The Armenian Highlands and Spread of Agriculture

The emergence of agriculture is a key event in the human history. The very first animal to be tamed was the dog, which’s domestication probably took place in the Early Stone Age in connection with the development of hunting. Several centuries later, people tamed sheep, goat, cows, and pigs.

The Armenian Highlands play a pivotal role in this regard. In the paper “Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact” (2008), Dr. Melinda A. Zeder writes that the Neolithic revolution, the early spread of agriculture, began in the Armenian Highlands, from where colonization and cultural diffusion brought agriculture to Europe and then other to regions.

[1] Dr. Zeder argues that indigenous European hunter-gatherers adopted new farming techniques as a result of cultural diffusion. The below map from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences issued on August 11, 2008, demonstrates when and where the four livestock species have been domesticated.

The slopes of volcanic massifs of Armenia house vast galleries of rock and cave paintings of agricultural motives, some of which are dated all the way back to the 12th-11th millennia BC. [2] In fact, the populations of the Armenian Highlands were one of the first to domesticate wild animals. Comprehensively reshaping the economic life of those ancient populations, agriculture immediately spread its influence on the formation of new mythologies as well as chronological systems.

In his chronology “Timeline of the Development of the Horse” (2007), Baverley Davis writes:

“Petroglyphs found in Armenia (one of the possible sites for the Indo-European homeland) show the oldest pictures of men driving chariots, wagons, and plows, with horses doing the pulling.” [4]

Petroglyphs of Ukhtasar mountains in Armeniam, depicting agricultural motives
Neolythic Petroglyphs of Ukhtasar mountain in Armenia

The first farmers portrayed agronomics in ancient petroglyphs. Those new hieroglyphs featured symmetrically arranged zoomorphic figures. The central cruciform axis seen on the images bears a certain religious meaning. As an example, the harnessed bulls symbolized not only the process of tillage but the mastery of fertilization as well.

In fact, the Armenian Highlands are also the homeland of viticulture and wine-making. The ancient civilizations inhabiting the Highlands have managed to figure out how to properly and safely grow the plant, allowing them to master large-scale wine production. We have previously covered a number of discoveries testifying to the developed culture of wine in the Armenian Highlands.

Because it allowed ancient peoples to support increased populations, the invention of agriculture resulted in the emergence of larger societies and the development of cities. Furthermore, the increasing complexity of these societies created the need for social stratification and greater organization of political power in order to aid harvest and labor allocation. On the other hand, agriculture resulted in the immobility of ancient populations, settling them down for longer periods of time. In its turn, this led to the accumulation of resources and the creation of the culture we know today.

Sources: PeopleOfAr

1) Melinda A. Zede (2008) Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact 

2) Hamlet Martirosyan, Correlations in the Origin of the Armenian Pictograms and the Ancient World Writing Systems. 1. The Egyptian Hieroglyphs

3) Baverley Davis (2007) Timeline of the Development of the Horse

4) Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago
Vergano, Dan (19 January 2011). “Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago”. USA Today. Retrieved 2013-05-04.

5) Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave

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