This lecture was sponsored by St. Andrew’s Georgian University and co-sponsored by the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC).

Talk on “Language Policy in the Post-Soviet Space,” March 2009

On March 19, 2009, ARISC and the CRRC (Caucasus Research Resource Centers) co-sponsored a talk by William Fierman, Vice-President of ARISC, on “Language Policy in the Post-Soviet Space” in Baku, Azerbaijan. The talk focused on issues of language and identity in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. Fierman explained how language and language processes in Central Asia and Azerbaijan reflect major political, economic, social, and cultural tendencies and phenomena in the respective societies. He used examples both from language status and corpus (orthography, terminology and onomastics) to illustrate the varying policies and processes with regard to russification, and to the establishment of national identity for the post-Soviet states and for their titular groups.

Conference on “Armenia and Armenians in International Treaties,” March 2009

Conf Prog UMich 2009
Organized by the Armenian Studies Program and co-sponsored by ARISC, this well-attended conference from March 18-21 at the University of Michigan covered instruments of international law over two thousand years. Given the history of Armenia and Armenians, 24 scholars from Armenia, Europe, South America and the US covered treaties and agreements involving the South Caucasus from ancient Roman and Persian empires to the Arab Caliphates; Byzantium, the Mongol Empire, Italian city-states  and Muslim and Crusader states in the Middle Ages; the Ottoman, Safavid and Russian empires and European states and Turkey in early modern and modern history; and Russia, Kazakhstan and international organizations since Armenia’s independence in 1991.  The conference was webcast live from the Armenian Studies Program: www.ii.umich.edu/asp and questions were taken for the speakers by email.

Talk and Workshop by Archil Kikodze, March 2009

Georgian prize-winning novelist and photographer, Archil Kikodze visited the University of Chicago for a talk on March 12, “Georgia – Diversity and Environment: Reflections on the History, Political Geography, and Cultures of a Newly Independent State,”  in which he discussed the environment and cultural diversity of his native land. Mr. Kikodze gave an illustrated lecture depicting the cultural and physical wealth of the Republic of Georgia. Mr. Kikodze also provided specific examples illustrating the complex history and ethnic tensions that have beset Georgia from Stalinist times to the present, including the deportation of the Meskheti Turks from Djabakheti at the end of World War II. His talk concluded with consideration of the recent tragic events that unfolded last August, which resulted in costly and deadly conflict and led to an intensification of ethnic hostilities in the area.  On the 13th, he held a workshop on media and contemporary politics in the South Caucasus after the 2008 conflict with Russia.  Mr. Kikodze’s visit was co-sponsored by ARISC.

Symposium on “Languages of the Caucasus and Linguistic Theory,” January 2009

ARISC co-sponsored a symposium on “Languages of the Caucasus and Linguistic Theory” as part of the Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting in January 2009. Though often called one of the largest language contact areas in the world, the Caucasus has been relatively little studied by linguists. Nonetheless, these languages have a substantial contribution to make to linguistic theory, given the number of typologically unusual properties they exhibit.

Organized by Dr. Alice C. Harris (State University of New York at Stony Brook), the symposium emphasized those aspects of linguistic theory that rest in part on data from languages of the Caucasus, which in turn provide challenges to linguistic theory and in this way help to shape it.  Papers presented ranged from phonetics-phonology to syntax and included some language change.  Ioana Chitoran (Dartmouth College), who studies Lezgian consonant clusters produced by syncope, argued that syncope is the trigger for a number of consonant alternations previously observed in the language.  Johanna Nichols (University of California, Berkeley) argued that Chechen and Ingush have the type of verb-second phenomena observed in German, with the preverb separated from the verb under certain circumstances.  Maria Polinsky (Harvard University) argued for a decompositional view of agreement in Tsez and other Caucasian language, showing that under certain conditions morphophonemic features may not match conceptual features.  Work from several younger scholars was also included.

Conference on Eurasian Archaeology, “Regimes and Revolutions: Power, Violence, and Labor in Eurasia Between the Ancient and the Modern,” May 2008

The Third University of Chicago Conference on Eurasian Archaeology took place from May 1 – May 3, 2008 at the Oriental Institute, with co-sponsorship by ARISC.  The conference brought together graduate students and senior researchers from institutions across North America, Europe, and Asia.   The goals for the conference were to examine the instruments of power, the semiotics of legitimation, and the mobilization of labor in the constitution of politics from prehistory to the present; explore the work of power without subsuming it to the domain of governmental institutions; and understand what the picture of authority over the longue durée looks like across Eurasia.  The full program can be found at http://acc.spc.uchicago.edu/eurasianconference/ 

ARISC participates in CAORC DLIR training, April 2008

The American Research Institute of the South Caucasus has made it possible for its partner organization in the South Caucasus, the Caucasus Research Resource Center, to represent ARISC at the Digital Library of International Research Training Session on the use of electronic tools for cataloging and for JSTOR in Chicago, Illinois, from April 15-April 24, 2008. The training program was both intense and enjoyable. It included introduction to the JSTOR, OCLC services and the WorldCat, a lecture on archives with a tour in Chicago History Museum. Sessions on the DLIR project and web resources were particularly helpful in increasing awareness of Digital Library of International Research and Council of American Overseas Research Centers roles. The Center for Research Libraries hosted the participants during the lectures on classification, cataloging and working with diacritics.


Gohar Khachatryan, Librarian/Information Specialist
(she is in the front row on the right)

Conference on “Georgia: The Making of a National Culture”, March 2008

Georgia Conference Program Brochure
The Armenian Studies Program at the University of Michigan organized an international conference from May 15-18 on “Georgia: The Making of a National Culture” as part of the series “Armenia and its Neighbors.”  From ancient to modern times Georgians have lived under both the threat and the influence of neighboring states and cultures. They have evolved from pagan to Christian societies, independent kingdoms and principalities, to maintaining their distinctiveness under the rule of Persians, Turks, and Russians. They have lived with Christian and Muslim neighbors, experienced the rule of tsarist and Soviet overlords, and today are building an independent republic itself damaged by ethnic conflict. This conference, co-sponsored by ARISC, explored the ways in which Georgians developed their own culture and notion of nation, particularly in the last two centuries, their relations with their Armenian, Azerbaijani, Russian, and other neighbors, and the acquired resources with which they have forged a post-Soviet national community.


Left to right:  Ronald Suny, Hirotaki Maeda, Oliver Reisner, and Paul Manning.

Talk on “Land, Territory and Property in War,” February 2008

Dr. Lale Yalçın-Heckmann gave a talk on “Land, Territory and Property in War: Examples from the Caucasus and the Middle East” in February 2008.  The event, co-sponsored by ARISC, was very well-attended with an almost packed house in the Franke Institute at the University of Chicago.  Her lecture discussed the themes of property in land, land as territory and the effects of war and displacement on both of them.  Using ethnographic case studies to demonstrate how property interacts with war, Dr. Yalçın-Heckmann was able to note that theories of property in the field of economic anthropology have ignored war and its consequences for property.  Finally, she summarized the reasons why property interacts with war in the ways it does, based on the cases she had chosen.

Dr. Yalçın-Heckmann  is currently following up her work on rural property in Azerbaijan byleading a new team, investigating ‘citizenship from below’ in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.  Since June 2000, she has been with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.

Faunal Analysis Seminar, June 2006

In June 2006, Professor Belinda H. Monahan of Northwestern University conducted a workshop on contemporary approaches to faunal analysis in Tbilisi, Georgia. Sponsored by ARISC, the workshop was open to scholars in the South Caucasus. Dr. Monahan led the workshop prior to her participation in excavations in Armenia, directed by Professor Adam T. Smith of the University of Chicago and Dr. Ruben Badalyan of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Academy of Sciences, Armenia.


Figure 1. At the head of the table are Maia Beksianishvili, conference coordinator and translator, Dr. Monahan, and Dr. David Lordkipanidze, Director of the Georgian State Museum, where the workshop was held.


Figure 2. Maia Beksianishvili and Belinda Monahan at work.


Figure 3. Workshop discussion. Facing camera is Mikheil Abramishivili, who organized Dr. Monahan’s visit to Tbilisi. Note that the site being discussed (on screen) is Gegharot, in Armenia.