The Odzaberd Fortress on the Shore of Lake Sevan, Armenia

The Odzaberd Fortress on the Shore of Lake Sevan, Armenia“I have built this fortress in honor of the god of thunder,” reads the inscription left by Urartian king Rusa I on the Odzaberd Fortress located east of the Tsovinar village, on the eastern shore of Lake Sevan. The Odzaberd Fortress is a significant archaeological monument as it is one of the most well-retained structures built in the times of the Kingdom of Van (Urartu).

The unique fortress was discovered by archaeologists at the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the fortress was investigated by famous archaeologists and ethnographer Yervand Lalayan. Boris Piotrovsky worked at the site in 1934. But since then, no single research has been conducted in the Odzaberd Fortress until just recently.

Only a few years ago, an Armenian-Italian expedition began to thoroughly examine the ancient fortress still keeping a plethora of mysteries relating to both Urartian and post-Urartian periods.

“In 2015, the Armenian-Italian expeditionary group conducted excavations at the site of the historical-archaeological monument of Tsovinar. This fortress is an interesting monument, and it has been known for quite some time. Several renowned orientalists attempted to examine its territory. However, none of them has conducted large-scale excavations there,” said the deputy director of Service for the Protection of Historical Environment and Cultural Museum Reservations of Armenia Ashot Piliposyan.

Piliposyan noted that the monument sheds some light on the events between 10th-6th centuries BC.

The director of “Karmir Blur”, a branch of the Erebuni historical-archaeological museum, co-director of the Armenian-Italian expedition Mikayel Badalyan said:

“Our expedition in the complex of Odzaberd, which consists of a fortress, a citadel, and settlements, pursues several goals, including uncovering its cultural layers and investigating the transitional period of the Kingdom of Van. This time period is rather uninvestigated, even though the Orontid dynasty was established exactly then. The precise date of the dynasty’s emergence has long been debated, but some experts think that it happened in 612 BC, after the Kingdom of Van had fallen.”

Within the Odzaberd Fortress, archaeologists discovered an interesting semi-cyclopean structure leading to a southeastern passage, as well as large amount of pottery fragments, animal bones, nails, and sinkers. This tells that the fortress was quite active at the time. Additionally, researchers found a wall and 5 clay floors belonging to earlier time periods. According to Badalyan, these artifacts could somewhat uncover the purpose of the fortress.

Badalyan also said:

“We discovered a rock and a clay floor, which have been a part of a western passage of the citadel. We managed to find other quite interesting artifacts in a settlement near the fortress – 2 rooms containing a large number of fragments of pottery and animal bones. This structure is dated at the time period after the fall of the Kingdom of Van.

Today, we can confidently assert that human activities violently developed in Odzaberd. We discovered cultural layers of the Kingdom of Van, and even older layers. Perhaps, there are more of them. The necropolis we had discovered nearby on the Artsvanist – Karchaghbyur road and burials grounds south of it could tell us more.”

“Odzaberd was a settlement of strategic importance. Moreover, it is one of the unique monuments of Sevan reservoir. The inscription of Urartian king Rusa I containing the name of the fortress was also found here.”

Badalyan noted that a large number of ancient tombs had been examined prior to the excavations in Odzaberd. However, no excavations had been conducted in ancient settlements before.

“The obscure transition period between the Kingdom of Van and Orontid Armenia is of great importance for us. The Orontid dynasty was established precisely in that period,” said Badalyan.

Overall, excavations have been conducted at three sites – in the acropolis of Odzaberd, in the fortress, and the settlement south of the latter. The site of Odzaberd could become an important point of interest for tourist in Armenia.

Speaking of tourism, many visitors of Armenia note that tourist routes mainly acquaint them with Christian monuments. As a result, a large number of unique, ancient monuments remains much less known. In this regard, Odzaberd has the potential to become one of the scenic elements on the route between the khachkars of Noratus and the monastery of Noravank.

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