“Kerpiclitepe” – the grand archaeological discovery on the SCPX pipeline route
bp’s Guivami Rahimli: “…I feel immensely proud to be part of a successful delivery of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage project to the attention of an international audience…”
For centuries, Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage has been represented by the nation’s historical past and unique culture and today, it enriches the honor list of UNESCO’s world masterpieces.
bp has been closely involved with Azerbaijan’s rich cultural legacy since the early days of its presence here. There is a long list of successfully implemented projects, that focus on supporting the development and promotion of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage.
In partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, bp has led numerous projects, that left a footprint in the more recent history books. These projects typically aim to preserve and pass down the country’s cultural and historical heritage to future generations, ultimately, contributing towards increasing local and international recognition of Azerbaijan’s legacy.
In 2018, Professor Bettany Hughes, an award-winning historian and broadcaster, visited Azerbaijan, to produce radio series for the BBC. As the leader of bp’s cultural heritage projects, I was delighted to help Bettany on her journey to produce an exciting program for the BBC, with the aim of promoting history and culture.
It was a great pleasure for me to arrange Bettany Hughes’ trip to one of bp’s sites, where the “Kərpiclitəpə” archaeological remains were discovered during the construction of the South Caucasus Pipeline Expansion (SCPX) project, in 2016. Given the international importance of the find, SCPX project operator bp Exploration Shah Deniz Ltd decided to route around the site to preserve it for future generations, and thus enable the site to be studied and excavated in line with project commitments and agreements with the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan. The story about this “fortress” type monument dating back to the 10-13th centuries, was featured in Bettany’s BBC program – Tales from the Caspian Sea.
In February 2019, at the SGC Ministerial meeting in Baku, bp AGT Regional President Gary Jones also briefed the international audience about “Kərpiclitəpə” discovery:
“… our archaeological excavations unearthed a fortress believed to be part of a medieval settlement in the Goranboy district of Azerbaijan. The discovery was recognized as a significant piece of cultural heritage extending back to humanity’s earliest history. When I visited the site together with the Minister of Culture Mr. Garayev, I was taken aback by both the scale and quality of the find. To preserve this valuable cultural heritage, we re-routed the pipeline to ensure that we keep the discovery for future generations.”
The artifacts discovered at the “Kərpiclitəpə” archaeological site were also displayed at bp’s exhibition stand during International Caspian Oil Show in May 2019 and bp’s Gary Jones presented the findings from the site to President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev along with updates of oil and gas developments of the company in the region.
In November 2019, an international conference “Industrial commitment and contribution to archaeology and cultural heritage” was held on the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation (HAF). bp was one of the organizers of this event where along with other representatives from HAF, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, “Icherisheher” state reserve, “AzerGold” company, Georgian National Museum and Austrian company “Atelier Erich Pummer” made presentations describing the activities on the protection of cultural heritage and provided an update on on-going works.
The conference also featured an exhibition of artifacts discovered during the archaeological excavations, which were displayed for six months.
Later on, bp also launched a project to summarize the reports of archaeological findings for the whole bp-operated SCPX project to go into Internet Archaeology, which would cover the major aspects of the SCPX archaeological sites in Azerbaijan.
In January 2023, the summary report “Archaeological Excavations on SCPX pipeline, Azerbaijan” has been published in the Internet Archaeology journal – https://intarch.ac.uk/ – at the Department of Archaeology, University of York.
Internet Archaeology is an international journal, the contents of which are archived with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), a world-leading digital repository for heritage data, the only accredited repository in the UK.
The SCPX project, which included an archaeological program, was carried out in 48 locations using a team of national and international archaeologists. The consolidated report was prepared by the British archaeologist David Maynard who was part of the archaeological expeditions on the SCPX route, working together with the Azerbaijani archaeologists.
The major discovery of the project was the medieval castle at Kərpiclitəpə, the grandest archaeological discovery on the pipeline route since the start of bp activities in the country. This was a rectangular structure with towers at each corner and evidence of occupation that probably ended with the Mongol invasion.
The consolidated report is structured as an introduction to the project, with a summary of excavations. The detail for each site can be accessed in the report by links to the archive on the ADS website. The reader can thus access all the information for each site together with a detailed analysis of radiocarbon and other analyses of the sites for all the work in that area from the various projects.
The summary report “Archaeological Excavations on SCPX pipeline, Azerbaijan” which provides a means to comprehend the part of the very broad early history of northwest Azerbaijan, is also shared by the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan and the Institute of Archaeology, Ethnography and Anthropology on their websites.
Now, looking back I feel immensely proud to be part of the successful delivery of this cultural heritage project to the attention of the international audience, being bp’s key negotiator between the SCPX project team, Ministry of Culture and Institute of Archeology, Ethnography and Anthropology of NASA. I am also proud to be part of bp, which has had a tremendous contribution to documenting and preserving Azerbaijan’s rich cultural legacy.
Guivami Rahimli, PhD
Senior Government Affairs Advisor for BP AGT Region,
Professor at the faculty of international relations at Baku State University