The Legacy of the Kingdom of Van – Archaeological Excavations

In the last century, on the territory of Armenia, including historical Armenia, archaeologists and local residents have repeatedly found objects of art and everyday life related to the era of the ancient Kingdom of Van.

To this day, some of the artifacts found are displayed in museums in Armenia, Turkey, and European countries.

In the early 1940s, on the shore of Lake Van and in the ruins of the fortress of the Kingdom of Van, Teyshubaini (Armenia), three bronze statuettes were found. According to historians, these statuettes belonged to the god of thunder and war, Teshub, the Supreme god Khaldi, and his wife Arubani.

In the Kingdom of Van, similar statuettes were made exclusively of bronze and were used for religious purposes. Today, the statuette of the god Khaldi is in the British Museum, and the other two are in the Historical Museum of Armenia.

The ceremonial cauldrons of the Kingdom of Van with images of winged deities and animals (mainly bulls and eagles) were found in the middle of the 20th century in the city of Van (Turkey). According to scholars, the figurines decorating the cauldrons were cast separately and then attached to the vessels themselves.

As for the cauldrons themselves, they were used for sacrifices to the supreme god Khaldi. It’s worth noting that this technique of casting bronze decorations was one of the types of Near Eastern art and spread from the Kingdom of Van to neighboring countries in Asia Minor and Europe.

Upon detailed examination of these cauldrons, researchers unanimously attributed them to the artifacts of the art of the Kingdom of Van. They are now kept in the Ankara Museum.

During archaeological excavations in Armenia and Western Armenia, archaeologists discovered a handful of gold, silver, and bronze bracelets, pins, and medallions.

During the period of the Kingdom of Van, local inhabitants and kings wore such decorations with images of the supreme god Khaldi and his wife Arubani. The only difference between the decorations of the local nobility and ordinary people were the materials they were made from.

For the nobility, decorations were made of gold, silver, and precious stones, while for the peasants – simplified versions were made from bronze.

In both cases, the society of the Kingdom of Van believed that such decorations were imbued with magical power and could protect the wearer from evil spirits (akin to an amulet). Today these ornaments are represented in the historical museum of Berlin and in the National Historical Museum of Armenia.

During the excavations of the fortress Teyshubaini, a bronze helmet and shield of the king of the Kingdom of Van, who ruled in 764-744 BC, were found.

These findings were decorated with concentric circles of lions and bulls, as well as an engraved inscription that reads: “By the greatness of the god Khaldi, Sarduri, king mighty, king great, king of the country of Biainili, ruler of Tushpa.”

According to archaeologists, the helmet and shield, with diameters ranging from 70 cm to 1 m, belonged to the son of Argishti, Sarduri II. Today they can be seen in the Historical Museum of Yerevan.

Another find from Teyshubaini is three quivers of King Sarduri II. Today, one of them is located in the State Hermitage Museum, and the other two are in the National Historical Museum of Armenia. It’s noteworthy that the surfaces of the bronze quivers feature depictions of the warriors of the Kingdom of Van, who fought for the powerful Kingdom of Van.

In the early 70s, during excavations of the city-fortress of Erebuni, silver cups with figures of a warrior and a horse were discovered, along with a bronze cauldron lid with a small handle in the form of a blossoming pomegranate.

According to archaeologists, these finds belong to the era of the fall of the Kingdom of Van (6th century BC). Today the cups are stored in the Erebuni Museum, and the bronze cauldron lid in the National Historical Museum of Armenia.

Another remarkable find discovered in the fortress of Erebuni were the frescoes of the Kingdom of Van, wall frescoes, and seal impressions. According to researchers, such frescoes were widely distributed in Mesopotamia.

However, unlike the ancient cities of the Middle East, the frescoes and murals from Erebuni have been better preserved. Today, these miraculously preserved wall paintings make Erebuni a unique monument of Ancient Eastern art.

During excavations on the hill of Karmir-Blur (Armenia), archaeologists found well-preserved bronze and iron belts of warriors. In their time, these belts were worn not just as military armor, but also as an accessory, protecting against dark forces.

As for other finds, fragments of the surviving chainmail of Argishti I were discovered in Teyshubaini. They are currently displayed in the Erebuni Museum.

At the end of the 19th century, local residents of the city of Van found fragments of the throne of the kings of the Kingdom of Van. These figures were made of gilded bronze in the form of winged animals and deities, and their faces were decorated with precious stones.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to preserve the original appearance of the fragments. All the precious stones on the fragments of the throne were chiseled out and stolen.

It’s noteworthy that local authorities sold the fragments of the throne of the kings of the Kingdom of Van to European collectors and they are now displayed in museums in Belgium, France, Germany, and England.

Wooden, bronze, and stone fragments of candelabras, as well as bone combs with images of gods, lions, and eagles, were found during excavations in the Toprak-Kale fortress. Researchers believe that the only well-preserved artwork of the Kingdom of Van is a wooden comb in the shape of a horse’s head. Currently, the wooden comb is kept in the National Historical Museum of Armenia, and other parts of the candelabra are in the Ankara Museum.

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