In the valley of the Arpa River, in the canyons of the Mastarahegheghat and Hrazdan Rivers have been discovered monuments that allow us to explore the oldest stages of the settlement of the territory of Armenia in pre-Acheulean and Acheulean periods of the Lower Paleolithic.
In 2018, during field works carried out within the scopes of the project “Vayots Dzor” in the Areni-2 cave in the valley of the river Arpa under the leadership of Arthur Petrosyan, researcher at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the NAS RA, archaeologists discovered artifacts that shed light on the formation of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East.
“The first reconnaissance excavations were carried out here in 2007, and starting from 2016, they became systematic,” Petrosyan noted in an interview with the GA correspondent, “This relatively small karst cave (about 1.5 m wide) has a narrow gallery about 14 m long. In 2016, a flat area measuring about 25 square meters was found in the cave.
Layers with cultural remains are located mainly closer to the entrance to the cave and in its front area. Neolithic and Eneolithic finds (7029-3700 years ago) were found at a depth of 4 to 7 meters. They were partially destroyed as a result of a later (medieval) intervention.
Pebble tools (cores, choppers, spheroids, pebbles with traces of blows, chippers), which apparently belong to the pre-Acheulean period of the Lower Paleolithic (1.8-1.2 million years ago), were found in the lowest layer dating to the Pleistocene.
Similar finds made from the pebbles of the Arpa River (basalt, limestone, sandstone, granite) were discovered during excavations of the front slope of the Areni-1 cave. Located between the slope colluvium and Eneolithic layers, stratigraphic observations showed that these tools were most likely not in their original spots.
The excellent condition and preservation of artifacts from Areni-1 indicate that the primary source of their occurrence has been nearby. A potential location could be the flat area at the entrance to the cave, which, based on geomorphological observations, is the Lower Pleistocene terrace of the Arpa River.
The presence of Lower Paleolithic products in the Pleistocene layer in the Areni-2 cave, which is located directly in front of Areni-1, gives scientists hope to find similar layers with similar findings in the future.
So, recent studies show that the Areni-1 and Areni-2 caves are the first caves with traces of the earliest traces of human habitat in Armenia, which will be confirmed by future excavations and dating.
In addition, human presence in the subsequent Acheulean era is confirmed by the discovery of a hand-cutter made from limestone southwest of the village of Elpin near abundant sources of flint.
Another very important discovery is the cave Dalarik-1 which was found in 2018 during the field works of an Armenian-Japanese joint expeditionary group in the canyon of the river Mastarahegheghat (a tributary of the Araks River) in the eastern part of Armavir Province.
“This small cave was formed at the junction of the Lower Pleistocene basaltic lava flows at the southwestern tip of the Aragats mountain massif,” said A. Petrosyan, “As a result of reconnaissance excavations of the cave’s front 2×2-meter area, 130 Acheulean stones and fauna remnants were found.
Among the stone tools are hand-cutters of large and small sizes, knives, racloirs, and other items. In fact, Dalarik-1 is the first Acheulean cave monument in Armenia whose Acheulean layer can be preliminarily dated to 600 to 500 thousand years ago.”
The unique finds at the archaeological sites of the Lower Paleolithic in Armenia give the first important results. The Acheulean and pre-Acheulean items discovered in the area allow us to better study and even rethink the chronology of the Stone Age in our region.