Bird depictions are the most favored theme in the Armenian arts. Bowls and jugs originating from AD 11-13 C. show images of eagles, storks, doves, peacocks, wild ducks and other bird species. Despite their stylistic form, they are concise in their expression and are thought to serve as the prototypes for the bronze statuettes of waterfowl typical of the Late Bronze Age. Throughout the millennia the Lchashen statuettes retained their faunal diversity. Human impact, direct or indirect, has posed a threat to the many bird species which are in need of urgent attention.
Birds are truly miraculous creatures. Their ability to fly, their rare beauty and rich plumage colouration have attracted human attention since time immemorial. The best evidence for this are the bird pictures occurring on cliffs, painted pottery, bronze belts, stamps, coins and mosaic art. However, the identification of the species diversity and the evidence of how humans specifically used birds in the prehistoric past is perhaps only possible from the archaeological remains. Among early references dealing primarily with the analysis of bird remains, the work of DAL (1952) based on the archaeological materials from one year’s excavation at the Medieval town of Dvin is especially noteworthy.
Various archaeological publications have reported on the numerous bird figures occuring as rock carvings in the mountains of Gegham, Syunik and Vardenis as well as other extensive ridges and on prehistoric vishaps, temples, ornamental-cultural or ritual-totem ceramics, bronze pottery and other objects from archaeological excavations. This subject matter has therefore received much attention.
Many hundreds of years ago, before the rise of a Christian Armenia, the prehistoric (Middle Bronze, 19-15 C. BC) humans that inhabited the area worshipped stone sculptures widely known as vishaps (Fig. 1). These vishaps are huge stelae, 5.06 m long and 0.6 m wide, the shape of fish or rectangular monuments with carved images of birds resembling cranes, bull or sheep heads and skins.
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