Argishtikhinili – Ancient Armenia

Argishtikhinili – Ancient Armenia

Argishtikhinili (near the present-day town of Armavir) was an ancient city in the Kingdom of Van (Urartu) established under king Argishti I and named after him on the left bank of the Araks River, in its middle reaches.

The city existed in the 8th-6th centuries BC. The ruins of the central fortress of Argishtikhinili are lying 15 km southwest of Armavir, between the villages of Nor Armavir and Armavir in Armavir province of Armenia. Over time, the river bed has shifted to the south and is now located a few kilometers from Argishtikhinili.

At the very beginning of his reign in 786 BC, King Argishti I undertook several campaigns in the Ararat valley, in the area of Lake Sevan, and the Akhurian River. In 782 BC, he built the Erebuni fortress as a stronghold for future campaigns.

Clashes with the Assyrians on the southwestern borders of the kingdom for four years delayed the advancement of Argishti I. However, his campaigns resumed in 776 BC. Founded in the same year, the city of Argishtikhinili was located in the center of the Ararat valley and had a more administrative purpose than military.

In his chronicles, Argishti I writes that the city was built on the site of a more ancient settlement of the country of Ar, and archaeological excavations confirm this by the presence of cultural layers from the 3rd or 1st millennia BC under the city.

Argishtikhinili’s area had a rectangular shape and stretched in width for two kilometers and in length for five.

In the eastern and western parts of the city, there were stone fortresses-citadels. Along the long sides of the city’s area stretched irrigation canals, the total length of which was about forty kilometers.

In the territory of the economic area spread over several remote hills, there were urban buildings. Brick walls were erected around the city with massive towers at the corners.

The fertile lands of the valley allowed the inhabitants of Argishtikhinili to grow various Gramineae and grapes, as well as contain poultry and pigs. Pottery and blacksmithing were well-developed in the city as well.

The decline of the city, like that of the entire Van kingdom, began in the years of Sarduri II after he had been defeated in a battle with the Assyrians. Presumably, in 600 BC, Argishtikhinili was seized by the Medes or Scythians and set on fire.

Around the 4th century BC, Armavir was built on the site of Argishtikhinili. In 331 BC, when Armenia under the Yervanduni dynasty regained its independence from the Achaemenid Empire, Armavir was chosen as the capital of Armenia.

Alexander Bakulin

A fragment of the cuneiform inscription of Rusa III on the construction of a granary in Argishtikhinili.
The layout of Argishtikhinili in its heyday.
View of the hill where Argishtikhinili was located.
Remains of basalt foundations of the Argishtikhinili fortress walls after archaeological restoration works in the 1970s. Inner city.
Remains of basalt foundations of the Argishtikhinili fortress walls after archaeological restoration works in the 1970s. Inner city.
Remains of basalt foundations of the Argishtikhinili fortress walls after archaeological restoration works in the 1970s. The irrigation canal system.
Remains of basalt foundations of the Argishtikhinili fortress walls after archaeological restoration works in the 1970s. An approximate border of Argishtikhinili’s farmlands.
Remains of basalt foundations of the Argishtikhinili fortress walls after archaeological restoration works in the 1970s. The border of the ancient Armavir built on the ruins of Argishtikhinili 200 years after its destruction.
A memorial stone of Argishti I.
Cuneiform inscription: “By the greatness of the god Haldi, Argishti, the son of Menua, laid out this canal. The land used to be uninhabited, no one had lived there. At the behest of god Haldi, Argishti built this canal. Argishti, son of Menua, powerful king, king of the country of Biainili, ruler of Tushpa-city.”
Cuneiform inscription: “Argishti, son of Menua, says: I built a magnificent fortress and selected a name for it – Argishtikhinili. The land was desolate; nothing had been built there. I laid out four canals from the river, planted a vineyard and an orchard, I accomplished feats there… Argishti, son of Menua, powerful king, king of the country of Biainili, ruler of Tushpa-city.”
One of the numerous clay karases (vessels) found in Argishtikhinili’s wine storerooms. Karases were buried into the ground at 80% of their height, and the part in the ground was better preserved than the neck that remained outside. Over 160 thousand liters of wine were stored in such karases in Argishtikhinili.
Mealing stones designed for grinding grain into flour.
Mealing stones designed for grinding grain into flour – manual type on the left and mill type on the right.




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