What do we know about the ancient settlements of Western and Eastern Armenia? That these are among the earliest settlements not only in the region, but in the world; that metals began to be smelted here for the first time, and so on. But what do we know about the people who lived here, our distant ancestors?
Identifying the genotype of remains or establishing the date of an artifact found by archaeologists is no longer a problem for science. For example, genetic analysis has revealed the identity of the Armenian genotype over the past 8,000 years, which has become a sensation in the scientific world. It is much more difficult to determine what ancient people were like in their thinking, worldview, how social relations were built, and what the social structure was.
We are used to attributing to prehistoric societies our current notions of ancient people as primitive beings with a corresponding lifestyle and wild cults. However, as is said in a medical joke, the autopsy showed that the patient died during the autopsy.
We are accustomed to believing that the history of humanity consists entirely of periods when the ruling classes exploited all the rest of the population. The well-known slave and peasant uprisings in history were brutally suppressed until, finally, the working class, armed with Marxist-Leninist theory, managed to carry out the first Socialist revolution in history. True, this whole period lasted just over seventy years and ended with the victory of “wild” capitalism. But it turns out that this was not the first socialist revolution in the history of mankind.
At the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, archaeologists discovered, perhaps, the most amazing page in the chronicle of human existence. It turns out: what we are used to calling utopia is no longer the fruit of individual dreamers of a fair society. A fair society existed, and it, as a matter of fact, is the heritage of our distant past.
This means that the “bright future” actually existed in the distant past. And it’s so far in the past that until recently these times weren’t even considered to be part of the historical period. And it wasn’t the primitive communism familiar to everyone from school textbooks.
Scientists have found evidence that in the 8th millennium BC in Western Armenia, which European historians now call Eastern Anatolia, there existed a unique social system.
Archaeologists conducting excavations of the oldest settlements in Halan-Chemi, Çayönü, Nevalı Çori, and Çatalhöyük weren’t aiming to put forward sensational theories about the events that took place there. They were simply doing their job. But after compiling and summarizing the results of half a century’s excavations and research, and conducting a careful analysis of all available data, they were shocked themselves. Even conservative historians and archaeologists, far from any revolutionary beliefs, could not find other explanations for the research results, admitting that events took place in this area that led to radical social changes as a result of a social revolution. The German researcher Bernhard Brosius recently published a generalized summary of the scientists’ conclusions.
Around 7,200 BC, that is, in the 72nd century BC, cities had been built on the Armenian highlands with houses on stone foundations for more than two thousand years. It turned out that people were already divided into rich and poor. Grim temples served the ruling class, helping to maintain power in a rigidly organized society through open terror – through human sacrifices.
In the temples found by archaeologists, daggers and sacrificial stones with a thick crust on them were found in various layers of buildings, the same deposits were found in specially laid drainage shafts. Hemoglobin analysis confirmed that it was human blood. In the storerooms of one of these temples lay the skulls of more than 70 people and parts of the skeletons of more than 400 people, “stacked to the brim”.
In other oldest settlements of Western Armenia, the situation was similar. Çayönü, Çaönü, or Çayönü Tepesi (literally “Çayönü hill”) is located about 40 km northwest of Diyarbakır (Armenian: Tigranakert), near the city of Ergani, at the foot of the Eastern Taurus mountains. This is the historical Armenian province of Aghtznik. The first excavations at Çayönü were conducted in 1964-1978 by the American archaeologist and anthropologist Robert Braidwood, one of the leading researchers of the prehistoric Near East. He was able to find numerous and convincing evidence that between 10,000-6,000 years BC, a transition from hunting and gathering to an agrarian community occurred in southern Anatolia. Excavations were resumed in 1985-1991 by Turkish archaeologists Mehmet Özdoğan and Aslı Erim-Özdoğan. This ancient settlement, researchers believe, is likely the center where humans began to use metal. The found metal products date back to 9200+200 and 8750+250 years BC.
Also, according to historians, perhaps it is here that the pig was first domesticated, and in the vicinity of Çayönü wild predecessors of cultivated wheat and other domesticated cereals still grow, which formed the basis of agriculture of the local tribes. The Çayönü settlement was associated with Göbekli Tepe (Armenian: Portasar), the oldest temple complex in the world, dating back to the 12th millennium. Çayönü is located 100 kilometers from Göbekli Tepe.
The picture that emerged from the analysis of the findings suggests that one beautiful day 9,200 years ago, everything in Çayönü abruptly and radically changed. The mansions on the north side of the large square were burned down, and so swiftly that the owners did not have time to save their wealth. However, the revolutionaries of that distant era managed not only to shake off a thousand-year bloody exploitative rule, but also to find, formulate, and implement a social alternative. After a short and chaotic transition period, all houses began to be demolished. The slums in the West disappeared forever, and just a few meters away from where the ruins of the burned mansions were discovered, now stood the new Çayönü. The new houses were comparable in size to the old mansions, and there were no more poor huts or shanties. All residents worked, and any indications of social differences were erased.
