How our distant ancestors looked and how they performed trepanation of the skull – findings in Lchashen

Archaeological findings on the territory of Armenia, in the area of the dried-up part of Lake Sevan, conducted as early as the 1950s, have raised many questions in science, many of which remain unanswered to this day.

It has already been established that the Armenian genotype has remained unchanged over the last 6-8 thousand years. This means that if researchers had the opportunity to look back into those times, they would see people almost identical to those we see every day on the street. They would only be distinguished by their clothing.

Scientists have long since learned how to reconstruct people’s facial features based on their remains found in tombs. But along with their remains, archaeologists discovered traces of 6,000-year-old medicine.

As early as the mid-20th century, it became known about ancient trepanation, the traces of which are preserved on the skulls found in the Lchashen settlement in Armenia. Lchashen (Arm. Լճաշեն) is a village 3 km southwest of the city of Sevan.

In the 1980s, the famous Armenian surgeon and anthropologist, Professor Andranik Chakharyan (1916-1985), also known for his work on reconstructing ancient faces from remains, studied skulls from Lchashen with traces of trepanation and came to astonishing conclusions.

It turned out that the ancestors’ operations were not just successful – the patients recovered and lived many more years. The most incredible thing was that in those distant times, doctors successfully used animal bone implants, replacing them with damaged bone tissue in humans.

Chakharyan was especially surprised because medicine in his time could not do such things. This only became possible for us towards the end of the 20th century.

The scientist developed his own plastic method for restoring people’s faces. In 1970, at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Armenian SSR Academy of Sciences, he founded an anthropological laboratory.

In 1978, in the Museum of Ethnography of Soviet Armenia (Sardarapat), Chakharyan opened a gallery of sculptures of Bronze Age people, restored based on discovered skulls. He reconstructed the appearance of the poet and playwright Petros Duryan (1851-1872), Hurrians of the Bronze Age and the Urartian period, as well as inhabitants of Shengavit, who lived 6,000 years ago. Some of these sculptures were acquired by the National Museums of New Zealand and Lebanon.

The ancient settlement near the village of Lchashen was discovered in 1956 when, as a result of the drying up of the high-mountain Lake Sevan, an entire archaeological complex appeared on land. The exposed bottom of the lake revealed the remains of buildings and tombs. The burials contained such cultural wealth that all existing doctrines were overturned at once. It had to be admitted that civilization in these places appeared long before Urartu, ancient Rome, and Greece. The revision of dating continues to this day.

Lchashen is a complex of archaeological monuments of the pre-Urartian period (Central Transcaucasian archaeological culture, from the 3rd millennium BC to the Middle Ages). The complex consists of a cyclopean fortress (until the 7th century BC, then the 9th-13th centuries), settlements, graveyards, many burial mounds, cromlechs, ground burials, and stone boxes. Since 1956, an archaeological expedition has been working on the exposed part of the coast in the village of Lchashen under the leadership of Arutyun Mnatsakanyan. The ancient settlement had a system of straight streets, on both sides of which were dwellings with round and quadrangular bases. A cuneiform inscription of the Urartian king Argishti I was found, in which he mentions the capture of the city of Ishtikuni. Presumably, Ishtikuni was the Urartian name for Lchashen.

In the necropolises at the bottom of Lake Sevan, chariots, wagons, household items, gold and silver ornaments inlaid with precious stones, a strange object of bronze, which was called “an image of the Universe,” as well as human skeletons dating back to the 3rd millennium BC were discovered. Most of Lchashen’s artifacts are currently stored in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan.

Analysis of the gold ornaments showed that they were made from local gold, mined at the Zod mine on the shores of Sevan. The discovered chariots on spokes, now stored in the Historical Museum of Armenia, were made of Arats cedar – a very strong wood capable of withstanding the strain of running horses. Scientists recognized their great similarity with the chariots of the Hyksos, who conquered Lower Egypt in the 17th century BC, only the Lchashen ones were a thousand years older.

The richest burials in the Transcaucasian region of the Middle Bronze Age belong to the Trialeti-Vanadzor culture (2200—1500 BC). They were found everywhere where excavations were carried out between Kura and Araks. This culture arose after the Kura-Araks culture (4000 — 2200 BC). The finds from these rich burials were very impressive, sensational, but in the 20th century they were dated only to the 16-15 centuries BC, in the era of the flourishing Hittite kingdom, and therefore it was thought that all this was brought into Armenia from Asia Minor. The production of local artifacts was formed as a result of the cultural influence of the Hittite culture. But when in the early 21st century archaeologists clarified the datings, it turned out that they were significantly older. They should be dated 6-8 centuries earlier, that is, the 23rd or 21st century, significantly earlier than the 19th century BC, given that the foundation and beginning of the formation of the Hittite kingdom historians attribute to the 18-19th centuries BC.

Thus, it became clear that the objects of the Trialeti-Vanadzor culture were created much earlier than the Hittite world was formed. Therefore, if there is a certain commonality between the Hittite and local culture, then it is necessary to change the direction of influence, not from Asia Minor to Armenia, but from here to the Hittites, because they are younger.

However, in Soviet times, no one dared to talk about the influence of the pre-Urartian civilization on the entire Near East. Even the existence of a state in an older period was not officially recognized. They only talked about local Hurrian tribes with a rich culture. They did not even dare to call them Armenians, although it was recognized that these were undoubtedly the ancestors of the Armenians. But even then discoveries were made that showed an amazingly high level of development thousands of years ago. In this context, one should perceive information about the fact that doctors at that time were already able to perform trepanation and successfully used the implantation of animal bones to replace damaged bone tissue in humans.

These amazing discoveries were widely discussed in the press and in the scientific community at the time. However, no serious explanation was found for them, as it is now. In Armenia, skulls with traces of ancient surgical intervention continue to be found. One of them is now in the Museum of the city of Yerevan. A small hole is neatly drilled in the upper part of the head.

The skeleton of a woman was found in the area of the northern suburb of Avan.

Plastic surgeon, candidate of medical sciences Aik Enokyan believes that by the nature of the hole in the bone, it can be concluded that the operation was performed during the lifetime, using a drilling ancient surgical instrument, which is indicated by the edges of the wound. Probably, in those times they tried to do what is called decompressive craniotomy in modern terminology, which in today’s medicine is done to save the patient’s life.

Recently in Armenia, archaeologists found the ruins of an even more ancient settlement at the bottom of Lake Sevan. Experts believe that the water hid the found city for more than 12,000 years. This is a contemporary of Portasar (Göbekli Tepe), and it is twice as old as Lchashen. We will learn about the discoveries that will be made there in the near future.

by Armen Petrosyan

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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