The Gadachrili Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (G.R.A.P.E)

Submitted by Sonja Johnston on Wed, 12/04/2019 - 12:48

Khaled Abu Jayyab (Ph.D. Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, 2019) is JHI’s Community-Engaged Early Career Fellow. Khaled’s fellowship research focuses on diachronically understanding human responses to changes in environmental conditions through changes in settlement organization and subsistence strategies, bringing a time-depth perspective to discussions of contemporary climate change.

Map of two survey regions
Map of two survey regions: the left is the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Survey (GGRAS); on the right is the Gardabani Archaeological Survey (GAS)


Khaled’s Thursday Fellows’ Lunch talk focused on The Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition’s (GRAPE) work in the Municipality of Marneuli in the Republic of Georgia. He provided most of the content for this post, with contributions from Kimberley Yates.

Khaled began his talk by going over the regional setting of the project, and the history of research on the Neolithic (6000-5000 BC) and Chalcolithic (5000-3600 BC) periods in the southeastern Caucasus when humans started using copper and were moving to a more urban type of civilization from an agricultural one. He has been working for four years to survey land in Georgia, and in the process has been involved in the development of new surveying techniques.

Team members on survey
Team members on survey


The core of the talk was dedicated to landscape and survey archaeology. Khaled highlighted the major research questions regarding the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods as well as the absence of a clear landscape program to address them. He provided an overview on the proxy environmental data available and presented a hypothetical reconstruction of the landscape during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.

Khaled then moved on to an overview on the survey methodology used to identify and record sites and discussed the results of the survey. He brought a few artifacts for everyone to touch, including pieces of obsidian—a glass-like volcanic mineral—carved into arrows and knife blades; a lump of raw obsidian; a contemporary reproduction of an arrowhead (a knapped flint); and several other ancient pieces which were surprisingly sharp and delicate.

Training students on survey
Training students on survey


The end of the presentation focused on the relationship between settlement patterns and environmental data. This entailed the role of climatic changes in influencing the divergence in settlement patterns between the Neolithic and Chalcolithic in the southeastern Caucasus.  Khaled does not yet have very much evidence for climate change and its effects on the people who lived in that period, but he has identified a 400-year range when it was hotter and wetter. He suspects that viniculture (growing grapes for wine) probably got its start in that period.