Danger along the high road: report from the 2017 field season of the Vayots Dzor Fortress Landscapes Project (VDFLP), Armenia


  • Tiffany Earley-Spadoni
  • Artur Petrosyan
  • Boris Gasparyan




Archaeological survey, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Urartu, medieval, fortresses, UAVs, digital mapping, digital humanities


The Vayots Dzor Fortress Lansdscapes Project investigates the rise and fall of fortress culture in southern Armenia, focusing on the Late Bronze/Early Iron and medieval periods. The paper summarises the findings of the inaugural field season in 2017. The team performed extensive and intensive survey in a high alpine valley that was a key transportation corridor between Lake Sevan in the north and Nakhichevan and northwest Iran to the south. The project employed digital mapping, drone photogrammetry and digital storytelling in support of digital humanities approaches. Important findings include the documentation of Late Bronze/Early Iron cyclopean fortress architecture situated along roads as well as evidence for Urartian control of the valley. Furthermore, medieval structures and monuments are prominent features in the archaeological record of the valley.


Adams, R.M. 1965. Land Behind Baghdad: a History of Settlement on the Diyala Plains. Chicago.

Adams, R.M. 1981. Heartland of Cities. Chicago.

Anderson, W., Hopper, K., Robinson, A. (eds) 2018. Landscape Archaeology in Southern Caucasia: Finding Common Ground in Diverse Environments. Proceedings of the Workshop held at 10th ICAANE in Vienna, April 2016. Vienna.

Aruz, J., Graff, S., Rakic, Y. (eds) 2013. Cultures in Contact: from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean in the Second Millennium BC. New York.

Babajanyan, A., Franklin, K. 2018. Everyday life on the medieval Silk Road: VDSRS excavations at Arpa, Armenia. AJNES 12/1: 155-183.

Bedrosian, R. 1997. Armenia during the Seljuk and Mongol periods, in: Hovannisian 1997: 241-271.

Biscione, R., Hmayakyan, S., Parmegiani, N. (eds) 2002. The North-Eastern Frontier: Urartians and Non-Urartians in the Sevan Lake Bain. Rome.

Burgess, J., Klaebe, H. 2009. Digital Storytelling as Participatory Public History in Australia, in Hartley, McWilliam 2009: 155-166.

Caraher, W.R., Nakassis, D., Pettigrew, D.K. 2007. Siteless Survey and Intensive Data Collection in an Artifact-Rich Environment: Case Studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece. JMA 19/1: 7-43.

Cherry, J. 1983. Frogs Round the Pond: Perspectives on Current Archeological Survey Projects in the Mediterranean Region, in: Keller, Rupp 1983: 375-416.

D’Alfonso, L., Rubinson, K.S. (eds) forthcoming. Borders in Archaeology: Anatolia and the South Caucasus ca 3500-500 BCE.

Dunnell, R.C., Dancey, W.S. 1983. The Siteless Survey: a Regional Scale Data Collection Strategy. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 6: 267-287.

Düring, B.S., Stek, T.D. (eds) 2018. The Archaeology of Imperial Landscapes. Cambridge.

Earley-Spadoni, T. (n.d.). Period II Administration and Domestic Economy: Evidence from the Macrobotanical Remains at Oğlanqala (Naxçıvan, Azerbaijan), in: Ristvet (n.d.) (forthcoming).

Earley-Spadoni, T. 2015a. Envisioning Landscapes of Warfare: a Multi-Regional Analysis of Early Iron Fortress-States and Biainili-Urartu, PhD Dissertation. Johns Hopkins University.

Earley-Spadoni, T. 2015b. Landscapes of warfare: Intervisibility analysis of Early Iron and Urartian fire beacon stations (Armenia). JAS 3: 22-30 (doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.05.008).

Earley-Spadoni, T. 2017. Spatial History, Deep Mapping and Digital Storytelling: Archaeology’s Future Imagined through an Engagement with the Digital Humanities. JAS 84: 95-102.

Foley, R. 1981. Off-Site Archaeology: an Alternative Approach for the Short-Sited, in: Hodder et al. 1981: 157-183.

Franklin, K., Babajanyan, A. 2018. Approaching landscapes of infrastructure: methods and results of the Vayots Dzor Silk Road Survey, in Anderson et al. 131-143.

Habu, J., Fawcett, C., Matsunaqa, J.M. (eds) 2008. Evaluating Multiple Narratives. New York.

Hammer, E. 2014. Highland Fortress-Polities and their Settlement Systems in the Southern Caucasus. Antiquity 88(341): 757-774.

Hartley, J., McWilliam, K. (eds) 2009. Story Circle. Malden, MA – Oxford.

Herrmann, J.T., Hammer, E.L. 2019. Archaeo-geophysical survey of Bronze and Iron Age fortress landscapes of the South Caucasus. JAS 24: 663–676.

Hodder, I. 2008. Multivocality and Social Archaeology, in: Habu et al. 2008: 196-200.

Hodder, I., Isaac, G., Hammond, N. (eds) 1981. Pattern of the Past: Studies in Honour of David Clarke. Cambridge.

Hovannisian, R. (ed.) 1997. The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, vol. 1. New York.

Hritz, C. 2014. Contributions of GIS and Satellite-Based Remote Sensing to Landscape Archaeology in the Middle East. JAR 22/3: 229-276.

