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Kaptar Kamar 2017

Kaptar Kamar 2017
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Geoarchaeological research in Kaptar Kamar Rockshelter

Preliminary fieldwork report

September 1. – 18. 2017

Ladislav Nejman, Lenka Lisá, Miriam Nývltová Fišáková, Michaela Ryzá, Vít
Záhorák, Shapulat Shaydullaev, Ladislav Stančo

University of Sydney, Australia
Institute of Geology CAS, Prague, Czech Republic,
Institute of Archaeology CAS in Brno, Czech Republic
Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic

Termez University, Uzbekistan
Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic


The objective of the 2017 summer season of the Czech geoarchaeological survey
(environmental geology project) was to begin a geoarchaeological prospection of Kaptar Kamar
Cave. The two main tasks for the 2017 summer season included:
1) archaeological excavations of Kaptar Kamar Cave (investigation of human activities
from the Palaeolithic up to recent times)
2) geoarchaeological and paleozoological research (investigation of climatic changes in

the sedimentary environmental archive)

The expedition planned to spend twenty days in the field. No work was done in the first
two days (30 – 31st August) as the expedition members were requested by local officials to delay
the commencement of work to obtain necessary permits. The first day in the field (1st
September) was dedicated to detailed mapping of the cave floor. On the second day (2nd
September) archaeological excavations began. People present at the site included director of
excavations Ladislav Nejman and co-workers Michaela Ryzá, Vít Záhorák and Hayitmurod
Xurramov. One week later two more researchers (sedimentologist and geoarchaeologist, Lenka
Lisá and zooarchaeologist Miriam Nývltová Fišáková) arrived. The final days of the
excavations (17 – 18th September) were dedicated to sampling, documentation and backfilling
of the excavated pits.

This report presents the findings and preliminary results of the first (summer, 2017)
season of the Czech geoarchaeological survey in Kaptar Kamar Cave. The findings and results
were divided into three parts, according to the scientific tasks planned for this season.

Archaeological excavations of Kaptar Kamar Cave
The site was divided into a grid, which was later used to select excavation squares. In total 12
squares (1x1 meter; labelled A to M) were chosen for excavation. The squares were then
systematically excavated by mechanical layers (Excavation Unit – XU), roughly 10 cm thick.
In some cases, the spatial relationships of some layers were complex and more than one
sedimentary unit was included in a single XU. The stratigraphic relationships between the units
were recorded after the square was fully excavated. Two samples of sediment from each XU
were collected for phytolith analysis and floatation for macroscopical remains.

Fig. 1 ± Plan of Kaptar Kamar Cave with positions of squares selected for excavation

In addition, all excavated sediment were dry sieved at the site using 3 mm sieves. Therefore, a
vast collection of charcoal samples and faunal remains was collected during the excavation.
Several lithic artefacts were also found. Some of the most prominent artefacts and charcoal
samples that were identified during excavations were recorded in 3D (XYZ system). The zero
height point for measurement was placed on an eastern wall of the cave. The spot is marked by
an iron nail.

One of the most important finds in the cave was a large ashy lens 60 cm deep filled with
charcoal, pottery fragments and faunal remains. This feature was present in squares A, B and
C, with a portion remaining unexcavated. The preliminary dating of the pottery places this
object in the early Iron Age (Yaz I).

Fig. 2 – a view of square J (the depth of 40 cm corresponds to the bottom of XU 4)

Other anthropogenic features include places of burning activities situated mainly in the upper
XUs of some the squares. In squares F, G and H, a burned feature was confined to less than 20
cm under the surface, while in squares I and L the burned excrements consisted of a sizeable
structure visible in the stratigraphic section. Square E shows signs of stabling activities and
contains few pottery fragments of possible Neolithic origin. Squares J and M were the deepest
squares and yielded a small amount of evidence for human activities including several ceramic
fragments and bones. One lithic artefact found in association is a retouched point which could
potentially have a Paleolithic origin. This issue needs further investigation. Evidence for more
recent human activities were also present on the cave floor.

Squares for excavating were continuously being selected throughout the excavation based on
the likelihood of possible archaeological deposits and to include the greatest possible area in
the time available. Of all the selected squares, only square K was not excavated, mainly due to
a redirection of effort to other squares containing deeper deposits. The excavation did not reach
bedrock in every square and many (potential) squares remain unexcavated so there is a lot of
potential for further field research in this cave.

Fig. 3 ± Fragment of a Neolithic ceramic with the surface structure clearly visible

Fig. 4 ± Stone artefact that could be of Palaeolithic origin

Geoarchaeological research
Kaptar Kamar Cave is a relict of an old cave system. It is 29.5 meters wide and 30.5 meters
long. The roof is approximately 25.3 high in the entrance and 10.3 metres high in the rear of
the cave. Its morphology is therefore the result of a long-term process. The surface of the cave
slopes down from the rear to the entrance. A terrace consisting of limestone blocks was
identified in the cave interior. These blocks fell down in the past, probably during, or at the end,
of a cold climate period. The resulting morphology, i.e. the undulated surface of the interior,
was lately smoothed by the sedimentation of colluvial deposits. These deposits are composed
of unsorted silts with a large amount of limestone debris. The provenance of the silt fraction is
mainly the loess material previously blown into the cave. The “in situ” non-redeposited loess
sediments were identified, for example, in squares J and M located outside the dripline.

