Defensive work and domestic architecture of ancient settlement of Targu in Albanian period (on local variant of the material culture of Caucasian Albania). Sergey Mokrousov

  Under the Albanian period in the history of Daghestan I mean the 1-4 centuries A.D. which are different from Daghestan archaeology-accepted chronological limits of the period  under consideration – 3 century B.C. – 4 century A.D. Going into no details to corroborate my assumption, I’d rather note that it was in the 1-4 centure A.D. that a part of the territory of the present-day Daghestan formed the then Caucasian Albania.

   Moot point is the northern border of this early state formation in Caucasus. In all probability, it changed rather frequently. Obvionsly, the territory of Albania reached the river of Sulak. Of interest in this respect is M.M. Mammayev’s remark about the spreading of engobed ceramic typically linked, according to Dagestan archaeology, to the monuments of the Albanian period, i.e. the said river was its border in the north.

  Targu is an archaeological monument in the northern region of Caucasian Albania, notable for some specific features that tell them from other territory of the state. The ancient settlement is located deep in the heart of foothills, on the southern extremity of a ridge that stretches to the space between the rivers of Gamriozeni and Inchkheozeni, from the north-west to the south-east. This naturally fortified, not enormous spur with western and southern slopes being notable for deep gorge in the north, goes down the river-bed of Gamriozeni. In two places, the eastern slope is cut by horizontal outcrops of limestone, height 2-3 m, which divide it into three “steps”. Dominating is the south-western portion of the spur – first “step”. It is difficult of access, an isolated eminence with steep western and southern slopes and gentler northern and eastern ones. An excellent view of the surroundings practically in  all the direction opens up from its top.

  A locality of the ancient settlement goes back to early Bronze Age (3 millennium B.C.). In the first centuries, there was a fortified settlement, which later laid the basis for a big urgan center destroyed in the 7 – first half of the 8 centuries A.D. Subsequently, the life here was partly restored and lasted till 12-13 centuries A.D.

  The monument was first revealed by M.I. Isakov in 1948. It was inspected by M.I. Pikul in 1953. Following the prospecting operations performed by Seaside Archaeological expedition in 1964, Targu was defined as a large medieval town. From 1971 to 1978 (except for 1973 and 1977), Gamri Archaeological expedition of the Institute of  History, Language and Literature of Dagestan branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR headed by V.G. and V.M. Kotovitchies carried out large-scale archaeological explorations in the area. The results of the invesgation were elucidated in a summarizing arcticle titled “Ancient settlement of Targu” which examined in detail building remains, including the period under  consideration. However, conclusions made give rise to some objections.

  Let’s begin with the fortification. Remains of the defensive work of various epochs were explored in the excavations III, 1 ПА, VI and a trench at the first “step” and the excavation VII at the second “step”. Earlier fortification was discovered in the western and partly northern slopes of the eminence of the excavations III, III A and trenches. This was a wall, thickness 2,3-2,5 m, height ranging between 0,3 and nearly 2,5 m. In the total, it was traced deep into 18 m. The masonry is of bed-type, three-layered on clay solution. Faces are made of rather big lime plates of subright-angled form with trimming. Plates with elongated proportions were laid by means of “stretcher” and “binder”; if needed, small stone debris were put under them. Internal space was filled with small rubblestone, detritus and clay.

  Note that the “stepped” form of the foundation, partly pressed into the bedding layer, is attributable to the  characteristics of microrelief of the site. Total number of “steps” in the excavation III A is four. Protections of the second and third “steps” are backed by props made of large blocks. The latter slightly overstep the front line. Note that surfaces of “steps” are thoroughly levelled, the first one is covered with plaster. The cultural layer of the 3 millennium B.C. was used as a leveling filler.

  The defensive work discovered during the excavations in the western and partly northern slopes “in the form of stone or outcrops of upper edges of the layer” on other sites, forms a closed contour. In the initial stage of research, its erection was attributed to “early Skythian period”. Later on, the definition was somewhat attributed to the 7-6 centuries B.C. This chronology is, first of all, based on the discovery of a lower part of large packaging vessel under the masonry of the foundation of outward face. This find was interpreted as “a building victim” and dated 7-6 centuries B.C. Note that this type, by the way, is typical for the previous period as well, I dare not to agree with this argument, since its autors sin against the truth as insisting that the vessel was discovered directly under a lower stage of the masonry. One can easily make certain of that by giving a glance at photos in the field report which clearly demonstrates that a leveling filler separates its survived part and the foundation of the wall. Furthermore, when investigating a layer of the 3 millennium B.C., a great quantity of vessel’s  fragments was found on the given site which enabled to restore it completely. A comparative analysis reveals immediate analogues with the ceramics of early Bronze Age (Kura-Arax culture) of Velikent settlement. Thus, the vessel is, by no means, linked to the construction of the defensive wall.

