Trialetian is the name for an Upper Paleolithic-Epipaleolithic stone tool industry from the area south of the Caucasus Mountains[1] and to the northern Zagros Mountains. It is tentatively dated to the period between 16,000 / 13,000 BP and 8,000 BP.[2]

Trialetian culture
Datesc. 16000 – c. 8000 BP
Major sitesTrialeti, Shanidar Cave, Huto and Kamarband Caves, Kotias Klde, Chokh
Preceded byBaradostian culture
Followed byShulaveri-Shomu culture
The Mesolithic
Upper Paleolithic
Mesolithic Europe
Fosna–Hensbacka culture
Komsa culture
Maglemosian culture
Lepenski Vir culture
Kunda culture
Narva culture
Komornica culture
Swiderian culture
Epipaleolithic Transylvania
Mesolithic Transylvania
Schela Cladovei culture
Mesolithic Southeastern Europe
Epipaleolithic (Levant)
Levantine corridor
Zarzian culture


The name of the archaeological culture derives from sites in the district of Trialeti in south Georgian Khrami river basin. These sites include Barmaksyzkaya and Edzani-Zurtaketi.[3] In Edzani, an Upper Paleolithic site, a significant percentage of the artifacts are made of obsidian.[4]

The Caucasian-Anatolian area of Trialetian culture was adjacent to the Iraqi-Iranian Zarzian culture to the east and south as well as the Levantine Natufian to the southwest.[5] Alan H. Simmons describes the culture as "very poorly documented".[6] In contrast, recent excavations in the Valley of Qvirila river, to the north of the Trialetian region, display a Mesolithic culture. The subsistence of these groups were based on hunting Capra caucasica, wild boar and brown bear.[7]

Trialetian sites

Caucasus and Transcaucasia:

Eastern Anatolia:

Trialetian influences can also be found in:

Southeast of the Caspian Sea:

The belonging of these Caspian Mesolithic sites to the Trialetian has been questioned.[11]

Relation with the Caspian Mesolithic

Differences have been found[11] between the Trialetian and the Caspian Mesolithic of the southeastern part of the Caspian Sea (represented by sites like Komishan, Hotu, Kamarband and Ali Tepe), even though the Caspian Mesolithic had previously been attributed to Trialetian by Kozłowski (1994, 1996 and 1999), Kozłowski and Aurenche 2005 and Peregrine and Ember 2002. These differences have been established through a detailed study of the site of Komishan and are driven by the underlying differences at the level of cultural ecology.

While Trialetian industry developed in steppe riparian and mountain ecozones, as for example in the Khrami river and the mountainous site of Chokh respectively, the Caspian Mesolithic took place in a transitional ecotone between the sea (Caspian Sea), plain and mountains (Alborz mountain range). The Caspian Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were adapted to the exploitation of marine resources and had access to high quality raw material, whereas in the Trialetian sites as Chokh and Trialeti there is imported raw material from distances of 100 km.

Relation with Kmlo-2

Kmlo-2 is a rock shelter situated on the west slope of the Kasakh River valley,[12] on the Aragats massif, in Armenia. This site seems to present three different phases of occupation (11-10k cal BC, 9-8k cal BC and 6-5k cal BC).[12][13][14] The lithic industry of the three phases show similarities such as the predominance of microliths, small cores and obsidian as raw material.[12][14] The backed an scalene bladelets are the dominant type of microlith; these tools show similarities with those of the Late Upper Paleolithic of Kalavan-1 and the Mesolithic layer B of the Kotias Klde.[14] Cultural affinities of the Kmlo-2 lithic industry with the Epipaleolithic and Aceramic Neolithic sites in Taurus-Zagros mountains have also been noted.[15]

Let us quote a few words from Gasparyan[14] about the industry found in Apnagyugh-8 (Kmlo-2) cave that express these similarities:

Let us conclude that Apnagyugh-8 industry is closer to the production complexes with traditions of Mesolithic and/or Upper Paleolithic periods. But it’s difficult to show any culture or archaeological source in Armenia today, which belongs to these periods, preceding Apnagyugh-8 and could have been its origin or prototype. The only site that emerged before Apnagyugh-8 is Kalavan-1, an Upper Paleolithic site dating to 16 th -14 th millennia B.C., where microliths of geometrical forms are fully absent. Though Apnagyugh-8 industry shows some similarities with Zarzian and Trialeti cultures, analytic studies for proving this comparison are still in the process.

