Armenian Highland – Prehistory

The Armenian Highlands, also known as the Armenian Uplands or Armenian Plateau, are a region in the South Caucasus that covers parts of modern-day Armenia, Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan. The region is known for its rich history, diverse landscapes, and a complex geological past. Evidence of human habitation in the Armenian Highlands dates back to the Paleolithic era, with archaeological finds at various locations supporting the presence of ancient humans in the area.

Arzni, Nurnus, and other sites in the Armenian Highlands have yielded stone tools and other artifacts that suggest the presence of early human settlements. These sites have provided valuable insights into the lifestyle and technological capabilities of the people who inhabited the region thousands of years ago.

The Hrazdan Gorge, Lusakert, and other locations have revealed cave dwellings, which further support the idea of ancient human habitation in the Armenian Highlands. These caves would have provided natural shelters for early humans, protecting them from the elements and predators. In addition to stone tools, archaeologists have discovered traces of hearths, food remains, and other artifacts within these caves, providing a glimpse into the everyday life of our ancestors.

The Armenian Highlands hold a wealth of information about the ancient world, and ongoing research continues to expand our understanding of early human societies in the region. These archaeological discoveries have not only shed light on the lives of the people who once inhabited the area but also on the development of human culture and technology throughout prehistory.

Ancient tools found in the Armenian Highlands

The Armenian Highlands has indeed provided a wealth of archaeological evidence, including ancient stone tools that date back to around 800,000 years ago. These early tools, often referred to as the Acheulean culture, are typically associated with the Lower Paleolithic era and were likely used by Homo erectus, an early human ancestor. The discovery of such ancient artifacts in the Armenian Highlands indicates that the region was inhabited by early humans for an extended period.

In addition to the Lower Paleolithic finds, sites from the Neolithic era have also been discovered in the Armenian Highlands. The Neolithic period, which began around 12,000 years ago, marked a significant shift in human culture and technology. During this time, humans transitioned from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled, agrarian way of life. The development of pottery, agriculture, and domestication of animals were significant milestones of the Neolithic era.

Archaeological sites in the Armenian Highlands dating to the Neolithic period provide evidence of these cultural and technological advancements. Excavations have uncovered artifacts such as pottery, polished stone tools, and remains of agricultural activity, indicating that the region was part of the broader Neolithic revolution that transformed human society.

The Armenian Highlands’ rich archaeological record, spanning from the Lower Paleolithic era to the Neolithic period and beyond, highlights the region’s importance in the study of early human history and the development of human culture and technology over time.

Rock paintings of the Armenian Highlands

The Armenian Highlands are home to a rich collection of rock art, including numerous rock paintings and petroglyphs that depict hunting scenes, animals, and other aspects of daily life. These ancient artworks offer valuable insights into the lives and cultures of the people who inhabited the region in prehistoric times.

Rock paintings, also known as pictographs, are images created by applying pigment to rock surfaces. Petroglyphs, on the other hand, are images carved or pecked into the rock. Both types of rock art can be found throughout the Armenian Highlands, with some dating back to the Neolithic era and others spanning various periods of history.

Many of the hunting scenes depicted in these rock paintings and petroglyphs provide a glimpse into the daily activities and the importance of hunting for the survival of ancient communities. These artworks often portray hunters with bows and arrows, spears, or other weapons, alongside various animals, such as deer, goats, and boars. Some scenes may also feature rituals or other activities associated with hunting.

The presence of rock art in the Armenian Highlands contributes to the region’s cultural and historical significance. These ancient images help researchers understand the development of human societies, their beliefs, and their interactions with the environment. The preservation and study of these rock paintings and petroglyphs remain essential for future generations to appreciate and learn from the rich heritage of the Armenian Highlands.

The first agricultural and cattle-breeding settlements of the Armenian Highlands

The development of agriculture and cattle breeding was a pivotal moment in human history, marking the transition from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled way of life. In the Armenian Highlands, early agricultural and cattle-breeding settlements emerged in areas such as the Ararat Valley and modern-day Shirak.

In 1978, the discovery of a Bronze Age settlement in the Shengavit region of modern-day Yerevan added to the understanding of early human habitation in the Armenian Highlands. This settlement, dating back to the 5th-3rd millennium BC, provides important information about the lifestyle and technological advancements of the inhabitants during this period.

Throughout the Armenian Highlands, tribal settlements and large family settlements emerged wherever natural conditions were favorable for agriculture and grazing. In mountainous areas, elevated locations were typically chosen for these settlements, while on plains, natural hills were preferred. Over centuries, these hills grew as the settlements expanded and people continued to inhabit the same area.

In the southern regions of Armenia, settlements often featured houses constructed of raw brick on a stone foundation. A typical ancient residential building in the area was a round room with a diameter of 5-7 meters, featuring a central supporting stone for a pillar. This pillar likely supported the ceiling of the structure, providing stability and shelter for the inhabitants.

These early settlements in the Armenian Highlands represent significant milestones in human history, as they reflect the development of agriculture, animal husbandry, and the establishment of permanent communities. Studying these settlements and their structures helps to expand our understanding of early human societies and the evolution of human culture and technology over time.

Data from archaeological excavations in Armenian Highlands

The archaeological excavations conducted in the Armenian Highlands have provided a wealth of information about the various crafts and technologies that the inhabitants of the region developed and mastered throughout ancient times.

As early as the 4th and 5th millennia BC, the inhabitants of the Armenian Highlands had already developed the skills and knowledge to smelt copper. By the 2nd millennium BC, they had also learned to smelt iron, showcasing a remarkable level of metallurgical expertise for that time.

One of the most notable archaeological discoveries in the region was made in September 2008 during the excavation of the Areni cave in Armenia. A pair of shoes, over 5,500 years old, was found, dating back to the Eneolithic period (also known as the Chalcolithic or Copper Age) around 3600-3500 BC. These soft shoes with pointed ends, called “charokh” are the oldest footwear ever discovered in Europe and Asia.

The remarkable preservation of these shoes has allowed experts to draw comparisons with traditional footwear worn in Armenian villages. This find highlights not only the long-standing tradition of craftsmanship in the Armenian Highlands but also the continuity of cultural practices over millennia.

These archaeological discoveries in the Armenian Highlands contribute to our understanding of ancient human societies, their technological advancements, and their day-to-day lives. The mastery of various crafts, from metallurgy to shoemaking, demonstrates the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the inhabitants of the region throughout history.

Vigen Avetistan

Matthew Karanian: Mapping the Armenian Highland

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