  One more argument in favor of the chronology as suggested by the investigators of the ancient settlement, are stratigraphic observations over a cultural layer that sides with the wall in question. However, reasoning is utterly contradictory and unconvincing. It is not astonishing, since no research into layers from internal face was performed “for fear of deformation and even collapse of the wall”. For this reason, just an outward face was cleared. Such observations can hardly serve good reason to make a conclusion on dating. It should also be recalled that the field reports defined a cultural layer of outward face of the wall as “swollen ground”. Expediency of the use of ceramic material as bench-mark is not even worth mentioning.

  A comparative analysis of building technologics is also indicative against the 7-5 centuries B.C. In Derbent, we got samples of the fortification of early Iron Age and the Albanian period. The masonry, attributed by A.A.Kudryavtsev to the 8-7 centuries B.C., was performed without connecting solution, rather sloppy and even resembles “a stone heaping” with earth embankment. The wall was raised on subsoil. Suffice it to look through a description of Targu defensive work to identify evident differences. At the same time, the later is rather similar to the defensive work of Derbent in the Albanian period, built in the 30-60 s of the 1 century A.D. and survived till 50-60s of the 3 century A.D. Of interest is one more ovservation – buildings of the Albanian period only were erected in Targu using clay solution, while it had been used neither in the previous, nor subsequent periods – it was “dry” masonry. As for the fortification, an eloquent testimony is the defensive work of early Middle Ages – entry into the citadel and a fragment of the wall: bed-type masonry, three-layered, one-rowed, i.e. similar practically by all parameters, with one exception only – lack of connecting solution.

  Thus, dating of the construction of the defensive wall in Targu is made older without reasons. To proceed from the building analogues with Derbent, it’d be fairer to attribute its erection to the second third of the 1 century A.D. – mid–3 century A.D. Regretfully, lack of necessary data makes it no possible to specify both lower and upper chronological limits of the wall functioning. The probability remains that it “was periodically renovated” and survived till early Middle Ages. By the way, the ceramic collections from the ancient settlement include fragments of three chronological groups – early Bronze, first centuries and the Middle Ages. No “early Iron Age” ceramic is available.

  As viewed by the monument investigators, there was Proteihisma in the western and nortn-western slopes in front of the wall being investigated. Indeed, stone heaps were traced in the trench (1m) and the excavation III (2m) at a distance of 1-1,3m away from it. The title “wall” is very and very relative in the first case, while we deal with an ordinary heap in the second case. No remains of “Proteihisma” were found in the excavation IIIA, though it’d be expedient to expect the opposite to fit the suggested reconstruction. It’d be appropriate to note that no practice of Proteihisma application in the fortification of synchronous monuments of Dagestan is known. A building in the ancient settlement of Urtseki that V.G. Magomedov considered as Proteihisma, was in fact a defensive wall of the Albanian period.

  An article titled “The ancient settlement of Targu” says that for a distance of 120m investigators were successful in disclosing a defensive wall that was laid along the slopes of the eminence with identical construction engineering. However, field documentation mentions no wall discovered as a result of any excavations. It is rather strange that the wall that “surrounded the foot of the hill that served a citaded”, was not indicated in the trench. It should be noted that the information contained in the article is rather contradictory. Thus, no fact of another defensive wall around the top of the first “step” is available.

  So, there was just one line of the defensive work in Targu in the Albanian period. The settlement has two-part structure and was composed of a walled citadel and unfortified sectors of the first and second “steps”.

