1.4 Dating

The main method for dating the sites was to use the knowledge of the Azerbaijan archaeological community. This has proved to be very reliable, with many initial assessments being vindicated by other techniques.

The project commissioned over 40 radiocarbon determinations which represent the first major series of such dates in Azerbaijan. The dates were all provided by Beta Analytic of Florida, with the reports available in the ADS archive (Beta Analytic 2005; 2006a; 2006b; 2006c). The results are summarised in Table 2 and graphically in the figure below.

Figure 153

Radiocarbon dates

Samples of bone and charcoal were selected during the various excavations and retained until a decision was taken on which features should be dated. This process was undertaken by David Maynard in conjunction with IoAE staff. The decision to use only securely identified deposits was critical, as there are many charcoal-filled features to be seen in the landscape, some of which are of recent origin, so the possibility of residual material was always present. It is unfortunate that a wider series of samples was not retained, as an increased number of dates per site would have given a greater precision to the eventual results, certainly on a site basis. This could have been extremely helpful for some of the cemeteries, such as Zayamchai, Tovuzchai or Chaparli, where the handful of dates does not indicate fully the likely intensity of use.

Ultimately, as in any series of radiocarbon dates, there are some results that do not match expectations. 399 Hasansu Kurgan (Beta 232334) was designed to date a cow skull stored in the IoAE museum in Baku labelled as having come from 399. This was dated to give greater precision for the date of the burial. In the event, it appears either grossly contaminated, or is a recent skull misidentified as coming from that site.

361 Khojakhan (Beta 226240) was dated in the mistaken belief that the timber came from the Eneolithic phase of the site rather than the post-medieval period of use it actually indicates.

Two sets of dates from 335 Chaparli and 405 Girag Kasaman are several hundred years from the excavators' interpretation of the site in both cases. The only solution would be a wider range of dates from the sites in question to give a greater statistical validity to the date ranges that appear to be indicated.

Absolute dating techniques were demonstrated by a single dendrochronological date of 1248 BC from timber over the central chamber of the 272 Borsunlu Kurgan. This was conducted by Peter Kuniholm of Cornell University. Despite having 18 trunks to obtain sufficient rings for counting, it was only on the second attempt that a sufficiently good sample was obtained for dating.

During the remainder of the project the team was on the lookout for other samples for this technique. The only single possibly suitable sample was a charcoal block from the SCP excavation at 289 Fakhrali, but although Peter Kuniholm could identify this as elm, with only 80 rings there was insufficient data to give a date.


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