Being more ancient than the pyramids of Egypt, Agarak village is located to the south of Mount Aragats on the banks of the Amberd river.
During the ongoing archaeological excavations, a street with round-shaped houses and rectangular buildings was discovered. Some of the constructions retained ancient plaster, household items, and fortified walls with traps-false entrances.
Those are signs of presence of a settlement with ancient wineries, a necropolis, and an altar, which date back at 3400 BC. The wineries and a large group of tombs were on a plateau above the settlement. According to one local legend, a virgin girl needed to be sacrificed in order to make wine better.
In addition, there are preserved fragments of a wall of an unknown huge structure. But what was it for exactly? The answer to that question is still unknown.
The complex of Agarak is “multilayered” as different human generations lived there in different historical epochs. Particularly, the discovered numerous figurines and various household items belong to the era of the Shengavit or Kura-Araxes archaeological culture (2800-2600 BC).
Also, other items from the period of 8th-6th centuries BC like crypts and clay products were found. Artifacts of the Kingdom of Van, including a cremation jar (with the kingdom’s seal), funeral niche, and ceramics, were among these items.
Agarak has reached its peak during the reign of Artashesians and Yervandunis from the 4th-3rd centuries BC to the 2nd century BC – 4th century AD, when the village (or maybe already the city) was involved in international trade. This, in particular, is evidenced by coins of the Hellenistic and Roman periods found in the region. The settlement continued to exist until the 17th-18th centuries.
An interesting detail is that the 2nd-3rd centuries necropolis consisted of pagan tombs along with Christian ones. That was before Armenia adopted Christianity as state religion in 301.
Excavations in Agarak began in 2001. The site occupies a vast territory of 118 hectares, of which only 3 hectares have been excavated. Therefore, it is quite difficult to guess how many more mysteries this place holds.
Numerous holes of different size and depth scattered over the tuff stoves are particularly notable. According to the studies of archaeologists, in all likelihood, the pits have had either metallurgical or astrological purpose. And although researchers cannot say anything definite now, it is undeniable that these findings are man-made and therefore have great historical value.
There is an assumption that the holes formed a map of the starry sky. A variety of reliefs – rounded, cup-like, reminiscent of “keyholes”, “comets”, “labyrinths”, “lodges”, “altars” – was probably used for some cult rites.
Plane structures, for example, could be used in such ceremonies as sacrifices, offerings, cleansing or mating rituals, and other types of actions that were “necessary” to ensure fertility according to the pantheistic (the direct connection of nature with the gods) worldview of the Agaraks. With such actions, local residents tried to maintain an alliance with the gods.
Director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia Pavel Avetisyan said about Agarak, “Nothing definitive can be said yet, but it is obvious that what we found was built by human and is a very valuable masterpiece.
One should also take into account the fact that historical Armenia is a much broader concept than the present territory of the country.
Many monuments of the history belonging to Armenian people are located on the territory of neighboring countries, who are absolutely not interested in their preservation. On the contrary, they destroy them or simply “appropriate” the material heritage of the Armenian people. Unfortunately, this happens all the time!
Thus, systematic archaeological research on the territory of modern Armenia has, in a certain sense, strategic significance for the future of our nation.”
Excavations continue to this day, thanks to which new details are revealed constantly. It is even possible that a deeper research can uncover more ancient traces of human presence.
The modern village of Agarak was founded in 1919 by Armenian refugees from Bitlis and Van, who managed to escape from the Turks during the Armenian Genocide.
On October 4, 2008, on the territory of the village next to the preserved wall of the 4th-5th centuries church, a new Church of the Holy Mother of God was completed and consecrated.