First conceived by Armenian and UK members of the research team in the years 2006-2008, the project is an international cooperation sponsored for the period 2009-2016 by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia and the Landscape Research Centre in the United Kingdom.
Aim and objectives: The overall aim of the project, set out in a joint Agreement of March 2009, is to assist in achieving a deeper understanding of the importance of Ughtasar to those who created the rock art, and to their perceptions and use of the crater. The immediate objectives, using a combination of rapid survey across the crater as a whole and more detailed recording in selected areas, are to document the rock art and any other archaeological features within their environmental setting, to record topographical features not currently mapped, to assess the physical condition of the carvings so as to assist future management of the site, and to involve a new generation of Armenian researchers in the study of their country’s rock art heritage.
To utilize archaeological, geological and ecological field survey and recording in the study and digital mapping of the rock art and natural environment within and along the immediate approaches to the Ughtasar rock art site.
To study the distribution and relationships between the character and location of the individual rock art panels, with the aim of identifying significant groupings or locations which might signify routes of movement within or around the crater and its entrances.
To assess the physical condition of the rock art panels so as to inform discussion of the future management of the site in the face of a steady increase in visitor numbers.
To involve Armenian students and researchers in the project and to organize their training during survey and analytical work, introducing them to new methods and systems of analysis within modern archaeology.
To locate, record and map other archaeological or recently-created features within the study area.
To map the topographical and man-made features of the site as a basis for the creation of a GIS environment for the project.
To assess the physical condition of individual rock art panels, giving a high priority for detailed documentation to panels that are in a fragile state due to the harsh climatic conditions or that are at risk of damage by natural or visitor erosion or by lichen growth etc.
To encourage the perception (and 'ownership') of prehistoric petroglyphs by the people of Armenia as an integral part of the rich cultural and archaeological heritage of the country.
To transfer and share skills and understandings between the participants in the project.
To disseminate the project’s results through a variety of means – academic papers, popular articles, books, website, exhibitions etc.
Contextual objectives :
To research the geographical and geological and geomorphological context of the site, particularly relating to volcanic activity.
To examine the possible relationships between the rock art and particular features of the modern and ancient landscape.
To carry out research into the sources and dating of worked obsidian discovered at the site.
To examine the immediate surroundings of each rock art panel for possible hammer-stones or other material which might be associated with carving events.
To examine, mainly within the context of art-historical research, the possibilities of creating separate cultural-chronological groups and inner sequences based on statistical analysis of the database (stylistic, thematic and typological).
Research questions underlying the present phase of work:
Were the majority of carvings executed randomly on the boulders or may certain patterns of distribution emerge?
Can the distribution of the petroglyphs, together with other archaeological features, help to identify likely ancient routes leading into, through and around the crater?
Do rocks with only one or two motifs appear in different locations from those with more complex patterns?
Do particular motifs predominate in certain topographical locations?
Might the location of certain petroglyphs suggest that they were carved for ‘private’ rather than ‘public’ or ‘social’ purposes?
Is there any evidence to suggest that access to certain areas of the caldera may have been restricted?
Might certain carvings have been placed so as to be viewed only at particular times of day or from particularly limited view points?
Analysis and Interpretation: To answer some of these questions more detailed recording and research may be required. Until the initial survey has been completed it will be possible to make only tentative suggestions – perhaps alternative suggestions – about the purpose and ‘meaning’ (or ‘meanings’) of the petroglyphs to those who made them or observed them in antiquity. Discussion of such matters, however, will remain an essential part of the project at all stages of its progress, as demonstrated in the Results section of this website.
Methodology: The survey and recording methodologies in use during the project are based on guidelines set out in Bowden (1999, Unravelling the Landscape. An Inquisitive approach to Archaeology), Whitley (2001, Handbook of Rock Art Research) and Sharpe & Barnett (2008, Recording England’s Rock Art: A Handbook for Project Officers). Account has also been taken of experience gained within Armenia in recent years both at Ughtasar and at other sites, including Voskehat and Lernamerdz in the foothills of Mount Aragats.
The methodologies employed within the project are limited by the physical and financial resources available to the research team.
All fieldwork is non-intrusive, comprising data-gathering in the form of paper records, pencil drawings, photographs and GPS records. There has been limited surface collection and geo-location of surface finds such as worked obsidian. No excavation is foreseen at present though small-scale coring of lake-fringe deposits may be undertaken at a later stage.
Ughtasar Rock Art Project