Michelle Negus Cleary, University of Sydney
In 2015 I was fortunate to receive the AWAWS research grant which provided me with vital support to conduct archaeological fieldwork overseas. My project has a focus on gender issues in the ancient world through the Landscape Archaeology of Georgia (LAG) project. This is a collaborative endeavour between five early career researchers who are archaeologists with diverse skills and research interests. This group provides the opportunity for individual researchers to collect data for various specific research purposes and operates under the umbrella of the University of Melbourne and Georgian National Museum GAIA expedition. The LAG survey project employs landscape methodologies including the use of remote sensing, GIS, intensive and extensive archaeological survey techniques. Its aim is to locate, record and study the human occupation of the various highland zones in this frontier area and to analyse how these changed over time due to political, economic and environmental fluctuations. The AWAWS grant gave me the opportunity to conduct fieldwork and to collect data for the LAG project, but also allowed me to gain crucial information for the development of a new post-doctoral application.
My research focus is on spatial and settlement analyses with a key research aim being the consideration of gendered spaces and landscapes. Landscapes are imbued with social meanings. Through the identification of activity zones in the material remains of settlements, monuments, mortuary and production sites, associations with particular gender and social groups such as families or children may be understood. Eurasian mobile societies were often more egalitarian in their social and political hierarchies and women had more social and economic freedom than in other contemporary sedentary societies. The ancient and medieval agro-pastoral societies of Georgia provide an opportunity to investigate gender in pastoral landscapes.
Our fieldwork conducted in June/July 2015 focused on several areas of the highland valleys and mountain-sides in southern Georgia near the town of Chobareti. We documented 136 sites and features including the important multi-period site of Varneti. This comprises a hillfort with artificially terraced areas below, an exposed archaeological deposit, a tell-type settlement mound and various other stone features. This site appears to have been a focus for episodic settlement from the Middle Bronze Age to the medieval period. We are in the process of obtaining absolute dating information from this site and are planning further work in order to understand how ancient people inhabited this place at different points in time. No previous archaeological work has been conducted at this site prior to the LAG project.
Our surveys also targeted several high elevations and yayla mountain pastures. We documented four large, terraced enclosure sites and several new stone burial mound complexes. One of these enclosures is a stone circle that may have had a ceremonial or ritual purpose. This site is part of a monumentalised landscape of stone embankments, mounds and kurgans situated at the top of the yayla. Remote sensing of this area suggests that there may be Bronze Age or later settlements and further detailed investigation of this area is needed. Geophysical or sub-surface investigations could provide further opportunities to consider gender and domestic aspects of the social organisation of the ancient highland inhabitants.
A publication is currently in preparation to report on the results and provide further analysis of these landscape features. This fieldwork also provided me with the opportunity to assess several enclosure sites for the preparation of a post-doctoral application.
The AWAWS Research Grant provided much needed support for my family in allowing research funding to go towards important logistical issues, such as child care, that are very necessary for researchers who are primary carers and need to travel overseas for their work. Most other research funding sources do not consider the role of family or researchers as parents in the scope of their grants. The support provided by AWAWS and its recognition of these issues has been invaluable to me both financially and, perhaps more importantly, for its recognition of the difficulties facing female researchers and those with young families. Academia needs more of these values expressed and AWAWS is making a vital contribution towards this end and I thank them whole-heartedly for their support.
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