On salt, copper and gold

The origins of early mining and metallurgy in the Caucasus

International Conference | 17th-19th 2016 in Tbilisi

Under the auspices of the Georgian National Museum

On June, 17th-19th 2016 the colloquium “On salt, copper, and gold : the origins of early mining and metallurgy in the Caucasus” will take place in Tbilisi. It is the goal to discuss social, economic and political implications in the Caucasus and beyond during the 5th and 4th millennia BCE.

In the Caucasus, as in Europe and the Near East, the 5th and 4th millennia BCE are characterized by technological innovations that are seemingly linked with marked societal changes: the rise of mining industries, the development of extractive metallurgy and secondary animal-products appear to be coeval with the emergence of social hierarchy and increasing inequalities. But the processes that led to such spectacular evolutions, as well as the actual interactions between technology, innovations and socio-economic reorganization, are still a matter of debate.

In the Caucasus, recent discoveries made both in Azerbaijan and Georgia suggest that extractive metallurgy had reached a high stage of development by the end of the 5th millennium BCE, while the earliest mines known to date, the gold mine of Sakdrissi in Georgia and the salt mine of Duzdagi in Azerbaijan, appear to be closely linked to the Kura-Araxes phenomenon. Traces of intensive exploitation during the Kura-Araxes period are indeed attested on the mine works themselves, while numerous implements used in gold processing or salt extracting have been found respectively on the settlements of Dzezvebi and Kültepe 1, just a few kilometers away from the mines. A number of clues thus suggest that Kura-Araxes communities had a major role in the development of mining in the Caucasus, but their share in the actual development of metallurgy is not yet as clear.

Since the number of studies focused on these issues has greatly risen over the past ten years in the Caucasus and beyond, the time has come to assess the available data with a view to grasping the processes that led to the emergence of new products and production systems. We then need to discuss their social, economic and even political implications in the Caucasus and beyond.

This event is organized in Tbilisi by the joint French-German MINES project, under the auspices of the Georgian National Museum.

As a side-event to this colloquium, an exhibition presenting the results of the Sakdrissi Project will be presented at the Georgian National Museum:
The gold of Sakdrissi: Man's first gold mining enterprise


Program (pdf)

16th of June

Part I: Early Mining in the Caucasus
  Welcome ceremony
10.00h Welcome speech by Prof. Dr. D. Lordkipanidze
  Welcome address by Dr. C. Marro and Prof. Dr. Thomas Stöllner
  The Introductory part
10.45-11.15h C. Marro: Technological innovations: a key-concept for interpreting change during the 5th-4th millennia BCE in the Caucasus ?
11.15-11.45h T. Stöllner: Peoples approach to raw material resources: the case of the prehistoric Caucasus in its wider context
11.45-12.15h A. Hauptmann: Caucasian Metallurgy in its Near Eastern Context
12.15-12.45h A. Harding: Prehistoric rock salt production
12.30-13.45h Lunch break
  Part I: Early Mining in the Caucasus
13.45-14.15h I. Gambashidze, T. Stöllner: The Paravani calculation. The Early Gold Mining in Sakdrisi and its societal impact
14.15-14.45h Th. Gonon, N. Gailhard, C. Marro: Early salt mining strategies at Duzdagi, Nakhchivan
14.45-15.15h C. Marro: The function of ceramic containers in Caucasian early mines: the examples of Duzdağı (Azerbaijan) and Sakdrisi (Georgia) a
15.15-15.45h Break
15.45-16.15h 15h N. Otkhvani: The ceramic assemblages of Sakdrisi and Dzedzvebi
16.15-16.45h C. Hamon: Salt exploitation technics during the Early Bronze age in Caucasus: technology and use-wear of the macrolithic tools from Duzdagi and Kültepe 1 (Nakhchivan)
16.45-17.15h K. Tamazashvili: Mining Implements from Georgia
19.00 h

Welcome address at the Georgian National Museum by Prof Dr. D. Lordkipanidze
Opening of the Exhibition: New Discoveries – Georgian Archaeology

  • The Gold of Sakdrisi: Man’s first gold mining enterprise. Presentation of a temporal exhibition about Sakdrisi
  • Ananauri Kurgan –Bronze age elite grave

