Evidence: Eneolithic | Bronze Age | Iron Age | Antique | Albanian | Medieval | Post-Medieval

This site was not located until a late stage of the SCP construction in 2005, so there is no information from the BTC trench line.

The site was a complex of different phases and periods of use so it is difficult to be sure of the precise chronology of each individual feature. The general sequence as proposed by the excavator, Safar Ashurov, is of an Antique-period settlement followed by an Albanian Christian chapel (see Figures 132 and 133) accompanied by graves in a Christian tradition. This was later followed by a Muslim cemetery and eventually by a small rectangular structure of stone (not shown in the photographs).

The strongest element that supports this interpretation is the presence of decorated carved limestone blocks that can be seen as representing parts of a cross. These were found associated with the rectangular building. Certain burials to the east of the cemetery also exhibited characteristics that were seen, during excavation, as typical of Christian beliefs. Other graves lay over the rectangular building and also showed signs of Muslim burial tradition, so these could, quite naturally, be seen as a later phase of burial on the site. However, this presents some difficulty in that there appears to be no difference in the use of the site and a separate Christian and Muslim cemetery area cannot be distinguished from the plan of the burials over the site. Information from other parts of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan imply that the two religions always used separate cemeteries, at least in the historical period.

The radiocarbon dates also suggested that the entire cemetery was rather later than the Albanian period, which also makes the interpretation of the two-period cemetery harder to believe.

An analysis was conducted on all the photographs in the project archive of extended inhumation, both Muslim and those believed to be Christian. The images of skeletons from the recent burials at Girag Kasaman and Seyidlar showed certain characteristics in common in nearly all the burials. These were that the face was turned towards the south-west (Mecca) resulting in the skull skewed to the right. Also the left arm often lay over the abdomen, with the right arm lower than the body. This is seen as a consequence of ensuring that the body was in the correct orientation. Using this observation allowed Muslim burials to be identified using at least two variables.

With the Christian burials, the religious requirement was that the body should face to the east. Examination of non-Muslim burial images showed a high proportion where the body lay supine, squarely on its back in the grave pit with the back of the skull to the ground and the face looking vertically upwards. The other factor that was strongly present was that the arms lay along the body or were folded squarely across the chest. Whichever position was followed, each arm position mirrored the other. This allowed two characteristics to be used to identify potential Christian burials.

The analysis of each burial using these variables gives a more mixed view of the religious affinities of the cemetery. Not all burials showed the presence of these characteristics and some were very mixed. This fact is in itself, a contrast from the uniform cemeteries of 405 Girag Kasaman and 316 Seyidlar, where, in nearly every case, both variables for 'Muslim' were to be found. The selection of the radiocarbon dates for Chaparli (see Table 2) were made on the basis of one 'Christian' and 'earlier' burial, from the east of the cemetery; and one 'Muslim' and 'later' burial, from the west. The result is one where the hypothetically earlier grave is marginally later, although, they could be contemporary. Grave Q38 bone gave a date of Cal AD 890-1030 (Beta 232331) and bone from Grave Q63 gave a date of Cal AD 1000-1160 (Beta 232329).

Without a substantial radiocarbon sampling programme, this element of the site cannot be taken further. On the basis of these two radiocarbon dates, the interpretation is that the entire cemetery is of one period, several centuries into the Muslim period. The use of burial traditions that point to Christian beliefs implies either a community of Christians living in juxtaposition to those of Muslim belief, or the adoption of a mixed belief system that retained elements of earlier practices. This theory also applied to the medieval cemetery at Zayamchai, where one or two burials were not in conformance with the Muslim tradition. After a much greater period of time, these earlier traditions were totally forgotten, as at 316 Seyidlar and 405 Girag Kasaman, or separate cemeteries were used.


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