Nerkin Naver is located 3.5 km west of Ashtarak on the southern slopes of Mount Aragats. And although the tumuli field was discovered in 1978, excavations began only in 2002. The necropolis is preserved almost in its original form.
Here, archaeologists have discovered the oldest pagan temple dating to the period of the Kingdom of Fan (Urartu). Nerkin Naver was used as burial grounds for high-ranking individuals, while Verin Naver was intended for peasants.
In Verin Naver, about 7 thousand square meters are currently excavated. In this area, 70 tumuli of common people were found. At the same time, only 8 graves were excavated in Nerkin Naver, seven of which have already been studied.
The necropolis Nerkin Naver (Nerkin Naver meaning “lower graves”, and Verin Naver “upper graves”) located near the 3rd millennium BC settlement of Parpi housed a plentitude of unique artifacts. At the site, archaeologists unearthed ceramic utensils, bronze rapiers, arrowheads, elegant gold products, and quartz glass. It still remains a mystery how people could have made sheets of gold as thin as foil and blow elegant beads out of glass.
The construction techniques of the ancient settlers are no less surprising. The masons of the 15th century BC used three-layer masonry, which today is known as the Midis masonry. At the same time, the discovered burial grounds belong to the class of Indo-European and Aryan burials since their funeral ceremonies are extremely similar.
In addition, magnificent archaic ceramics was found which was made with unique technology of ornamentation. This technology is characteristic of the culture of Central Europe. According to the director of the scientific center of cultural and historical heritage at the Ministry of Culture of Armenia Hakob Simonyan, this technology is characteristic of the cultures of the Eastern European and Southern Russian steppes.
Simonyan said that the remains of the dead were cremated. In Nerkin Naver, traces of some kind of sacrifices were found, including 114 human teeth and phalanges. At the same time, Simonyan stressed that the funeral ceremonies were not accompanied by human sacrifices and that the participants of the ceremony “left something of their own in the burial ground.”
Another ancient find discovered at the tumulus number 9 is a claw of a large predator, presumably a lion, lying under the head of the deceased.
“We have found an unusually rich tomb characteristic only of heroes. The lion’s claw was found under the head of a buried man. According to the Armenian national epic (Daredevils of Sasun), the skin of a lion was placed under the head of one of the heroes of the epic, Lion Mher. This is, in fact, a prototype of Mher Aryutsadzev (lion-like). The discovery from the oldest layer proves that the historical epic had a real basis,” said Hakob Simonyan.
Verin Naver is a necropolis of the Bronze and Early Iron Age (23rd-10th centuries BC.) Covering an area of 100 hectares, it is located 3 km west of the city of Ashtarak, on the southern slope of Mount Aragats. A large number of its tombs were destroyed during agricultural and construction works.
In the high-mountain areas of the complex, more than 300 tombs have been preserved in separate groups. There, several crypts were unearthed and surrounding cromlechs were opened.
“As a result of the excavation of the tumulus number 9, the oldest specimen of a sacrificed horse was found. This finding is important for revealing the cultural and historical reality of not only Armenia but also the entire region,” said Simonyan.
Under a layer of earth, archaeologists discovered the remains of a rider and half a horse. Radiocarbon analysis determined the exact date of the burial. “This find dates back to the 26th – 25th centuries BC, which is the oldest horse grave known to date,” suggested Simonyan.
Three obsidian tips and a silicon gear instrument, which are characteristic of the Early Bronze Age, testify to such a respectable age of the deceased and his horse. The scientist also noted that the archaeological find indicates that the inhabitants of this area bred horses for military purposes.
The significance of the burial ground in Nerkin Nave cannot be overestimated – it truly is a Klondike of the ancient history of Armenia. So far, only about five percent of the burial grounds have been excavated. Nonetheless, important discoveries have been made, allowing to make significant corrections to the ancient history of the region.
Nerkin Naver strongly interested scientists involved in the history of the Middle East. The leading scientific and historical journals of Berlin, Philadelphia, New York, Moscow, and other scientific centers are waiting for the results of the excavations.
Հայկ Նահապետի հետքերով – 2013