Recent discoveries in historic Armenia reveal traces of earliest civilizations. Turkish archaeologists recently found a wealth of artifacts in Başur Höyük, Siirt in modern day Turkey (Aghdznik province of Greater Armenia). Small carved stones unearthed in a nearly 5,000-year-old burial could represent the earliest gaming tokens ever found. The elaborate pieces consist of 49 small stones sculpted in different shapes and painted in green, red, blue, black and white. Some depict pigs, dogs and pyramids, others feature round and bullet shapes. There were also found dice as well as three circular tokens made of white shell and topped with a black round stone.
The find confirms that board games likely originated and spread from the Armenian Highlands more than 5,000 years ago. According to distribution, shape and numbers of the stone pieces, it appears that the game is based on the number 4.
Archaeological records indicate that board games were widely played in Mesopotamia. Several beautifully crafted boards were found by British archaeologist Leonard Wooley in the Royal cemetery of Ur, the ancient Sumerian city near the modern Iraqi city of Nasiriya. Much more elaborate, the newly discovered gaming stones were recovered from one of nine graves found at Başur Höyük. The site was inhabited as early as from 7,000 B.C. and was on a trade route between East and West.
Overall, the graves revealed a unique treasure made of painted and unpainted pottery, bronze spearhead, various ritual artifacts, seals with geometric motifs and about 300 well-preserved amorphous bronze artifacts. The majority of pots featured bitumen residues. Bitumen was most likely part of a burial ritual or was applied to prevent secondary use of the pots. Tens of thousands of beads made of mountain crystal and other types of stones were also recovered from the burials.
“The gaming pieces, thousands of beads, hundreds of complete pots and metal artifacts indicate those graves were not ordinary burials but most probably belonged to individuals of a ruling class,” archaeologist Sağlamtimur said. Radio carbon dating traced the grave goods back to 3100-2900 B.C., confirming the Early Bronze Age stylistic features of the items and the advanced technological level of the local population.
“The graves contained metal artifacts, ceramic finds and seals with different attributes and influences which indicate the local people were in close relationship with their surrounding cultural regions,”
From folk tales we know that early settlements of Armenians were established around Lake Van (modern-day Turkey). Hayk the legendary patriarch of Armenians slew the Babylonian tyrant Bel east from lake Van and established settlements nearby. Spearheads and weaponry found in the burials reveal warrior culture of the region.
Discoveries in Armenian Highland, will allow us to reconstruct a new history of this region which is indeed the meeting point of the most ancient Near East civilizations