The Historical Reserve of Ancient Agarak

The Historical Reserve of Ancient Agarak

The historical reserve of Agarak is located south of Mount Aragats, on the banks of the Amberd River, on both sides of the Yerevan-Gyumri highway 16 kilometers from Yerevan.

Ancient Agarak was discovered by accident. During the construction of the Yerevan-Gyumri highway, archaeological layers were unearthed, immediately attracting the attention of specialists.

Agarak is one of the oldest settlements in the region. The oldest of the discovered archaeological layers dates back to the 4th millennium BC. That is, the settlement of Agarak is even older than the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Agarak with its symmetrical plan was an urban settlement of the early Bronze Age. It was also a large settlement in the times after the fall of the Kingdom of Ararat in the era of Yervandunis. The heyday of Agarak continued until the early period of the Arshakuni dynasty (2rd-3th centuries AD).

The entire territory of the ancient settlement occupies more than 120 hectares. Only a small part of the settlement has yet been investigated.

In the territory of Agarak, burial grounds, traces of residential and religious buildings, industrial buildings, and other ancient monuments were discovered.

During the excavations, a large number of ceramic products, burnt clay figurines, traces of round and horseshoe-shaped fireplaces, and remains of supports and pedestals were found as well.

The large number of wine presses discovered at the excavation sites indicates that viticulture and winemaking occupied a significant place in the lives of Agarak residents. Situated on the trade route from Ayrarat to Shirak and Ani and being one of the most important nodes of this route, this settlement has been at its heyday from the 4th-3rd centuries BC until the 2rd-4th centuries AD.

This is evidenced by the silver drachmas of Alexander the Great and the silver dinars of Augustus Octavius discovered in archaeological layers containing painted ceramics of the Hellenistic and late ancient period, as well as rings and seals from rock burials of the later Hellenistic period.

In the immediate vicinity of the settlement, there is a large cemetery that has been used since the 5th-6th centuries AD. It is characteristic that pagan and Christian burial grounds are situated right next to each other, testifying that in this community, the process of the spread of Christianity had begun long before the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in Armenia.

The square, the Hellenistic layer, and the few samples of glazed and kitchen ceramic utensils found in the layer of the earth that covered the early medieval burials indicate that the settlement has also existed and developed in the Middle Ages in the 12th-14th centuries.

Among the burial grounds are various graves and traces of cremation. But Urartian rock burials are of the greatest interest – these burials are large rooms hollowed out in the rock where the deceased along with their personal and household items were buried.

A street was also found in the territory of the settlement, on both sides of which rounded houses used to stand, as evidenced by the city’s plan. Rectangular buildings were discovered as well. All this indicates that here stood an ancient settlement dating back to the Bronze Age.

Thus, settlements in the area of Agarak have continuously existed since the 4th century BC until the late Middle Ages.

Large round water pits located next to the ritual buildings indicate that an ancient observatory also used to be here. Of particular value are the statuettes aged over 6,000 years, which corresponds to the times of ancient Shengavit.

Many coins of the Hellenistic and Roman period discovered during excavations indicate that trade has flourished in Agarak between the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD.

The huge masses of tuff throughout the entire settlement have turned into stone-carved structures. Here, over a vast area, all the rocky surfaces and the front areas of various sites have been refined and made into more useful structures. There are many rocky depressions, platforms in the form of steps, tombs hollowed out in stone, and other structures of various significance. Here, streets, houses, ritual and household constructions, many horseshoe-shaped and round pits connecting streams, and altars stand beside each other.

The significance of these structures carved into the rocks has not yet been fully studied.

Vahe Lorenz

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