  Note that architectural remains of the Albanian period in the citadel are made of partly disclosed complex of structures examined in the excavation I. Of particular interest is that one of them is a well survived right-angled room, with internal dimensions 5,7×3,2m. Walls of the buildings are notable for their monumental dimensions with width of 0,9-1m (just one of them is smaller – 0,06m). Masonry is bed-type, one rowed, two-layered, made of rubblestone and partly trimmed stone using clay solution. A technically identical fragment of the wall was disclosed in the excavation VI. A special bed was hacked through subsoil rock under its foundation and later filled with tightly rammed loam after the erection of the wall. The same excavation disclosed remains of three more walls of the first centuries A.D. which, in all probability, relate to one and the same building. The masonry engineering is as used in the previous contructions.

  The most interest building of the Albanian period discovered in Targu is a monumental building with stone foundations under wooden pillars disclosed in the western part which was interpreted by reesarchers of the settlement as a part of “court or temple building”. Its two walls were traced – north-western and north eastern.

  The masonry is based on clay solution out of lime plates. Three sites near the north-eastern wall were cleared (2,5x1m; 1,8×1,1m; 3,1x1m), paved with large limestone plates.

  Foundations of the pillars are placed in the form of three pairs along longitudinal axis of the building at a distance of 4m from each other. Two pairs are complete, one pair has just one foundation. Distance between the foundations in the pairs is 2,3-2,4m. One out of five foundations has a sub-square form with angles trimmed; four are circular, “cannelured”. The authors of the article titled “The ancient settlement of Targu” believe that the latter resemble “cannelured bases of court and cult buildings in the ancient town of North Black Sea”. Such an analogy excites bewilderment, especially references made to the works of V.D.Blavatskiy and N.I.Sokolskiy. Suffice it to say that no “cannelured bases of pillars” are mentioned in the monography by V.D.Blavatskiy “Ancient archaeology of North Black Sea”. In the meanwhile, N.I.Sokolovskiy’s article published in the collected works “Anicient town” deals with limistone cannelured drum of a pillar of a building of the 1-11 centuries A.D. It should be noted that such “cannelured bases” were found in Urtseki. In fact, notorious “cannelurs” are traces of a tool used for stone trimming.

  Note that stone construction heaps were revealed in one of the building of the first centuries. As viewed by researchers, this was an altar. It’d be advisable to check this and other allegations of the authors of the article on the basis of field documentation, however, it is regretfully impossible. For instance, remains of stone construction, strongly similar to the above-mentioned, are referred to in the report of 1974 in connection with a building of the 11-13 centures A.D. It remains to be supposed that several constructions of this type were cleared. In such a case, we deal with a long-survived tradition which is hardly probable. The article also mentioned stoves of “tondyr and kari (two-tier)” type. Tightly pressed yellowish loam served as a floor.

  The stone fortification and architecture of the monuments of Dagestan tell them from the monuments on the rest of Caucasian Albania territory, on which wood and raw brick were used as main building material. Note that the stone, mainly cobble-stone, is primarily used for the walls being built out of raw brick. Many buildings were erected fully of raw brick. To strengthen the construction, a special framework made of cross-beamed wooden pillars driven in the soil, was installed. The well-known erections with stoned walls (for example, Kabala, Gyrlartepe) may, obviously, be regarded as an exception to the rule against the background of raw brick and raw stone buildings.

  A range of building materials, used in Dagestan in the first centuries A.D., is much narrower that those used in Transcaucasia. Raw and baked brick, tile, lime water are lacking. These materials appear in Derbent in the Middle Ages only, while they were not mentioned at all in other settlement monuments. Ceilings of all the types of buildings were flat – wooden bars with dead floor or clay coating. Widely used in Transcaucasia, stepped-  corrollaceous cross-beam of “darbazi-glkhatun-karadam” type, was not spread.

  As a whole, construction engineering on the territory of Dagestan as a former part of Caucasian Albania, is characterized by some qualitative changes, telling the monuments of this period from those of the preceeding one. First of all, this is the masonry system. The use of processed stone is a novelty, though the range of its use is confined to certain types of buildings.

  The masonry on the basis of clay solution was spread – until recently it was performed “dry”.

  Thus, many novelties in the development of the northern region which experienced an influence of nomads as well,  are attributable to the Albanian period. Some specific features, telling Dagestan monuments from those on the rest of Caucasian Albania territory, enable to admit a local variant in the material culture of the state.


 Mokrousov Sergey Vladimirovich     сandidate of historical sciences. Senior researcher of classic architecture  department of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences