1.0 Introduction

The Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan oil pipeline (BTC) was built over a three-year period between 2003 and 2005, and was preceded by an archaeological programme that began in 2001 and finally finished in 2009 with the completion of a series of reports detailing the analysis of the data from the excavations, and subsequent studies.

The work entailed a range of activities, some of which were new developments in Azerbaijan, such as the use of GPS recording and digital images, together with the use of aerial photography and satellite remote sensing. Yet, despite this, the most effective tool was found to be the presence on the ground of hard-working, knowledgeable, archaeologically-trained staff.

During the various episodes of the archaeological project over 100 staff were employed. This included members of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography (IoAE), drivers, translators and other specialists. An international element was also brought in with a number of British and American archaeologists, who co-ordinated the various processes and led to further specialists being involved from France, USA and UK during the post-excavation phase of work.

Perhaps one of the most promising results of the project is the expansion of communication across the globe. This started during the fieldwork and expanded during the report preparation stage, with regular contact between Azerbaijan, England, France, Georgia, Turkey, United States and Wales, and has continued by various means since that time. Hopefully communication will be strengthened further by publications such as this.

Figure 152

Azerbaijan relief with BTC and SCP pipeline route

The bald facts of the project are substantial in themselves - 440km of pipeline across Azerbaijan. This comprises two pipelines separated by 28m; the BTC and the Southern Caucasus Pipeline gas pipeline (SCP). BTC was built first, from the Caspian Coast to the Georgian border during 2003 and 2004, while the SCP was built in 2005, running from the Georgian border towards the Caspian and parallel to the BTC. There was a four-year archaeological fieldwork programme from 2001 to 2005. This was followed by a further six-year post-excavation programme that ended in early 2011 (Taylor et al. 2010; 2011; Taylor in press).

The project as a whole followed a five-stage structure.

  1. Desktop study and assessment
  2. Evaluation
  3. Mitigation excavation
  4. Watching brief and 'Late Finds' excavations
  5. Post-excavation processing and publication

Phase 1

The assessment of data was conducted in 2001, largely based on the results of observations on the Western Route Export Pipeline (WREP) pipeline to Georgia built in 1997; this route was largely followed by the BTC. These data, as well as a walk-through survey by Nadir Hasanov and Aziz Novruzlu for IoAE, formed the main basis of the preliminary studies. Rog Palmer of Air Photo Services prepared the study of the rectified aerial photographs of the pipeline route and David Maynard prepared the cultural heritage chapter of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the BTC Project. This phase of work identified a list of 28 sites thought to be of concern from a much larger group of sites known to be within a one kilometre corridor of the route.

Phase 2

Phase 2 of the project was undertaken in 2002 and involved ground investigation and detailed survey of the 28 sites identified in Phase 1. These were reported on in 2002 and a group of four sites selected for Phase 3 work. At that time it was recognised that there were large areas of the pipeline route that had not been comprehensively assessed, and that in effect little could be done to determine the presence of various, deeply buried archaeological remains.

View Phase 2 report in digital archive.

Phase 3

Between October 2002 and July 2004 the four sites selected for Phase 3 mitigation excavations (Borsunlu, Zayamchai, Seyidlar and Girag Kasaman) were worked on. Only the first two were completed without any impact from the construction programme. The latter two were not finished before their staff and resources were required to respond to discoveries in other locations on the pipeline route.

Phase 4

This activity occurred between February 2004 and November 2005. Construction work began on the Caspian Coast in mid-2003 and progressed steadily westward. All the teams were accompanied by four archaeologists from the IoAE who observed construction activities and reported new discoveries. From December 2003 onwards, these increased in number and complexity and resulted both in an increase in the number of archaeologists and simultaneous work in multiple areas. The scope of work in each location was agreed with the IoAE by David Maynard and, later, Chris Polglase for BTC.

View Phases 3 and 4 results in digital archive.

Phase 5

The scope of work for the post-excavation report preparation was agreed during 2006 between IoAE and Chris Polglase. A standard format for each report was determined and followed by its individual author(s). David Maynard organised various specialists in order to obtain a series of radiocarbon dates, obsidian analysis, charcoal identification and human bone analysis [view reports in digital archive]. The IoAE and other reports were translated by Fikret Orujov, who managed the presentation of the reports. David Maynard commented on each draft report and incorporated the results of the special analyses with the aim of bringing the level of the material to international standards. The final drafts were then to be agreed with BTC and the IoAE. Unfortunately, in October 2008, Fikret died, at a point where a number of final additions and amendments had not been completed. It has not proved possible since then to complete the process as originally envisaged.

The IoAE reports that form the bulk of the archive are complete, but there are a number of areas where missing sections and inconsistencies remain, although not to such an extent as to prevent the reader from gaining a good impression of the nature of the material. In several instances, the IoAE author's view of the site and its interpretation differs from that of David Maynard. These areas of difference are covered in the summaries, which outline both interpretations. Fundamentally, these are not major and mostly result from the pressurised working conditions within the confines of the pipeline trench. Many of the questions could be answered by further work, either on material in storage, or outside the physical confines of the trench. Those wishing to follow up on subjects such as the finds, should first familiarise themselves with the broad outlines of the project in the article and then find the detail they require in the archive holdings.

During Phase 5 several other factors came into play. BTC invited the Smithsonian Institution to prepare publication of a select number of archaeological sites in each of the three countries through which the pipeline passed. The project also included training and cultural heritage management techniques and the preparation of a website and book. This report contains the full summaries for all the sites and acts as a basic introduction to the Smithsonian Institution material.

During the work, several features were noted in passing through the countryside and these have generated small studies in their own right (see digital archive). Richard Moore gave a presentation to the Institute for Archaeologists conference in 2009 about 'Bus shelters of Azerbaijan' and David Maynard prepared a publication for the Aerial Archaeology Research Group on 'Aerial archaeology in Azerbaijan.


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