In 2010, the Museum of History of Yerevan hosted the presentation of the book “Northeast of Yerevan in the era of Artashesids” authored by renowned archeologist and researcher at the Academic Institute of Arts Ara Demirkhanyan. For almost 30 years, the author has been engaged in finding an answer to a question that is highly important to both world history and the history of Yerevan city.
In 1980, a large settlement of the Artashesid (Artaxiad) era (2nd century BC – 1st century AD) was excavated in the territory of the modern Avan district of Yerevan. This settlement has been mentioned in medieval sources, but even older sensational data was discovered as well.
Apparently, this settlement served as a link between the Erebuni of Urartu and medieval Erebuni. In fact, between Urartu and the Middle Ages, there was some kind of an “empty” and uncovered time period. For a long time, details from the history of Yerevan have been just omitted.
In the early Middle Ages, a clerical center was established in Avan. This district was chosen for its extremely convenient location. Here in 591, Catholicos Hovhan Bagarantsi erected a cathedral, which is the oldest known Armenian central-dome structure. The well-known Armenian layout of religious buildings that would become the cornerstone of national architecture was developed here as well.
Thus, Avan has enjoyed fame and prestige since deep antiquity. Avan along with its surroundings is a real Klondike for archaeologists and historians.
Ara Demirkhanyan along with numerous archaeologists dreamed of a complete exploration of this wonderful Yerevan territory. In 1984, the government allocated a considerable amount of money for the excavations – 40 thousand rubles. However, the funds did not reach the expeditionary group. The archaeologists have been able to explore only a small part of this precious territory.
Ideally, of course, it was necessary to fence this site off, create a security zone, and continue the excavations. However, the officials went, as always, in a different way. They decided to build up the site with houses. Soon, this hill stuffed with artifacts and other archaeological goods was built up.
The locals were also not very caring about the archaeological sites. Nearly all of them created gardens and other structures there. The little things found by the gardeners disappeared in the huge space of Yerevan. The people attacked the land as if they were foreign invaders.
The cultural layer acquired the form of buildings, as well as fruits and vegetables. All Demirkhanyan’s attempts to rationalize the “competent authorities” did not give any result. And still do not give.
The entire hill was built up by the Communists with ugly dwellings of the Armenian-Soviet type which were also not very seismic-resistant. Professional patriots-democrats followed their example. Now, the archaeologists are left with only 15 hectares of the original site.
If desired, Avan along with its environs could become another historical document of Yerevan. An extensive and interesting document. Here, such a candy for tourists could be created… After all, here, unlike other areas of modern Yerevan (even Erebuni), one can trace the continuous development of history and culture since the early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC).
The finds of Ara Demirkhanyan, a small part of which were mentioned in his book, are truly magnificent. These include fragments of structures from different eras and the richest burial places containing beads from natural ornamental stones, glass (some beads had gold or silver lining), ceramics, tools, and coins.
One of the discovered burial vessels contained a rare engraved gem made from carnelian and portraying a cute fluffy dog. Many painted ceramics were discovered as well, including all kinds of karases (Armenian jugs), drinking bowls, jugs, dishes, pots, and lamps. These finds aren’t that surprising since Avan clay has been famous since ancient times.
Tools and handicraft products were discovered as well. Those included stone blades, mortars, iron scissors, jewelry, nails, and knives. There was also a lot of bronze jewelry – earrings, rings, buttons. There was even a beautiful brooch in the form of a lyre, a little bell, and miniature idols. All this evidence of developed crafts and technology, this extensive panorama of five thousand years of history.
It is difficult to say what will happen next – we are so criminal and careless about the history and its traces left on Armenian soil. As for Ara Demirkhanyan, he did and does what he can. Like other archaeologists. But it’s up to the government.