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Technical and Social Innovations in the Caucasus: between the Eurasian Steppe and the Earliest Cities in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC

Project description

Technical and social invention in the Caucasus

The civilizations of Ancient Mesopotamia gave birth to many important advances in science and technology. The oldest wheel, for example, was discovered in the particular region, used for chariots some 5 000 years ago. The EU-funded ARCHCAUCASUS project challenges this theory, prevalent in the world of science and archeology, creating space for alternative hypotheses: that new technologies and techniques claim to have been discovered in Mesopotamia were actually adaptation from different ‘peripheries’. The ARCHCAUCASUS study will expand on this by probing four axial innovations: wheel and wagon, metal alloys, silver metallurgy and woolly sheep. The project is multidisciplinary, making use of the most up-to-date analytical methods.

Objective

This project leads to one of the most dynamic regions in prehistory: the Caucasus of the 4th and early 3rd mill. BC. During this vibrant time, basic innovations emerged, which were crucial until the 19th century: wheel and wagon, copper alloys, the potter’s wheel, new breeds of woolly sheep, domestication of the horse, and others. At the same time, massive migrations from the East European steppe during the early 3rd mill. BC changed the European gene pool.
The project challenges the still predominant narrative that all technical achievements stemmed from urban centres in Mesopotamia. New studies have created space for alternative hypotheses: possibly it was not the development of new techniques, but instead their adaptation from different ‘peripheries’ and their re-combination and re-configuration that formed the basis for the success of these ‘civilisations’.
The Caucasus, linking Mesopotamia to the Eurasia and Europe, is for the first time in the focus of a study on innovation transfer. The study will make a major contribution by investigation of four axial innovations: wheel and wagon, metal alloys, silver metallurgy and woolly sheep. 40 wheels will be analysed by computer tomography and strontium isotopes. Some 300 copper alloys artefacts and 200 silver objects will be examined using mass spectrometry with laser ablation. 400 aDNA genom-wide analyses of humans from burials in the North Caucasus will offer the unique chance of elucidating the role of migrations for the spread of innovations. The pottery in the region, often linked to Mesopotamia, will be studied under technical aspects and is a complementary path to shed light on migration and the transfer of knowledge. Excavations in settlements will allow building up a chronology using 400 AMS 14C analyses. The project is multidisciplinary, making use of the most up-to-date analytical methods. Our long experience and reputation on both sides of the Caucasus is the ideal background for cutting-edge research.

Host institution

DEUTSCHES ARCHAOLOGISCHES INSTITUT
Net EU contribution
€ 2 487 875,00
Address
PODBIELSKIALLEE 69/71
14195 Berlin
Germany

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Region
Berlin Berlin Berlin
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 2 487 875,00

Beneficiaries (1)