Unique Finds During Excavations in Armenia – Shengavit

The latest discoveries by archaeologists may rewrite the history of the Ancient World. Unique artifacts confirm the evidence from ancient sources that knowledge in at least five areas—construction, metallurgy, bread cultivation, gardening, and winemaking—spread from Armenia to Mesopotamia.

Unique artifacts discovered during the excavations at Shengavit (4-3 thousand BC) once again confirm that Armenia is the birthplace of metallurgy, jewelry-making, winemaking, and horse breeding. All of this proves that between 4-3 thousand BC, Armenia was a highly developed state, a bearer of an exceptional culture. This conclusion was reached by a group of archaeologists researching this ancient city.

The excavations are being conducted by an Armenian-American archaeological expedition. For example, glass beads found on the territory of Shengavit exceed Egyptian ones in quality. And the number of discovered horse bones exceeded all researchers’ expectations.

On this matter, German paleozoologist Hans Peter Wertman stated that he has never seen such a number of horses in the entire Ancient East. “A large number of stone tools have been found in the workshops. The discovered evidence of copper production suggests that Armenia had established a systematized iron production,” said Akop Simonian, Director of the Institute for Historical-Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, adding that this is just the beginning; many more surprises await us.

On the southern slopes of Mount Aragats, in an area long called Naver, ancient necropolises (Nerkin Naver – lower tombs and Verin Naver – upper tombs) were discovered in 1975. The find immediately attracted the attention of archaeologists.

It became clear where the name of this area came from. “Nav” or “nef” in many ancient European languages means not only a ship but also a tomb. Apparently, in ancient times, this concept was not only linked with sea voyages. It also had a sacred meaning—ships carried the souls of the dead to the afterlife. An entire “flotilla” of such “ships” revealed to the world such an abundance of unknown facts that it simply stunned researchers. The burial mounds date back to 3-2 thousand BC. This was confirmed by a series of radiocarbon analyses of artifacts conducted in German and US laboratories.

Nerkin Naver is a burial site for high-ranking individuals, while Verin is for peasants. In the upper tombs, an area of 7,000 square meters has been excavated, where 70 mounds of commoners were discovered. In the lower tombs, only 8 royal mounds have been unearthed.

As part of the Armenian-American archaeological expedition from 2009 to 2012, Akop Simonian, a candidate of historical sciences, conducted research at this unique site.

“The collected material allows us to assert that Armenia is the homeland of Indo-European civilization,” says Akop Simonian. “These are the most ancient burials where evidence of Aryan customs and Aryan thinking have been recorded. Here, we find evidence of production that was unique for that time. The finds elevate the interpretation of the development of civilizations to a new level.”

Numerous golden ornaments, weapons, bones of revered animals, and beautifully ornamented black and red-glazed pitchers were found at the burial site. This is a “traditional” set typical for burials of that period.

However, sensational discoveries distinguish this necropolis from similar ones. This message, preserved through the centuries, gives us a sufficient understanding of the role and significance of ancient Armenian civilization.

By all parameters, these burials correspond to Aryan (Indo-European) concepts. The burial ritual was very complex.

“Here we observe all types of Indo-European burials: cremation (for high-ranking individuals), the stripping of flesh from corpses by specially trained dogs (those close to the king), and simple burials for peasants. The latter were buried on their sides: men on the right, women on the left,” continues Akop Simonian. “In each royal burial, as a rule, bones of two sacrificial horses are found.”

But the most astonishing finds are the iron bits, which according to chemical analysis, are similar in composition to the most ancient and well-known metallic artifacts from Dorak and Alaca Höyük (Anatolia, end of the 3rd millennium BC). This is essentially the third such discovery in the world, dated to the 23rd century BC.

In mound N2, a black hydria (pitcher) was found, on the “shoulders” of which are depicted 6 pairs of chariot wheels. The wheels have 4 spokes, which is characteristic of the earliest chariot wheels. Another astonishing find is a red-glazed pitcher, on which a herd of thoroughbred domesticated horses is depicted.

Their neatly trimmed manes and braided tails speak volumes. The depiction of a herd of this antiquity is unknown throughout the entire Near East. This fact is a strong argument in favor of Armenia being, among other things, the homeland of horse breeding. The picture is complemented by exquisite gold items and beads made of colored glass. Some articles are made of quartz.

This is astounding, considering that the melting temperature of quartz is 1700 degrees Celsius. How they accomplished this remains a mystery. Such quality of glass is unknown in the entire ancient Near East at the end of the 3rd millennium BC!

Glass beads found in the Shengavit settlement are 1,000 years older than previous finds. The patterns on the gold items replicate the ornaments on ceramics. And since ceramics are generally locally produced, it’s logical to assume that the gold ornaments were made by the same local craftsmen.

Many facts indicate that Armenia at this time was integrated into international trade networks. Examples include Mesopotamian sea mollusk shells, agalmatolite beads (deposits of this stone are only found in Korea, China, and Japan), lapis lazuli beads from Badakhshan (Central Asia), imported goods from the eastern Mediterranean coast, etc.

This leads to the conclusion that trade relations were already governed by certain legal norms, such as purchase-sale agreements, exchanges, and others.

Another find that occupies a unique place in its significance is a rapier. By all parameters, this is the first professional military weapon. It is dated to the 23rd century BC. Spectral analysis showed that the rapier is made of tin bronze.

The tin content in the rapier is 11-12%. This is the classic formula. According to isotope analysis, the copper ore is of Armenian origin, extracted in Alaverdi (Lori region).

The tin is imported (presumably from Central Asia). It should be noted that all these artifacts correspond with samples obtained from the ancient city of Shengavit. Here, too, there is rapid development of crafts and technologies (pottery, metallurgy, winemaking).

On this matter, Professor Michelle Rothman of the University of Pennsylvania, an archaeologist participating in the excavations at Shengavit, stated that all the collected data allow us to assume that around 3,000 BC, the culture of ancient Armenia spread around the world.

“Armenia is the missing piece in the overall mosaic of ancient world civilizations. Shengavit and Naver fill in those missing links that we’ve encountered when studying the ancient culture of Mesopotamia,” says Rothman.

The words of the American scholar resonate with information from ancient Mesopotamian sources (such as the Epic of Gilgamesh from 3,000 BC, etc.), which state that knowledge from Armenia spread to Mesopotamia in at least five fields: construction, metallurgy, agriculture, horticulture, and winemaking.

Autor: Tigran Mirzoyan, “Voice of Armenia”
Translation: Vigen Avetisyan

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