The Heritage of the Kingdom of Van – Archaeological Excavations

The Heritage of the Kingdom of VanOver the last decades, archaeologist and locals repeatedly discovered items belonging to the era of the Kingdom of Van in the territory of historical Armenia. Today, some of those artifacts are showcased in museums in Armenia, Turkey, and a number of European countries.

In the 40s, archaeologists discovered three bronze statuettes in the ruins of the Teishebaini fortress on the shore of Lake Van. Historians argue that the statuettes were dedicated to the god of storm and war Teshub, chief deity Khaldi, and his wife Arubani.

In the Kingdom of Van, similar statuettes have been exclusively made from bronze and have been used for religious purposes. Today, the statuette of Khaldi is located in the British Museum, while the other two are displayed in the History Museum of Armenia.

Bronze statuettes

Ceremonial cauldrons with images of winged deities and animals (mainly bulls and eagles) were discovered in the city of Van, Turkey, in the middle of the 20th century. According to scientists, the ornamentations of the cauldrons have been cast separately before being placed.

As for the cauldrons, they have been used for sacrificial rituals for Khaldi. Note that the technique of cauldrons’ casting has been a type of a Near-Eastern art originated in the Kingdom of Van. After an in-depth examination of the cauldrons, researchers agreed that they belong to the Kingdom of Van. Today, they are on display in the Museum of Ankara.

Bronze and copper cauldrons

During excavations in Armenia and Western Armenia, archaeologists discovered a large number of gold, silver, and bronze bracelets, pins, and medallions. In the days of the Kingdom of Van, locals and kings wore similar jewelry with images of Khaldi and his wife Arubani. The only difference between the items kings and commoners wore was the materials. Aristocracy wore gold and silver jewelry decorated with precious stones, while commoners wore their bronze analogs.

In both cases, the society of the kingdom believed that such items have magical powers and are able to protect their owners from evil spirits. Today, these items are displayed in the History Museum in Berlin and the History Museum in Yerevan, Armenia.

Magic amulets

During the excavations in the Teishebaini fortress, the 8th-century bronze helmet and shield of a king of the Kingdom of Van, probably Sarduri II, were found. These artifacts were ornamented with images of lions and bulls, as well as an engraved inscription reading: “With the majesty of Khaldi, Sarduri, a king powerful, a king great, the king of Biainili, the ruler of Tushpa”. Today, these artifacts are showcased in the History Museum in Armenia.

Bronze helmet and shield of Sarduri II

In Teishebaini, three quivers of Sarduri II were also found. One of them is located in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, and the rest is in the History Museum in Armenia. The quivers feature the depictions of soldiers of the Kingdom of Van.

A quiver of Sarduri II

At the beginning of the 70s, archaeologists discovered horse- and horseman-shape silver chalices in the Erebuni city-fortress. Additionally, they found a bronze cauldron top with a handle shaped like a pomegranate.

Archaeologists think that these finds belong to the era of the fall of the Kingdom of Van (6th century BC). Today, the chalices are displayed in the Erebuni Museum, while the bronze top is kept in the History Museum in Yerevan.

Silver chalices and bronze tops of the kingdom’s nobility

The most remarkable artifacts of the Erebuni fortress are paintings and wall frescos. Scholars argue that similar paintings have been common in Mesopotamia. However, Erebuni frescos are in better condition. Today, this miraculously retained wall paintings make Erebuni a unique monument of Ancient East.

Wall paintings and frescos

In Karmir Blur hill, archaeologists unearthed well-preserved bronze and iron military belts. At the time, these belts have been worn not only as a part of armor but as amulets protecting from the dark power. Additionally, the fragments of Argishti I’s chain-mail were discovered in the fortress. These artifacts are now displayed in the Erebuni Museum.

Chain-mail of Argishti and belts of Urartian soldiers

At the end of the 19th century, citizens of Van discovered fragments of Urartian kings’ throne. Those gilded fragments are made of bronze and have a shape of winged animals or deities. Precious stones were put in their heads as decoration.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to retain the initial shape of the fragments as all precious stones have been stolen. Local officials sold the fragments to European collectors, and now, they are displayed in museums of Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK.

Fragments of the royal throne

Wood, bronze, and stone fragments of chandeliers, as well as bone toppings with images of deities, lions, and eagles were unearthed in Toprakkale, Turkey. Experts argue that the only well-preserved example of Urartian art is a wood topping in the form of a horse head. Today, it is displayed in the History Museum in Armenia, while other fragments of the chandelier are kept in the Museum of Ankara.


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