17th of June

  Part II : Early metallurgy in the Caucasus and beyond
9.00-9.30h S. Hansen: The Rise of early metallurgy in the 5th and 4th millennium
9.30-10.00h A. Hauptmann, S. Klein, M. Jansen, E. Salzmann: Ur and its (precious) metals: evidence for intercultural connections in the later 3rd millennium BC
10.00-10.30h B. Helwing: Patterns of early metallurgy on the Iranian plateau
10.30-11.00h Break
11.00-11.30h N. Nezafati: Recent Developments in Ancient Mining and Archaeometallurgy in Central Iran
11.30-12.00h N. Gaihard, A. Hauptmann: The beginning of extractive metallurgy in Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan): the archaeometallurgical evidence from Ovçular Tepesi, Zirinçlik and Kultepe
12:00-12.30h K. Meliksetian, E. Pernicka: On the origins of Chalcolithic and Kura-Araxes metallurgy of Armenia
12.30-13.30h Lunch
13.30-14.00h D. Wolf, R. Kunze: Archaeological and archaeogeological studies in Gegharkunik (Eastern Armenia)
14.00-14.30h A. Courcier: The metallurgical copper development of the ancient cultures in the Kura River basin (Georgia, Azerbaijan), from the 5th to the 3rd millennia BC
14.30-15.00h M. Jansen, A. Hauptmann: The geochemistry of Transcaucasian gold artifacts between the 4th and 2nd Millennia BC
15.00-15.30h Break
15.30-16.00h B. Jalilov, M. Ragimova, Kura-Araxes metallurgy and metalwork: analysis of the finds from an underground chamber tomb
16.00-16.30h Z. Makharadze, N. Kalandadze: Ananauri Kurgan No.3. New Data
16.30-17.00h R. Badalyan: The exploitation of mineral resources in Armenia during the Bronze Age: obsidian, metal, salt
  Public lecture at the Georgian National Museum
19.30h M. Frangipane: Arslantepe and the Kura-Araxes world: pastoralism, metallurgy and resource procurement in the Upper-Euphrates region.
  Reception in the Georgian National Museum

18th of June

  Part III: Early mining and metallurgy in the Caucasus within their broader economic context
9.30-10h B. Lyonnet, The use of natural resources at Mentesh Tepe during the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age
10.00-10.30h G. Gogočuri: The Kura-Araxes sites of the Eastern Georgian highlands and their research perspectives
10.30-11.00h Break
11.00-11.30h R. Berthon: The role of herding strategies in the exploitation of natural resources by early mining communities in the Caucasus
11.30-12.00h N. Boenke: First archaeobotanical results from early mining sites in the Caucasus region
12.00-12.30h G. Palumbi, P. Avetisyan, I. Kalantarian, C. Chataigner, A. Balasescu, O. Barge, J. Chahoud, R. Hovsepyan, K. Meliksetian: Early Pastoralism and Natural Resource Management: Recent Research at Godedzor
12.30-13.30h Lunch
13.30-14.00h C. Longford, A. Sagona: Agricultural resources in the highlands, perspectives from Sos Höyük and Chobareti
14.00-14.30h J. Thomalsky: Obsidian tool production in the Southern Caucasus of the 5-4.th millennium BCE: technology, typology and socio-cultural implications
14.30-15.00h E. Herrscher: Prehistoric dietary practices patterns in the Southern Caucasus: insights from stable isotopes studies
15.00-15.30h Break
15.30-16.00h S. Hansen: Final remarks
16.00-17.00h Final Discussion
20.00h Conference dinner in Tblisi City

19th of June

  Excursion to Dmanisi, Sakdrisi/Dzedzwebi and Aruchlo

Organizing Committee

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Scientific Committee

  • Prof. Dr. Veli Bakhshaliyev, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan
  • Dr. Irina Gambashidze, National Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Dr. Zurab Makharadze, National Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Dr. Catherine Marro, CNRS, Lyon, France
  • Prof. Dr. Maisa Ragimova, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Baku, Azerbaijan
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Stöllner, Ruhr University/Deutsches Bergbau-Museum, Bochum, Germany

  • Accomodation

  • Restaurants

On salt, copper and gold

18th of June: Lunch break at the Restaurant Rachs Ubani

The gold of Sakdrissi: Man's first gold mining enterprise

The exhibition will show the results of a 12 year’s joint Georgian-Georgian expedition in Sakdrisi and the surrounding landscapes. Highlights are findings and results from the excavations in the oldest known gold mine in the world. Films, fotos and objects will guide the visitors through various aspects of the mining technique but also of the social background. Therefore also the results and findings of the settlement Dzedzvebi will be shown, from graves, settlements, workshops as well as of the gold-trade. Burials and ritual activities were closely interlinked with the gold-mining job once: Our burials show the very early beginning of social distinction between members within the society. With the gold mining social inequality has been raised for the first time on big scale in the Caucasus: Therefore the newly excavated finds of the rich kurgan grave of Ananauri als will be on display.