Russian Federation: Kislovodsk

Aerial archaeology, landscape archaeology, archaeological Geoinformationsystems, North Caucasus

Kislovodsk and its Southern periphery: Settlements with symmetric layout as a phenomenon of complex landscape exploitation during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages in the North Caucasus



43° 57' 57.7584" N, 42° 33' 48.5676" E

Map of the sites discovered until November 2007. © DAISatellite photo of the valley of Kislovodsk. © DAIThe area of research is situated at the Southern periphery of the Kislovodsk basin in the North Caucasus. All investigated sites are found on a plateau zone. The Kislovodsk basin is a strategic point on an route via the 2242 m high Gumbashi pass across the Upper Kuban towards the Black Sea. The basin itself is formed by five tributaries of the Podkumok river. About 70 km to the Southwest Mount El'brus is found, the highest mountain of Europe. The Kislovodsk basin is rich in mineral waters, and returns today to typical mountain agriculture with cultivated land in the lower parts and grazing areas at the mountains and plateaus. The plateau zone between Kislovodsk and the main Caucasian range is comparatively flat, but rises from approximately 1400 m to 2592 m at Mount Bermamyt. The highest discovered settlements so far lay at around 2400m over sea level.


Three settlements with symmetric layout on the crest of Ransyrt. © DAISettlement Abashykyshlak 3. © DAIIn autumn 2004 a new type of settlements from The Late Bronze and Early Iron Age were discovered. They are a so far unknown settlement concept in the North Caucasus. The high number of sites, as well their size of around one hectare is surprising in heights over 1400 m. The discovery of these sites together with other archaeological features as circles or wall- systems opened up the question of the function of such sites in general.

All newly discovered sites are found in an area today unsuitable for agriculture. Have these sites consequently been pats of a seasonal mountain economy with different kinds of settlements on different height zones, like the Almwirtschaft in the alps or the traditional Caucasian mountain agriculture? Or is the area with the new sites a cultural sphere of its own without any reference to the settlements in the valleys with an own specific economy?

To answer such questions the first aspect is to outline the distribution of the sites in correlation with the landscape. Is it a regional phenomenon limited to a small, topographically restricted? And what kind of spatial relationship are detectable between the sites in the uplands and in the lowlands?

A second topic is the subsistence of the settlers in the newly discovered sites. Also the ecological potential the second half of the second and first half of the firs millennium BC must be considered.

The settlement Pokunsyrt 13. © DAIThe chronological relations between the upland- and lowland sites is jet another question. If the higher sites are older than those in the lowlands a new light is shed on the settlement dynamics in this area. If they are contemporary, the functional differentiation becomes more substantial in the understanding of these sites.

the integrated application of non-destructive prospection methods and geoinformation systems are another point of the project. In mountain areas with space limited by topographic and climatic factors, landscape archaeological studies are still but a few.

History of Research

The Kislovodks basin is today one of the best archaeologically investigated areas in Southern Russia. The archaeological map inlcude more than 800 sites on an area of only 20 x 15 km. They cover a time span from the Aeneolithic until the Middle Ages. The over 80 sites discovered now on aerial photos and in the field, nevertheless, add a substantial number of new sites at the periphery of the Kislovodsk basin. Thy show the archaeological potential of the high mountain zone, which until now laid mainly outside the area of archaeological surveys.

Previous Activities

Kislovodsk is one of the first areas where systematic landscape archaeological investigations using GIS technologies have been carried out. The actual project was initiated by Genadij E. Afanas'ev, and since 1996 included Dmitiri S. Korobov, both from the Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. In 2004 the actual co-operation partner started a new level in this project with an investigation of the settlements and spatial structures in the Kislovodsk area under a diachronic perspective. In the same year the new type of sites was discovered, and archaeological fieldwork was started. At the site of Kabardinka 2 a small scale excavation stared in 2005, and non-destructive prospection was carried out since 2004.

Recent Activities

Settlement Kabardinka 2, phosphate, magnetic suscebility and magnetic measurements on house 7. © DAISettlements Zubchichinskoe 7 and 8, topographic plan and aerial photo. © DAIAt the moment the project is divides into two major parts. At first a catalogue of sites is prepared using aerial photos and satellite images. These sites are than visited during field surveys in spring.

The second part is archaeological fieldwork, including non-destructive survey like systematic pottery sampling, soil studies and geophysics. Besides that 3D digital terrain models are prepared as a background for a better understanding of the spatial layout of our sites.

In autumn 2005/2006 excavations were started at house number 14 in the site of Kabardinka 2. An intensive survey took place in spring 2007.
The house 14 was completely excavated by 2007. It is a typical one of the settlements. The size of the 2 chambered room is 18,2 m x 12 m. Surprisingly, the part of the house which is directed to the outside is shaped in an apsidal form. A monumental entrance build from large limestone blocks leads to a big room with a large central post.


