Discoveries from Ayanis: A 2,700-Year-Old Skeleton Sheds Light on a Lost City

In the heart of Historical Armenia, an enthralling discovery has been made. The ancient fortress city of Ayanis (Hayanist) might have unveiled a significant clue to its mysterious downfall, thanks to the excavation of a 2,700-year-old skeleton.

Archaeologists stumbled upon the remains of an individual who might have met their end during a catastrophic earthquake that is believed to have hit the region nearly three millennia ago. The setting in which the skeleton was found paints a vivid image: donned in jewelry, accompanied by weapons, a unique double-sided inscription, and seals—markers of wealth and authority in ancient times.

Professor Mehmet Işıklı, who leads the Ayanis excavation project and is affiliated with the Atatürk University’s Department of Archaeology, noted that the artifacts found alongside the skeleton hint at the person’s affluent status during the 8th century B.C. They possibly lived a lavish life until an unforeseen disaster sealed their fate.

The city’s roots trace back to the Iron Age Kingdom of Van, which once stretched across parts of present-day Armenia, western Iran, and eastern Turkey. Ayanis served as one of its central hubs.

While experts had previously theorized that the city’s demise might have been the aftermath of an earthquake and a subsequent inferno, tangible evidence to substantiate this was elusive. The recent skeletal discovery, according to Professor Işıklı, offers a pivotal piece to this puzzle.

The remains are set to undergo rigorous anthropological analysis to uncover details about the individual’s age, gender, and even potential traces of the brain, though this last detail is subject to debate among experts.

A particularly intriguing artifact accompanying the skeleton is a double-sided cuneiform tablet, awaiting translation. This ancient document could potentially reveal insights about the individual’s societal role and offer a richer context to the events that transpired in Ayanis during its heyday.

However, Erkan Konyar of Istanbul University, a renowned authority on the Kingdom of Van, expresses skepticism about the preservation of brain tissue given the region’s specific environmental conditions. Both he and Işıklı agree that thorough anthropological assessment is vital.

The majestic city of Ayanis, constructed under the aegis of King Rusa II in the 7th century B.C., experienced an abrupt downfall. As per Işıklı, the discoveries within the citadel’s confines might hold answers about this rapid decline.

Previous explorations at the site unveiled the revered Haldi Temple, dedicated to the predominant deity of the ancient Armenian Kingdom of Van. Efforts have been underway since 2020 to restore this spiritual edifice, with plans to transform it into an open-air museum, offering tourists a glimpse into the ancient city’s spiritual core.


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