Layer III of Kmlo-2 contained the so-called “Kmlo tools”.[16] Kmlo tools are characterized by "continuous and parallel retouch by pressure flaking of one or both lateral edges".[12] Similar tools have been found, as the associated to the to Paluri-Nagutny culture in Georgia),[12] the so-called "Çayönü tools” (Çayönü, Cafer Höyük, Shimshara),[12][13] found in Neolithic sites from the 8th to 7th millennia BC in eastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, and some found in the layer A2 of the Kotias Klde cave.[16] It has been suggested that the Kmlo tools are distinctive features of a culture established circa 9-8k cal BC on the highlands of western Armenia and continued at least until the 6th-5th millennia calBC.[13] A local development of the Kmlo tools has also been hypothesized.[13]

Final phase

Little is known about the end of the Trialetian. 6k BC has been proposed as the time on which the decline phase took place.[9] From this date are the first evidences of the Jeitunian, an industry that has probably evolved from the Trialetian. Also from this date are the first evidences of Neolithic materials in the Belt cave.

In the southwest corner of the Trialetian region it has been proposed[9] that this culture evolved towards a local version of the PPNB around 7k BC, in sites as Cafer Höyük.

Kozłowski suggests that the Trialetian does not seem to have continuation in the Neolithic of Georgia (as for example in Paluri and Kobuleti). Although in the 5k BC certain microliths similar to those of the Trialetian reappear in Shulaveris Gora (see Shulaveri-Shomu) and Irmis Gora.


The genome of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer individual found at the layer A2 of the Kotias Klde rock shelter in Georgia (labeled KK1), dating from 9,700 BP, has been analysed. This individual forms a genetic cluster with another hunter-gatherer from the Satsurblia Cave, the so-called Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer (CHG) cluster.[17] KK1 belongs to the Y-chromosome haplogruoup J2a [17] (an independent analysis[18] has assigned him J2a1b-Y12379*).

Although the belonging of the Caspian Mesolithic to the Trialetian has been questioned,[11] it is worth noting that genetic similarities have been found between an Mesolithic hunther-gatherer from the Hotu cave (labeled Iran_HotuIIIb) dating from 9,100-8,600 BCE and the CHG from Kotias Klde. The Iran_HotuIIIb individual belongs to the Y-chromosome haplogroup J (xJ2a1b3, J2b2a1a1)[19] (an independent analysis[20] yields J2a-CTS1085(xCTS11251,PF5073) -probably J2a2-). Then, both KK1 and Iran_HotuIIIb individuals share a paternal ancestor that lived approximately 18.7k years ago (according to the estimates of yfull [21]). At the autosomal level it falls in the cluster of the CHG's and the Iranian Neolithic Farmers.[22]


  • Stefan Karol Kozłowski: The Trialetian “Mesolithic” industry of the Caucasus, Transcaspia, Eastern Anatolia, and the Iranian Plateau. In: Stefan Karol Kozłowski, Hans Georg Gebel (ed.): Neolithic chipped stone industries of the Fertile Crescent, and their contemporaries in adjacent regions., Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 3, Berlin 1996, pg. 161–170.
  • Sagona, A. (2017). The Archaeology of the Caucasus: From Earliest Settlements to the Iron Age (Cambridge World Archaeology). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781139061254
  • Olivier Aurenche, Philippe Galet, Emmanuelle Régagnon-Caroline, Jacques Évin: Proto-Neolithic and Neolithic Cultures in the Middle East – the Birth of Agriculture, Livestock Raising, and Ceramics: A Calibrated 14C Chronology 12, 500-5500 cal BC, in: Near East Chronology: Archaeology and Environment. Radiocarbon 43,3 (2001) 1191–1202. (online, PDF)


