Shulaveri-Shomu culture

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Shulaveri-Shomu culture
Geographical range South Caucasus, Armenian Highlands
Period Neolithic
Datesc. 6000 BC — c. 4000 BC
Major sites Shaumiani, Shomu-tepe
Preceded by Trialetian culture
Followed by Kura–Araxes culture, Trialeti culture

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as parts of northern Iran. [1] The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures. [1]



The name 'Shulaveri-Shomu' comes from the town of Shulaveri, in the Republic of Georgia, known since 1925 as Shaumiani, and Shomu-Tepe, in the Agstafa District of Azerbaijan. The distance between these two sites is only about 70km.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture has been distinguished during the excavations on the sites of Shomutepe, Babadervis in Western Azerbaijan by I.Narimanov (in 1958-1964) and at Shulaveris Gora in Eastern Georgia by A.I. Dzhavakhisvili and T.N Chubinishvili (in 1966-1976). [2] The discoveries from these sites have revealed that the same cultural features spread on the northern foothills of Lesser Caucasus mountains. [3]


Shulaveri-Shomu culture covers the 6th-5th millennia BC. According to the material culture examples found in the sites depict that the main activities of the population were farming and breeding. [3] Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture which flourished in this area around 4000–2200 BC. Later on, in the middle Bronze Age period (c. 3000–1500 BC), the Trialeti culture emerged. [4] Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex. [5]

Building mud-brick circular, oval and semi-oval architecture is typical for this culture. The buildings were in different sizes based on their aim of use. The larger ones with diameters ranging from 2 to 5 m. were used as living areas, while smaller buildings were used as storage (1-2 m diameter). [2] They were researched well during the digging at Shomutepe in Azerbaijan and Shulaveri in Georgia. Especially in recent years as a result of archaeological research in the area of Goytepe, the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture has been identified as belonging to the 7th millennium BC and the second half of the 6th millennium. Although Shulaveri-Shomutepe complex firstly was attributed to the Eneolithic era, it is now considered as a material and cultural example of the Neolithic era except the upper layers  where metal objects have been discovered as in Khramis Didi-Gora and Arucho I. [6] [2]

Material culture

Sulaveri-Shomu culture is distinguished by circular mud-brick architectures, domestic animals breeding and cultivating cereals. [2] Handmade pottery with engraved decorations, blades, burins and scrapers made of obsidian, tools made of bone and antler, [2] besides rare examples of metal items, remains of plant, such as wheat, pips, barley and grape, as well as animal bones (pigs, goats, dogs and bovids) have been discovered during the excavations. [3]

Anthropomorphic figurines of mainly seated women found in the sites represent the items used for religious purposes relating to the fertility cult. [2]

Pestles revealed in Shulaveri-Shomu sites were mainly made of basalt (50%), metamorphic rocks (34%) and sandstones (11 %). [2]

Territorial clay was used in the production of earthenware. Basalt and grog, later plant materials were used as temper in pottery. [3]

Levels of ceramic production in Shulaveri-Shomu: [2]

I stageRough pots with jutting base
II stageFinely decorated pottery
III stageRough coloured and decorated ceramics with flat bases
IV stageDyed pots
V stageFine red polished pottery

Earliest grapes

The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found in the general "Shulaveri area", near the site of Shulaveri gora, in Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia. Specifically, the most recent evidence comes from Gadachrili gora, near the village of Imiri in the same region; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC. [7] [8]

Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf). [9]

The technology and typology of bone-based instruments are similar to those of the Middle East Neolithic material culture. A quern with 2 small hollows found in Shomutepe is similar to the one with more hollows detected in Khramisi Didi-Gora. The similarities between the macrolithic tools and the use of ochre also bring Shulaveri-Shomu culture closer to the culture of Halaf. Pestles and mortars found in Shulaveri-Shomu sites and Late Neolithic layers of Tell Sabi Abyad in Syria are also similar to each other. [2]

See also

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