Kabardinka 2, magnetic measures 2006. © DAI3D terrain model of the settlement Kabardinka 2 with onlayed magnetic measurement. © DAIIn 2005 and 2006 geophysical prospection using georadar (GPR) and magnetic measures were carried out by Sergej V. Merkulov from 'Nasledie' and Dr. Jörg Fassbinder from the Bavarian Department of Archaeologies. Both methods revealed details of the architecture which are not visible on the ground. The magnetic e.g. shows different intensities of anomalies in the houses, perhaps the reflection of different activities. More buildings can be seen, as well as details in some of the neighbouring burial mound. The most striking result, however, is a ring of anomalies running around all four investigated settlements. It correlates with a zone of higher density of surface finds. At the moment we interpret it as the areas where the settlers dumped their rubbish.


At the moment approximately 80 new sites, 55 symmetric settlements and about 30 other sites have been localized. From this we visited already 30 sites. Where surface material was found, it dates to the Late Bronze/Early Iron Age of the local Koban culture.
The results of the excavation is the complex stone fundament of a house, which was obviously build by timber.

Settlement Karsunka 4, building complexes and burial mounds from the opposite plateau fringe. © DAI Settlement Karsunka 4, single building with monumental architecture. © DAI Settlement Kabardinka 2, reactivated microfungi from soil samples grown from the central place. © DAI

Cooperation / Cooperation partners

Team of the excavation campaign 2006. © DAICooperation partners of the project are Dr. Dmitrij S. Korobov, Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moskau) and Dr. Andrej B. Belinskij, State heritage entreprise 'Nasledie' (Stavropol'). We cooperate also with Dr. Sergej N. Savenko (archaeology), Dr. Alexander V. Borisov (soil studies), Dr. Ekatarina Antipina (archaeozoology), Dr. Elena Lebedeva (paleobotany), Dr. Jörg Fassbinder (magnetic prospection), Sergej V. Merkulov (GPR prospection).

Links to cooperation partners:


Russian Fond for Humanity Studies (RGNF)


G. E. Afanas'ev/S. N. Savenko/D. S. Korobov, Drevnosti Kislovodskoj kotloviny (The Antiquities of the Kislovods basin) (Moskau 2004).

D. S. Korobov/S. Reinhold, Resul'taty razvedki v okrestnostjach Kislovodska. Archaeologičeskie Otkrytija 2004 (Moskau 2005).

D. S. Korobov/S. Reinhold, Raboty v Kislovodskoj kotlovine. Archaeologičeskie Otkrytija 2005 (Moskau 2006) (im Druck).

S. V. Merkulov/S. Reinhold, First results of GPR soundings on Late Bronze/Early Iron Age settlements with stone-architecture in the North Caucasus. CD Archeologij i geoinformatika 3. CD-Publikation (Moskau 2006).

S. Reinhold, Aėrofotos'emka i archeologija kulturnogo landsafta. Sistemy poselenij pozdnego bronzogo - rannego zeleznogo veka v verchnej v verchnej Ŀasti Kislovodskoj kotloviny. Aerial photography and the archaeology of a cultural landscape. The Late Bronze-Early Iron Age settlement system in the higher part of the Kislovodsk basin. CD Archeologij i geoinformatika 2 (Moskau 2005).

S. Reinhold/D. S. Korobov, The Kislovodsk basin in the North Caucasian piedmonts - archaeology and GIS studies in a mountain cultural landscape. In: Ph. Della Casa/K. Welch (Hrsg.), Interpretation of sites and material culture from mid-high altitude mountain environments: proceedings of the 10th annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists 2004. Preistoria Alpina 42 (Trento 2007) 183-207.

S. Reinhold/D. S. Korobov, Neu entdeckte früheisenzeitliche Siedlungslandschaften im Nordkaukasus. In: P. Trebsche/I. Balzer/Ch. Eggl/J. Koch/H. Nortmann/J. Wiethold (Hrsg.), Die unteren Zehntausend - auf der Suche nach den Unterschichten der Eisenzeit. Beiträge zur Sitzung der AG Eisenzeit während der Jahrestagung des West- und Süddeutschen Verbandes für Altertumsforschung e. V. in Xanten 2006. Beiträge zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte Mitteleuropas 47 (Langenweissbach 2007) 139-148.

S. Reinhold/A. B. Belinskij/D. S. Korobov, Landschaftsarchäologie im Nordkaukasus - Erste Ergebnisse der Untersuchung der Vorgebirgslandschaft bei Kislovodsk während der Spätbronze- und frühen Eisenzeit. Eurasia Antiqua 13, 2007, 147-188.

J. Fassbinder/D. S. Korobov/S. Reinhold, Magnetometrie auf neu entdeckten früheisenzeitlichen Siedlungslandschaften bei Kislovodsk im Nordkaukasus. Denkmalpflege Informationen 136, 2007, 58-59.

J. Fassbinder/D. S. Korobov/S. Reinhold, Magnetometry on Bronze Age settlements in the North Caucasus (Russia). CAA 2007. Layers of Perception. Program and Abstracts (Berlin 2007) 121.

S. Reinhold, Die Spätbronze- und frühe Eisenzeit im Kaukasus: materielle Kultur, Chronologie und überregionale Beziehungen. Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie 144 (Bonn 2007).

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