Azerbaijan Georgia Turkey Project

The Pipelines Archaeology Program

The AGT (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey) Pipelines Archaeology Program represents one of the most significant commitments to cultural heritage ever made by an international pipeline project. It was initiated as a result of the requirements of the international financial community that financed the pipelines, guidelines of the host countries, and BP’s internal standards for environmental and cultural protection. The project will continue over the next several years through the implementation of archaeological and ecological projects in the three host countries.

The remains of a large jar are lifted carefully from an excavation block in Georgia.

In coordination with national cultural heritage authorities, a staged program of archaeological research and excavation was developed in each of the host countries along the pipelines. The four initial stages occurred before and during the pipeline construction. Over the course of the first four stages, dozens of archaeological sites were found and sampled.

Baseline surveys, staffed in part with local experts, comprised Stage 1. The results of these surveys led to alteration of the proposed pipeline route, as part of an overall strategy to work around areas of environmental and cultural sensitivity.

Stage 2 began once the route was determined and the financial lenders approved it. This stage involved testing selected sites through limited excavations to identify cultural heritage resources of sufficient significance to warrant avoidance or mitigation initiatives, such as restricting construction areas or using protective measures such as fencing.

Stage 3, which also began before the AGT pipeline construction began, involved a first round of excavations. They were planned well in advance with BP’s national partner organizations so as to have clear research designs and protocols in place to maximize the data collected. Several methods of record keeping were employed during this stage, including drawings, photographs, and written documentation.

Excavation leader Dr. Goderdzi Narimanishvili and Cultural Heritage Monitor Nino Erkomaishvili discuss their strategy at the Saphar Kharaba site in Georgia.

Stage 4 involved excavations of new sites found during the actual construction process. A vital task was the development of policy and procedures for dealing with previously unknown archaeological sites found after construction commenced. These “late finds,” generally consisting of scatterings of artifacts, also yielded unique and important discoveries. In many cases, BP, in consultation with national regulatory bodies, developed measures to avoid or abate damage to these late finds. Mitigation usually involved restricting impacts through the use of narrower construction zones combined with archaeological excavation.

Upon completion of the excavation efforts, archaeological teams in the three countries turned their attention to Stage 5, which entailed the preparation of technical reports and monographs pertaining to the excavations. “Capacity-building” studies focused on the treatment and preservation of artifacts recovered during the project. This work was followed by the preparation of general public outreach materials, including this website, museum exhibits and a book that chronicles aspects of the archaeological project itself, as well as the lives and cultures of the ancient inhabitants of the region who created the artifacts. This stage will continue on, expanding what is known of the region’s history: The pipeline project’s exploration, interpretation, and stewardship is not yet finished, just as the region’s human story continues to unfold.

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