The abundance of ancient ruins, monuments and archaeological sites, have earned Armenia the title of: “an open air museum”. While this is certainly true, everything known of ancient Armenia to date is but a tip of the iceberg, as most is still lying beneath the soil silently awaiting discovery.
Some of the worlds oldest human settlements have been discovered on Armenian Highlands, where various experts believe farming and agriculture was first invented by humans, which later spread to Europe. To add to that, the Armenian plateau is situated exactly at the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Middle East. Empires from every corner of the earth (Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans, Russians etc…) have long been fighting to gain control over the territory. Because of this rich and turbulent history, the Armenian Highlands are filled with ancient sites waiting to be discovered.
In this post I’d like to revisit some of the recent and quite exciting archaeological discoveries made in Armenia. Most of Armenia’s historic land lies today within the borders of its neighbors (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran). Discoveries on these territories have been omitted from this post.
Within a span of merely 3 months several noteworthy archaeological discoveries have caught my attention. In this post I will discuss 9 of such discoveries, made only in the past 3 months.
Remains and Relics Discovered of Ancient Armenian Kings – September 2016
A medieval legend has been proven to be true. Armenian medieval authors Pavstos Buzand and Movses Khorenatsi wrote that King Shapur II of Persia, as a sign of dominance over Armenia, exhumed the bones of the 4th century Armenian kings from Ani-Kamakh (where the necropolis of Armenia’s Arsacid Dynasty was located) and attempted to take them to Persia. When Sparapet Vassak Mamikonian defeated the Persians and reclaimed the bones of the Arsacid monarchs, he re-buried them at Aghdzk.
This account has gained much credence recently when archaeologists stumbled upon a royal crypt with re-buried clean bones and royal artifacts at Aghdzk. They also found precious medieval glass, numerous ornaments and coins. Aghdzk is a village on the slopes of Mount Aragats in the Aragatsotn province of Armenia. It used to be a 4th century Arsacid mausoleum, a large royal burial complex and basilica, remains of which are still visible.
“This church is a monument of the Christian heritage, because it was built immediately after Armenia’s adoption of Christianity at the state level, as a first country in the world.” – said the deputy director of the Research Center of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, archaeologist Hakob Simonyan.
This discovery has sparked the interest of Hungarian and Iranian archaeologists who soon will join the investigation, according to the head of the expedition Hakob Symonyan. Armenian minister of Culture along with various other distinguished gussets attended an exhibition at the site.
According to Hakob Simonyan the Armenian government is planning to build a museum at the site and the DNA of the discovered bones will be examined and applied for scientific purposes.
Bronze Age Discoveries at Metsamor Castle – September 2016
Polish and Armenian Archaeologists joined forces and carried out research on a large settlement located in Armenian Metsamor. Three seasons of work by the Polish-Armenian team have yielded large quantities of pottery representing three millennia of occupation (from the 3rd millennium BC to the 1st century AD). Finds have also included gold and carnelian necklaces, obsidian arrow points, bone pins and awls, sardonyx and faience beads, bronze rings and decorated bone elements of horse harness.
Four different buildings were uncovered, the most interesting being an oval structure with large storage vessels still in place. Buried here under a thick layer of ash – remains of the roof wasted by fire – were a few small objects, including a stone casting mold.
The excavations also revealed evidence for violent conquest. Two headless skeletons of men killed in battle were unearthed, as well as many iron knives and slingshot pellets
Metsamor Castle, is the remains of an old fortress located to the southwest of the Armenian village of Taronik, in the Armavir Province. It has been populated starting from the 5th millennium BC until the 18th century AD. The excavations of the tombs of Metsamor Castle began in 1965. The site, is noted for its observatory and temple complexes, consists of seven sanctuaries. Neolithic stone circles (astronomical observatory) dating back to ca. 5000 BC stands within the historical site.
A Dragon-stone Found On Aragats Mountain – September 2016
The Armenian-German-Italian expedition discovered a bronze age Dragon-stone (Vishapakar) in the town Tirinkatar, at an altitude of 3000 meters.
Vishapakars meaning “dragon stones” are characteristic menhirs found in large quantities in Armenia. They are commonly carved into cigar-like shapes with fish heads or serpents. They represent images of vishaps, ancient mystical creatures. According to “Lonely Planet”, Vishap stones were anciently used as markers to show the location of underground water sources.
According to Arsen Bobohyan this dragon-stone (Vishapakar) may be dated to the end of the 3rd millennium BCE. Archaeologist also found remains of wheat, barley and grapes underneath the stone monument. These organic remains are yet to be examined and possibly carbon dated soon.
From previous finds in the area we can say that this region was a well known metallurgical center during the bronze age. Armenian archaeologists have also discovered a bronze statuette of a dog dated to the 3rd millennium BC at the excavated site. According to experts this could shed light on how dogs looked during the bronze age in Armenia.