  1. Anna Stolberg: Glossar In: Vor 12.000 Jahren in Anatolien. Die ältesten Monumente der Menschheit, Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (ed.), Stuttgart 2007, pg. 375–377, here: pg. 377.
  2. Frédérique Brunet: Asie centrale: vers une redéfinition des complexes culturels de la fin du Pléistocène et des débuts de l’Holocène, in: Paléorient 28,2 (2002) pg. 9-24.
  3. Nikolay I. Burchak-Abramovich, Oleg Grigor'evich Bendukidze: Fauna epipaleoliticheskoy stoyanki Zurtaketi, in: SANGSSR 55,3 (1969) pg. 32-33.
  4. Karine Khristoforovna Kushnareva: The Southern Caucasus in Prehistory. Stages of Cultural and Socioeconomic Development from the Eighth to the Second Millennium B.C., University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, 1997, pg. 9.
  5. Nach Henri de Cotenson in: Syria, tomus 80, 2003, 270-271, here: pg. 271; Besprechung zu Marcel Otte (ed.): Préhistoire d’Anatolie. Genèse de deux mondes. Actes du Colloque international, Liège, 28 avril-3 mai 1997. Liège 1998.
  6. Alan H. Simmons says the culture is "very poorly documented" (Alan H. Simmons: The Neolithic Revolution in the Near East. Transforming the Human Landscape, University of Arizona Press, 2011, pg. 53).
  7. Ofer Bar-Yosef: Upper palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in western Asia, in: Vicki Cummings, Peter Jordan, Marek Zvelebil (ed.): The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter-Gatherers, Oxford University Press, 2014, pg. 252–278, here: pg. 265 ff.
  8. J. K. Kozlowski, M. Kaczanowska (2004). "Gravettian/Epigravettian sequences in the Balkans and Anatolia". Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry. 4 - Issue 1: 5–18.
  9. Stefan Karol Kozłowski: The Trialetian “Mesolithic” industry of the Caucasus, Transcaspia, Eastern Anatolia, and the Iranian Plateau. In: Stefan Karol Kozłowski, Hans Georg Gebel (ed.): Neolithic chipped stone industries of the Fertile Crescent, and their contemporaries in adjacent regions. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 3, Berlin 1996, pg. 161–170
  10. Sagona, Antonio (November 2017). The Archaeology of the Caucasus by Antonio Sagona. Cambridge Core. doi:10.1017/9781139061254. ISBN 9781139061254. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
  11. Vahdati Nasab, Hamed; Jayez, Mozhgan (2016). "A separation: Caspian Mesolithic vs Trialetian lithic industry. A research on the excavated site of Komishan, southeast of the Caspian Sea, Iran". Paléorient. 42 (1): 75–94. doi:10.3406/paleo.2016.5694.
  12. Arimura, Makoto; Chataigner, Christine; Gasparyan, Boris (2009). "Kmlo 2. An Early Holocene Site in Armenia" (PDF). Neo-Lithics 2/09. The Newsletter of Southwest Asian Neolithic Research: 17–19.
  13. Arimura, Makoto; Badalyan, Ruben; Gasparyan, Boris; Chataigner, Christine (2010). "Current Neolithic Research in Armenia" (PDF). Neo-Lithics 1/10: 77–85.
  14. Gasparyan, Boris; Petrosyan, Arthur (2015). "Tools with an abrupt, regular, sub-parallel retouch from the Armenian Highlands and the Near East: "Apnagyugh tools", "lekala" or "Hook-Like tools" and "Çayönü tools". ARAMAZD, Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies (AJNES). IX (2).
  15. Arimura, Makoto; Gasparyan, Boris; Chataigner, Christine (2012). Curtis, J.E.; Matthews, R.J.; Chapman, R.; Fletcher, A.; Gascoigne, Alison L.; Glatz, C.; Simpson, St.J.; Seymour, M.J.; Taylor, H.; Tubb, J.N. (eds.). "Prehistoric sites in Northwest Armenia: Kmlo-2 and Tsaghkahovit" (PDF). Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient. 3: Fieldwork and Recent Research – Posters, Harrasowitz , Wiesbaden: 135–150.
  16. Varoutsiko s, Bastien; Mgeladze, Ana; Chahoud, Jwana; Gabunia, Manana; Agapishvili, Tamar; Martin, Lucie; Chataigner, Christine (2017). "From the Mesolithic to the Chalcolithic in the South Caucasus: New data from the Bavra Ablari rock shelter" (PDF). In Batmaz A.; Bedianashvili G.; Michalewicz A.; Robinson A. (eds.). Context and Connection: Essays on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Honour of Antonio Sagona. Leuven: Peeters.
  17. Bradley, Daniel G.; Pinhasi, Ron; Manica, Andrea; Hofreiter, Michael; Lordkipanidze, David; Currat, Mathias; Higham, Thomas F. G.; Jakeli, Nino; Matskevich, Zinovi (2015-11-16). "Upper Palaeolithic genomes reveal deep roots of modern Eurasians". Nature Communications. 6: 8912. doi:10.1038/ncomms9912. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 4660371. PMID 26567969.
  18. "J-Y12379*". yfull. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  19. Iosif Lazaridis et al. The genetic structure of the world's first farmers, 2016.
  20. First ancient J2 from Iran (Mesolithic, Copper Age) and Levant (Bronze Age) – Lazaridis et al. first farmers
  21. "J2 YTree". yfull. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  22. Reich, David; Pinhasi, Ron; Patterson, Nick; Hovhannisyan, Nelli A.; Yengo, Loic; Wilson, James F.; Torroni, Antonio; Tönjes, Anke; Stumvoll, Michael (August 2016). "Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East". Nature. 536 (7617): 419–424. doi:10.1038/nature19310. ISSN 1476-4687. PMC 5003663. PMID 27459054.

See also

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