It is only possible if the people who lived millennia ago knew these stories or their prototypes no worse – if not better – than modern Christians do. This means that they had such mythology as early as the Neolithic and Paleolithic.
When our historians start talking about such things, there are Orthodox people who call them nationalists. But when the phenomenon actually exists, sooner or later foreign scholars begin to talk about it.
In the age of the internet, everything becomes accessible anywhere in the world. Researchers strive to uncover the meaning and origin of the phenomenon of symbols, which can be traced back to the 10th millennium BC and even earlier.
Biblical stories on stones long before the Bible
Biblical stories on stones were carved as early as the Neolithic era in Western Armenia and the Upper Paleolithic (older than 15,000 BC) in historical Syunik in Eastern Armenia. These rock paintings were made thousands of years before the appearance of the Jews. It is believed that the Jews themselves adopted these traditions from older nations while in Babylonian captivity (598-539 BC).
Similar stories exist among other ancient nations of the world, especially the Near Eastern ones – primarily the Sumerians, Akkadians and their later descendants. However, they mostly belong to the Bronze Age, only the Ubaid to the Chalcolithic, but none of them go back to the Neolithic, let alone the Paleolithic, which date the engravings in Armenia.
Here with the naked eye you can see the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge, and the serpent-tempter under it next to Adam and Eve, etc. Similar illustrations, telling the story of the Fall and the punishment of humanity by expulsion from paradise, and later the flood, are known today to any schoolboy. But how is such a thing possible at all?
Without much deliberation, it has to be acknowledged that there is only one real answer. This could only have been possible if the people who lived here thousands of years ago knew these stories (or their prototypes) no worse, if not better, than our modern Christians do. But this means that they had such mythology as early as the Neolithic and even the Paleolithic.
Where could it have come from? In general, the emergence of mythology is a rather complex and lengthy process. It can be understood that it existed and transformed over long centuries and epochs.
Symbols of Millennia
But there is an important point. While symbols can be preserved and passed on for a very long time, their understanding can change. For example, on the stones in Armenia, you can find the so-called Star of David or the Seal of King Solomon (hexagram), engraved long before not only David, but even his ancestors. This means, at the very least, that this symbol had a different meaning, that is, it was not associated in any way with either David or Solomon.
Architect and researcher Ashot Grigoryan explains it this way: “It is known from Christianity that a triangle pointing upward contains a symbol of man’s connection with the cosmos, and a triangle pointing downward – on the contrary, symbolizes the benevolent gaze of heavenly forces or God on the believer. And the combination of these two images (which is erroneously called the Star of David), has much earlier manifestations on the Armenian Highlands, exists in rock drawings dated from the 10th millennium BC and denotes equilibrium, harmony between heaven and earth. Originally, the triangle pointing upward symbolized the family (father, mother, and child), the earthly beginning, preservation and continuation of the human race, and the triangle pointing downward – the heavenly beginning, in Christianity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The numerical designation of the triangle is 3, the combination of two triangles is 6, etc.
The Christian interpretation is somewhat closer to the esoteric interpretation of the symbol, according to which the descending triangle symbolizes the convergence of the spirit into matter, and the ascending one – its rise, development, and liberation. In India, the double triangle is called the Seal of Vishnu and also has a very ancient origin.
It is believed that the earliest undisputed image of a hexagram in the Middle East was found on a Jewish seal from the 7th century BC. But in Armenia, an artifact with a hexagon almost a thousand years older was found.
During the excavations of the ancient necropolis Nerkin Naver near the city of Ashtarak (Verin and Nerkin Naver – a complex of ancient burials), the oldest decoration in the form of a six-pointed star, dated to the 2nd millennium BC, was discovered. The dating was carried out by radiocarbon analysis of artifacts, conducted in laboratories in Germany and the USA. The handle of the dagger had the earliest decoration in the form of a six-pointed star.
Nothing new under the moon
The folk wisdom of the proverb “New is well-forgotten old” has been confirmed once again. No matter how incredible all this may seem, from the very fact of the existence of such prehistoric images, three completely justified conclusions can be made.
First: in science, it is customary to believe that such phenomena are explained by the borrowing of later cultures from more ancient ones. Since the most ancient images are in Armenia, it means that other cultures could well have borrowed from here.
Second: the oldest religious beliefs and mythology of Armenia were in many ways similar and even coincided with the foundations of Christianity, which was accepted thousands of years later.
Third: it is precisely because of this similarity not only in the base, but even in the depicted details that have come down to us, that the Armenian people were the first to adopt Christianity as the state religion.
In Christianity, much reminded of traditional beliefs, so it was relatively easily and in some places conflict-free adopted. Otherwise, the resistance of the people, accustomed to the religion of their ancestors, could have been very long and strong.
The very fact that churches were built on the foundations of former temples also speaks of continuity. Only after this, the fanatical destruction of everything former, called “pagan” and even “demonic”, led to the loss of a significant part of the pre-Christian written culture and history, the remnants of which a century later were with great difficulty saved by the great enlightener St. Mesrop Mashtots and the founder of Armenian historiography Movses Khorenatsi.
So what happens? Over the past 10,000 years (and according to some researchers, much longer), in prehistoric and historical Armenia, approximately the same or at least a very similar set of beliefs and myths was preserved, as is expressed in the oldest symbolic images.
To be more precise, how much this complex coincided and in what it differed from later religions, we will be able to say only after we manage to fully restore it. And this is possible only after deciphering the ancient hieroglyphic writing of Armenia, which existed long before Urartian cuneiform. In general, the topic of domestic writing is still poorly studied, so it seems very promising.
Historians call it “temple writings” (arm. Մեհենագիր). Scientists working on this say that the difficulty is that very few such samples have been collected. For successful deciphering, more such texts are needed – they need to be found, and this is quite an exciting task for young historians who want to advance research.
Of course, they will face the question of finding and copying new samples of “temple writings”. How to find them, where to look for? But this can also be solved.
As independent researcher Ruben Mnatsakanyan, who surveyed almost all of Armenia, said, next to the roads on the slopes of Aragats, you can often see ancient half-erased inscriptions on stones. And although our archaeologists have not yet found the Rosetta Stone of Aratta or the Behistun inscription of the kings of Hayasa, there is no doubt that after deciphering the Temple writings, a new layer of ancient history will open up, perhaps as large and interesting as Champollion and Rawlinson.
by Armen Petrosyan
The author thanks Samvel Shaginyan and Ashot Grigoryan for providing the photographs.
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan