The 1990s also saw the introduction of long term international collaborative research projects in Armenia, including Project Ar AGATS (the joint American-Armenian Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies). In addition to nine fortresses with Late Bronze Age components, the project identified 199 burial clusters spread along the northern slopes of Mt Aragats and the southern slopes of the Pambak range (with an overall estimation of 5,970 Late Bronze Age tombs within the Tsaghkahovit Plain) (Badalyan et al. The combination of survey, intensive excavation and bioarchaeological analysis has allowed mortuary practices to be contextualized in relation to the fortress sites, as well as individual life histories to be placed within a local society and sphere of interaction.
In 19, Project Ar AGATS conducted a systematic regional survey of the highlands overlooking the Tsaghkahovit plain in central Armenia (Avetisyan et al. While tied to the excavation of mortuary sites in many ways, the analysis of human remains in Armenia has a parallel but distinct history of research.
During the late 1980s and the 1990s, new, larger scale excavations were conducted at the cemeteries of Horom (Badalyan and Aghekyan 1992) and Talin (Avetisyan and Muradyan 1991, 1994).
Intermittent excavations of mortuary sites also continued at sites in the Sevan Basin, including Noraduz (Piliposyan 1991a), Mrtbi Dzor (Piliposyan 1991b) and Nerkin Getashen (Piliposyan and Hovhannisian 1991).
However, in order for these productive developments to be realized, several challenges in both the field and the laboratory must first be overcome.
The investigation of mortuary sites has a long history of research in the south Caucasus.
Bayern's (1885) publication worked to correlate materials across regional sites (Lindsay and Smith 2006: 168), while Morgan's (1889) publication situated the artefacts within the chronology of the Near East and the Mediterranean (Smith et al. Morgan's publication also included several plan views and cross-sections of burial chambers and their inhumations, as well as sketches of two crania from Moçi-Yéri, located 3km north of Alaverdi (see Morgan 1889: 165).
Yervand Lalayan also excavated several sites in the Sevan Basin, including Noraduz and Mrtbi Dzor (see Lalayan 1931).
Mkrtchyan later collaborated with archaeologist Piliposyan to correct and specify the archaeological contexts for these crania.
While Bunak's interest in cranial types can be situated within the broader late 19th- and early 20th-century directions in physical anthropological research, the focus on the development of ethnic types was carried into the period of Soviet scholarship and developed into a particular approach to physical anthropology.
These excavations included several major Middle/Late Bronze and Iron Age mortuary sites (Figure 3.1), including Artik (Khachatryan 1979), Elar (Khanzadyan 1979), Karashamb (Oganesyan 1992a; Oganesyan 1992b), Keti (Petrosyan 1989), Lchashen (Mnatsakanyan 1965), Lori Berd (Devedjyan 1981, 2006), Metsamor (Khanzadyan 1995), Oshakan (Esayan and Kalantaryan 1988), Shamiram (Areshyan 1977), Shirakavan (Torosyan et al. Archaeological research in Armenia was slowed down by the devastating 1988 earthquake, the collapse of the USSR, and the general socio-economic situation that resulted from these events.
Nevertheless, intermittent excavation continued at several of the mortuary sites mentioned above, including Karashamb, Lchashen and Lori-Berd.
These projects, along with Boris Kuftin's excavations at the Trialetti kurgans and at Beshtashen in Georgia, were fundamental to the development of a regional chronology (Kuftin 1941, 1946; Piotrovskii 1949).