Ancient Burials Excavated at Karashamb – September 2016
Armenian archaeologists have discovered a massive burial site of over 700 tombs, used from the 2nd millennium BCE to the 7th century BCE. The initial discovery of the site was made in 1980, but the numerous burials were only discovered in 2009, and only recently excavations have been resumed discovering even more ancient burials. The excavation revealed that people were buried here from the 20th to 7th century BC. Archaeologists aim to document the burial rites of the ancient inhabitants of Karashamb.
“Our main goal is to explore the burial ritual, which has been subjected to the least changes for centuries. This covered period when there were no written sources. The burial ritual gives us quite a precise idea on the household of people, social construction of the ancient society, demography, as well as their religious perceptions,” – said Varduhi Melikyan, Archeologist.
Origins of Artsakh Traced to 7th Century BC – September 2016
Archaeologists have discovered four viceroy bronze wands during excavations at Karmir Blur, indicating that the Iron Age Armenians had four viceroy seats, one of them in Artsakh. The excavations have revealed that during the Urartian period Armenia was divided into provinces, each ruled by a separate viceroy. After the death of the latter the highest symbol of power – the scepter– has also been laid at the mausoleum.
“What’s most important is that it’s now proven that Artsakh was part of the United Kingdom of Van in the 8th to 7th centuries BC. The excavations come to refute all assertions that Artsakh has never been part of Armenia,” – said Hakob Simonyan, Deputy Head of the Research Center of Historical-Cultural Legacy
Another importance of the findings is that they come to shed light on the origin of Urartians.
“The Urartians were natives of the Ararat Valley,” – Simonyan noted
“I’m deeply confident that Urartu is an Armenian kingdom with its multi-layer population, where the Armenian element has been dominant,” – Hakob Simonyan said.
A number of different interesting items have been unearthed during the expedition. These include jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks, buttons), as well as a whole arsenal of weapons.
Ceremonial Buildings Found at Ancient Burial – September 2016
Ritual buildings are found near ancient graves, dating to the first half of the third millennium BCE., for the first time in Armenian history.
Director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia Pavel Avetisyan revealed in September that they have discovered a semi-circular structure likely used for ceremonial purposes near a burial site. Bronze age burials have equally been discovered in places such as Georgia, the North Caucasus, Turkey and Iran, but it is the first time archaeologists were able to find ceremonial buildings next to graves. It’s a very serious and important phenomenon that requires further study Avetisyan added.
2 Million Year Old Archaeological Site Found in Armenia – October 2016
Yes you’ve read it correctly, a 2 MILLION year old archaeological site was found in Armenia near the city Stepanovan.
During an archaeological expedition, the members of the Russian Geographical Society “Zabaikalskaya Geoarchaeology” discovered an ancient monument, estimated at 1.9-2.1 million years. During the excavation they found stone Chopping tools and stone spears. These tools were created by primitive human relatives who had yet to evolve into Homo-sapiens that we are today. Previous discoveries of similar tools dated to the same period were made in Africa’s Tanzania.
Neolithic Settlement Excavated at Aknashen – October 2016
On the Ararat valley at Aknashen Armenian archaeologists have excavated a 8000 year old settlement, dating back to the beginnings of human civilization.
“Everything known prior to this period mainly relates to cave shelters and temporary stays. But, here we deal with a sedentary settlement, which made the first attempts of construction and ceramic production, ” – says Ruben Badalyan, the head of the expedition.
There the archaeologists have found a great amount of interesting artifacts. Among human remains, burred in a fetal position, they found a intricate jewelry, pottery, clothes and tools, which give us an invaluable insight into the lives of people who were first discovering civilization.
“We can conclude that humans populated in that territory had a sense of aesthetic beauty. They adorned themselves, their clothes, and tools. There is evidence that they used make-up,” – says Badalyan.
Previous expeditions conducted a few years ago have already yielded discovery of monuments dating to the 7th end 6th millennium BCE.
7 thousand year old tooth found in a Cave in Artsakh – November 2016
I’ve discussed this discovery in my previous post, therefore I will refrain from dwelling into much detail. Read for more detail HERE!
Scholars from Britain, US, Denmark and Armenia led by Prof. Levon Yepiskoposyan have been examining prehistoric caves near the village of Azokh in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and found unique artifacts from different periods, among them a tooth from a human who lived 7000 years ago. Due to the cave’s climate DNA was preserved inside the tooth and was send to Copenhagen University’s genetics department (in Denmark) for examination. The results of this inquiry have revealed that the genetic makeup of the tooth belonging to an individual 7000 years ago perfectly matches with the genetic makeup of modern Armenians.