Rising community engagement with the archaeological landascape in the southern Caucasus: the Azerbaijani-Italian Ganja Region Kurgan Arcaeological Project

Department of Humanities, University of Catania

Due to modern human interventions (e.g., agricultural exploitations, military conflicts, or looting of ancient sites), landscapes are often considered as ‘ruined’ and ‘degraded’ and, consequentially, it is difficult to reconstruct their ancient appearances. This is the case of the rural landscape of the southern Caucasus that, because of a long history of Soviet domination, has been damaged with intensive agriculture that destroyed the remains of archaeological sites, contributing to the cultural deprivation of local communities.

Since the end of the Soviet dominion in the area, a floruit of collaborative archaeological projects has greatly contributed to the documentation and preservation of the cultural heritage of these resilient landscapes. Among these, the Azerbaijani-Italian Ganja Region Kurgan Archaeological Project (GaRKAP) has focused on the documentation, study and preservation of the kurgan funerary structures from the late fourth to the first millennia BC that punctuate the Şadılı-Uzun Rama plateau, in the Goranboy region, and the area north of and Ganja city.

Among the objectives of the project, critical are the reconstruction of the ancestral landscape shaped by transhumant communities through their distinctive funerary traditions, and the creation of the first archaeological museum of the Caucasus entirely devoted to the kurgans (‘Kurgan Archaeological Park’ – KAP) within the Heydar Aliyev Park in Ganja, with the aim of generating a positive social impact by rising curiosity, promoting knowledge on the significance of these sites widespread across the land, and creating an active engagement of the local community.