Kansa, E.C., Kansa, S.W. 2013. Open Archaeology. We All Know That a 14 is a Sheep: Data Publication and Professionalism in Archaeological Communication. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies 1/1: 88-97.

Keeley, L.H. 1996. War before Civilization. Oxford.

Keller, D., Rupp, D. (eds) 1983. Archaeological Survey in the Mediterranean Area (BAR International Series 155). Oxford.

Köroğlu, K., Konyar, E. (eds) 2011. Urartu: Transformation in the East. Istanbul.

Kosyan, A, Petrosyan, A., Grekyan, Y. (eds) 2010. Urartu and Its Neighbours. Festschrift in Honor of Nicolay Harutyunyan on the Occasion of His 90th Birthday (22-24 September, 2009, Yerevan) (AJNES 5/1-2). Yerevan.

Kroll, S. 2011. Urartian Cities in Iran, in: Köroğlu, Konyar 2011: 150-169.

Kroll, S., Gruber, C., Hellwag, U., Roaf, M., Zimansky, P. (eds) 2012. Biainili Urartu: the Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Munich 12-14 October 2007. Leuven.

Kushnareva, K. 1997. The Southern Caucasus in Prehistory. Philadelphia.

Lambert, J. 2013. Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community. New York.

Lawrence, D., Wilkinson, T.J. 2015. Hubs and Upstarts: Pathways to Urbanism in the Northern Fertile Crescent. Antiquity 89(344): 328-344.

Lefebvre, H. 1991. The Production of Space, vol. 26. Oxford.

Lindsay, I., Smith, A.T., Badalyan, R. 2010. Magnetic Survey in the Investigation of Sociopolitical Change at a Late Bronze Fortress Settlement in Northwest Armenia. Archaeological Prospection 17: 15-27.

Melkonyan, A., Asadoorian, M. 2014. Climate Impact on Agroeconomy in Semiarid Regions of Armenia. Environment, Development and Sustainability 16/2: 393-414.

Melkonyan, H., Karapetyan, I., Yengibaryan, N. 2010. The Excavations of the Newly Found Urartian Fortress in Getap, in: Kosyan et al. 2010: 90-98.

Nielsen, A.E., Walker, W.H. (eds) 2009. Warfare in Cultural Context: Practice, Agency, and the Archaeology of Violence. Tuscon.

Orbelian, S. 2012. History of the State of Sisakan (translated by R. Bedrosian). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://archive.org/details/HistoryOfTheStateOfSisakan.

Parker, B.J., Ristvet, L., Bakhshaliyev, V., Ashurov, S., Headman, A. 2011. In the Shadow of Ararat. Anatolica 37: 187-205.

Ristvet, L. 2011. Travel and the Making of North Mesopotamian Polities. BASOR 361: 1-31.

Ristvet, L. 2018. Negotiation, Violence, and Resistance. in: Düring, Stek 2018: 175-205.

Ristvet, L. (ed.) n.d. The American-Azerbaijani Excavations at Oğlanqala 2008-2012. Philadelphia.

Ristvet, L., Bahshalijev, V., Asurov, S. 2011. Settlement and Society in Naxçivan: 2006 Excavations and Survey of the Naxçivan Archaeological Project. IA 46: 1-53.

Ristvet, L., Gopnik, H., Bakhshaliyev, V., Lau, H., Ashurov, S., Bryant, R. 2012. On the Edge of Empire: 2008 and 2009 Excavations at Oğlanqala, Azerbaijan. AJA 116/2: 321-362.

Salvini, M. 2008. Corpus dei testi Urartei: le iscrizioni su pietra e roccia (DocAs VIII). Roma.

Schwartz, G.M. 2013. An Amorite Global Village: Syrian-Mesopotamian Relations in the Second Millennium BC, in: Aruz et al. 2013: 1-11.

Smith, A.T. 2012. The Prehistory of an Urartian Landscape, in: Kroll et al. 2012: 39-52.

Smith, A.T. 2015. The Political Machine: Assembling Sovereignty in the Bronze Age Caucasus. Princeton, N.J.

Tilley, C. 1994. A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths and Monuments. Oxford and Providence.

Tilley, C. 2004. The Materiality of Stone: Explorations in Landscape Phenomenology. Oxford.

Wilkinson, T.J. 2000. Regional Approaches to Mesopotamian Archaeology: The Contribution of Archaeological Surveys. JAR 8/3: 219-267.

Willox, A.C., Harper, S.L., Edge, V.L. 2012. Storytelling in a Digital Age: Digital Storytelling as an Emerging Narrative Method for Preserving and Promoting Indigenous Oral Wisdom. Qualitative Research 13/2: 127-147.

Zimansky, P. (n.d.). Biainili’s Borders, in: D’Alfonso, Rubinson, forthcoming.

Zimansky, P. 1985. Ecology and Empire: the Structure of the Urartian State (SAOC 41). Chicago.



How to Cite

Earley-Spadoni, T., Petrosyan, A., & Gasparyan, B. (2019). Danger along the high road: report from the 2017 field season of the Vayots Dzor Fortress Landscapes Project (VDFLP), Armenia. ARAMAZD: Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 13(1), 59–81. https://doi.org/10.32028/ajnes.v13i1.951

Most read articles by the same author(s)

Similar Articles

<< < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.