In 1989, all the above facts were scientifically documented. In 1997, the leader of the excavations in Çayönü, famous Turkish historian Mehmet Özdoğan, ruled out the facts of invasion by foreign peoples, war, epidemics, and natural disasters, concluding that the only reason for this change could have been a social upheaval.
The social revolution of 7200 BC marked the birth of Neolithic communism. A classless society of equality emerges, with equal rights for women and men. The trends quickly spread throughout Anatolia and the Balkans. This world order lasted for at least 3,000 years.
Here is what Magda Neiman wrote in her book “Armenians” published in Saint Petersburg in 1898: “Everyone familiar with the history of Armenia knows that this was the only country in the world where there were never any castes, slaves, or serfs, from the very beginning of its political existence to its end… Meanwhile, no laws, morals, or customs of powerful states, which influenced the Armenians in one way or another, could infect them with the spirit of slavery and bondage, which they not only did not recognize in relation to their blood brothers, but also to the nations they subjugated or captives taken during a war with foreigners. All foreigners, whether captured by force or voluntarily seeking refuge in Armenia, gained full freedom and equal rights with the Armenians upon entering its territory.”
If this became clear to everyone studying the ancient and medieval history of Armenia in the 19th century, then in the 21st century we managed to find the roots of this amazing tradition of freedom, philanthropy, and brotherhood. It began right there, in Çayönü, from which even its Armenian name has not survived today, unlike the already world-famous Portasar (Göbekli Tepe). Now it becomes clear why the Sumerians called Aratta a divine country. There, people lived according to the divine laws of brotherhood and freedom. We still have to comprehend the meaning of these astonishing discoveries and find answers to many questions.
Could the memory of those times have been preserved by later peoples in the form of legends about the golden age, the land of divine justice, or something similar? The legends of which ancient peoples could historians attribute to the times of Çayönü and Çatalhöyük?
Every people’s uprising, especially a revolution, always has a leader who leads the masses in the fight against oppressors in the name of a better future. In ancient times, great reformers and legislators were deified. In Mesoamerican legends, it is said that their ancestors were forbidden to make human sacrifices by the enlightened god Quetzalcoatl. Therefore, there must have been such a leader or hero in Çayönü who led the people and all the transformations that happened then. Which of the legendary leaders of antiquity could have been him? Which heroes of ancient myths can be considered, even purely hypothetically, as the initiator of the social revolution in the Near East in the Neolithic era?
The Sumerians only mentioned that the god Aya-Enki, who created humans, and the goddess Inanna resided in Armenia. How this happened in reality is unknown; it can be interpreted in different ways. But in the legends of the peoples north of Mesopotamia, one can find very interesting information. And not only from Armenians, whose most ancient legends were recorded by Movses Khorenatsi, the father of Armenian historiography. It is in these legends that it is said that the progenitor of the Armenians was the legendary, divine, and mighty hero Hayk Nahapet.
Leonti Mroveli, like Khorenatsi for the Armenians, is the founder of Georgian historiography. In his 11th-century book “The Life of Georgia,” he wrote that the Armenians, Georgians, and all other indigenous peoples of the Caucasus descended from brothers, that is, they have a common ancestor. During a conflict with Bel (Nimrod), Hayk told his people and his brothers, the leaders of other peoples of the Caucasus: “From now on we will all be free, and no one will have power over us, except for one God.”
Here is a quote from Mroveli’s book: “The Lord Almighty has endowed us with strength and abundance of tribes. From now on, with the help of the Creator, we will stop being someone’s slaves and will serve no one but the Creator.” Seven heroes heeded him and affirmed that decision. They departed from Nimrod and stopped paying him tribute. They also called on some other tribes…”
This is a statement of a fact that determined the principle of life, which was established in Çayönü in the 8th millennium BCE. A clear division and confrontation between what is now called egalitarian and elitist societies. So, Hayk Nahapet was actually much older, in fact twice as old, and he lived not in the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE, as historians believe? And if the Armenians, as a people, trace their origin from him, it means they are much older. It turns out that Armenians are not 3 or 4, but 9 thousand years old. In fact, genetic research is already approaching these figures. It has shown that the genotype of modern Armenians is absolutely identical to that found in tombs that are 8,000 years old. But the genotype, although important, is not the only factor in determining nationality. In addition to it, language, culture, etc. are also determining factors. But the dates that linguists provide today are also approaching these figures. The confirmation of all these facts in conjunction can radically change our ideas about the history of the Armenians.
In addition to these complex questions for historians and ethnologists, there are others that are even more important and exciting, but already for us and our current leaders. Based on these astonishing discoveries about the past, can we consider that the aspiration for social justice is inherent in nature not only in an individual but in the whole human society and at all times?
And can we believe that these relations within society, which seemed to be a utopia until recently and began with Çayönü, will ever dominate in the human community.
That brief period of socialism in the 20th century, which ended with the collapse of the global socialist system, despite its totalitarianism, despotism, and coarseness, was only the first swallow of the future of humanity, as well as a reminder of its well-forgotten past…
by Armen Petrosyan
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan