The Earliest Farmers of the Caucasus: A View from Masis Blur

Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky, Postdoctoral Scholar, CIoA, UCLA
Alan Farahani, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UNLV
September 16, 2020, 1:00pm – 2:00pm PST
Virtual Pizza Talk Series – UCLA

This talk is a summary of research conducted at the archaeological site of Masis Blur, an early farming community located in the Ararat plain of Armenia and occupied continuously for nearly a millennium from ca. 6200 cal. BC – 5200 cal. BC. While much is known about how communities in west Asia adopted a farming way of life, much less is known about the Caucasus. The Masis Blur Archaeological Project explores the rhythms of everyday life at the Neolithic village in this understudied region using high resolution techniques to recover, record, and analyse the material remains of day-to-day activities. The talk highlights recent fieldwork and preliminary results from Masis Blur with specific focus on enhanced photographic techniques (photogrammetry), archaeological plant remains , animal husbandry, obsidian procurement, and a few key discoveries such as calcified basket remains, evidence of thatched roofs, and pigment processing workshops  which, to date, are singular for the region.

Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology where she is directing the Research Program for Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography. She earned her PhD in Archaeology from UCLA in 2018 and she has been directing the Masis Blur Archaeological Research Project since 2012. As an anthropological archaeologist she uses geochemical characterization of materials to study past human behavior. In particular, she looks at how early farming communities of the Southern Caucasus made use of the available natural resources and how these behaviors influenced the spread of technological innovation and social change.

Alan Farahani is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  He is an anthropological archaeologist whose research focuses on how ancient agriculture was embedded in and influenced the social, political, and cultural practices of people in the past. His methodological expertise is paleoethnobotany, or the analysis of archaeological plant remains, as well as in the use of contemporary computational tools such as Python and R to effectively manage archaeological data. He has conducted fieldwork throughout the world, and has been working on the Masis Blur project since 2018.


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