The uppermost parts of the cave were well protected from the wind so they may have been used
in the Neolithic period for stabling and other human activities. In the field situation we observed
relatively thick layers of stabling deposits as well as layers of fired material. The stabling
deposits composed mainly of excrements mixed with silt and limestone debris were identified
mainly in square E in the rear of the cave. The burned excrements mixed with the silt and
limestone debris were identified mainly in squares I and L. The deepest sections excavated were
located in the central part of the cave and at the western wall near the entrance. Sections in the
central part display five distinct layers. The uppermost layer consists of mainly recent
excrements overlying burned features. The underlying layer consists of unsorted silt with
limestone detritus and frequent calcium carbonate dots. Underneath is a layer of unsorted silt
with limestone debris and without calcium carbonate dots. The bottom of this layer is composed
of a calcium carbonate sub-layer and it is likely to have formed in a more humid environment
with intensive leaching. These suggestions are consistent with the zooarchaeological findings,
i.e. by the unique presence of frogs and fish.

Fig. 5 - Example of sedimentary section documented in the centre of the Kaptar Kamar Cave. The layer 1 is
represented by the lens of antropogenical sediments with the sharp transition into the layer 2 and 3 situated below.
The layer 2 is composed of unsorted silt with the limestone detritus and a number of white calcium carbonate dots.
The transition into the layer 3 is abrupt. The layer 3 is free of carbonates and composed of unsorted silt with the
angular limestone detritus. The transition into the layer 4 (limestone debris or limestone rocks) is sharp. Thick
layer of calcium carbonates developed on the transition between layers 3 and 4 as result of intensive leaching
during some more humid period.

The deepest section was excavated at the entrance of the cave. The main type of deposit is again
unsorted silt with limestone debris, which is sometimes impregnated with calcium carbonate
hard crusts, at least down to 70 cm. At this depth a few lenses of typical loess deposit appear.
At the depth of 100 cm an abrupt change into more lithified sediment was identified, i.e.
unsorted silt with higher amount of limestone debris. The sedimentary bottom of the section
was not reached, but at the depth of 220 cm a number of large stones started to appear.

Zooarchaeological research
The collection of zooarchaeological findings contains bones of domestic animals, microfauna
as well as mollusca. The most common type of animal bone is sheep/goat (Ovis/Capra). A small
proportion of the animal bones belongs to cattle (Bos taurus), dog (Canis familiaris) and donkey
(Equus asinus f. domestica). Most bones were recovered from the upper parts of squares A, B,
C as well as from squares H, E, F J and M.

Apart from the domestic animal bones (large mammals), bones of small animals (microfauna)
were also identified. Bird bones (Aves sp. indet.) were also recorded. These bones together with
the sheep/goat bones were the most common. The bones of bats were identified in square E in
the upper part of the rockshelter. The remainder of microfauna consists of, for example,
different species of rodents (microtus, mus muscullus, rattus species, critetus species,
mustelidae). These groups were identified in all squares. The specific fauna, represented by
frogs and fish, pointing to a more humid climate was identified in layer 3 of squares A, B, C
and H.

In addition, fossils of bivalve and brachiopods were identified at the bottom of squares A and
B. These findings are suggested to be manuports, because the type of the limestone building the
rockshelter doesn´t contain such type of fossils.

Fig. 6 ± diaphysis of a sheep/goat femur with the signs of gnawing mark of rodents

Archaeological excavations in Kaptar Kamar Cave have confirmed the possible presence of
Neolithic occupation, not previously demonstrated for this area. The cave was also occupied
during Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. Evidence of Palaeolithic occupation has not been
demonstrated but the finding of a retouched point in square M and several chert flakes in other
squares suggest it. These artefacts may have been redeposited from older layers. The
lithological differences identified in study sections show that the sedimentological archive
contains information about climate change during the Holocene period. The transition between
Pleistocene and Holocene is probably represented by the fallen roof. The zooarchaeological
findings confirm the suggested Holocene climatic changes already identified from the
sedimentological record. Further interpretations will be completed after finishing the
multiproxy analyses (radiometric dating, aDNA, geochemistry, archaeobotanical analyses,
archaeozoological analyses).

The excavations confirmed that the environmental archive of the Kaptar Kamar Cave has a high
potential for further research.

Kaptar Kamar 2017

PDF file: http://ukar.ff.cuni.cz/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/Kaptar%20Kamar%20preliminary%20report%202017.pdf


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