What is the real antiquity of Armenia?

When the science of the 19th century was rapidly freeing itself from the chains of a religious worldview, all datings began to change radically.

The Bible does not say how old the Earth and humanity are. Nevertheless, in the Middle Ages, theologians added up the lifespans of all the patriarchs of the Bible and concluded that the Earth is no more than 7,000 years old. Naturally, by the 19th century, these dogmas were discarded, and all datings of the planet began to increase significantly, reaching many millions and billions of years. Following this, all historical datings moved as well.

This process is far from over today and continues unabated. For example, in the last quarter of a century, it has been found that the Shengavit, like the entire Kura-Araxes culture (around 4000 – 2200 BC), of which it is a part, is at least a thousand years older.

Articles about archaeological sites, cities, and monuments proving to be older appear almost every week from all over the world. The trend is quite obvious. But if we try to look at the history of Armenia from this perspective, it will be like a joke with the phrase “you’re going to laugh.” Contrary to everything becoming older and extending, over the past few centuries, the history of the Armenian people has instead become younger and shortened.

Historiography from Khorenatsi to Chamchyan

After Movses Khorenatsi laid the foundations of Armenian historiography in the 5th century, translating all that remained of the collections of written history from Ancient Egypt and Sumer into Armenian, most Armenian historians wrote chronicles of the events of their times, sometimes retelling their predecessors. The culmination of post-medieval Armenian historiography was created by Armenian theologian, historian, and linguist Mikael Chamchyan.

Moreover, he attempted to provide datings, of course, considering the overall biblical chronology, not exceeding 7,000 years from the creation of the world.

The three-volume work of Chamchyan “History of Armenia from the beginning of the universe until the year of the Lord 1784” was called a “masterpiece of the literary and scientific activity of Mikael Chamchyan and Armenian historiography of the 18th century” by Doctor of Historical Sciences S. Pogosyan.

In his work, Chamchyan not only used Greco-Roman sources but also numerous memorial records – ishatakaranys, found in Armenian medieval manuscripts. The first volume of the composition covers the period from the emergence of the Armenian people to the fall of the Arsacid dynasty. Chamchyan himself was deeply convinced that no other people have such reliable information about their origin and early period of their history as the Armenians do.

“Our ancestors were giants – Hayk Nahapet: legends confirmed by archaeology.”

Of course, today there is no point in discussing how accurate his chronology was and how it correlated with the biblical one. This is no longer relevant. But it’s interesting to look at the general process of changing datings.

According to Mikael Chamchyan’s “Chronological Table,” in 2107 BC, the leader and forefather of the Armenian people, Hayk Nahapet (Հայկ Նահապետ), defeated the troops of the Babylonian tyrant Bel in battle southeast of Lake Van, created the Armenian state and began the royal dynasty of Haykazuni with his rule. Thus, at the end of the 18th century, it was believed that Armenia and the Armenians date back to antiquity by more than 4,000 years.

Now let’s compare this with what happens two centuries later – at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries. Today it is officially stated that the ethnogenesis of the Armenians occurred somewhere from the end of the second millennium BC to the middle of the first millennium BC. That is, no more than 3,000 years. How did this happen, and where did a thousand years go?

In search of millennia

Among the Armenian kings – descendants of Hayk Nahapet – in the history of Khorenatsi, the names of some coincide with those given in the cuneiform inscriptions. For example, Khorenatsi highlighted Aram, and the first of the Ararat kings (Urartu) mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions is Aram. In Chamchyan’s chronology, he is presented as Aram I the Great, with dates 1828—1770 BC.

Khorenatsi writes about him: “It is said that Aram performed many valorous feats in battles, he expanded the borders of Armenia in all directions. All nations call our country by his name, for example, the Greeks – Armen, the Persians and Syrians – Armenian… we… agreed to briefly outline the history of the wars of Aram Haykida. As the same chronicler indicates, he was a hardworking man who loved his homeland and was ready to die for his country rather than see foreign sons trampling on native boundaries, and alien men ruling over his blood relatives.”

Today historians believe that the conversation is about Aramu or Arame (Arama, Aram) – this is the first known king of the united Urartu, with him the dynasty of Urartian kings actually begins. He ruled around 860—844 BC and was a contemporary of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, who repeatedly undertook military campaigns against Urartu.

Aramu’s biography is known to us exclusively thanks to the surviving Assyrian cuneiform texts. Historians believe that it is the memory of Aramu that has been preserved in the later Armenian historical tradition of the early Middle Ages of Movses Khorenatsi (5th century AD) and Sebeos (7th century). But in their books, Aram appears as not at all a Urartian, but an Armenian monarch and a great ruler. And by the way, the name Aram is not Urartian either, it has an Armenian origin and is related to the Indo-European root *rēmo-, which means “black”, and is also etymologically related to the Indian name Rama.

Aramu was a contemporary and one of the military opponents of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (ruled about 859—824 BC), who often mentioned Aramu in the annals in connection with his victorious campaigns against the Urartians. And here there is a clear contradiction.”

The Assyrian constantly boasts of his successes, stating that he has looted and burned all the settlements of Urartu from the source of the Tigris to the source of the Euphrates. But Khorenatsi writes about Aram that he “expanded the borders of Armenia in all directions”. How should we understand this? Is it necessary to believe that everyone praises himself, loudly describing his victories and “modestly” keeping silent about his defeats? Is it not more logical to believe that these are completely different kings, who lived in different centuries or even millennia? After all, since the name Aram is Armenian, there could be several kings with this name.

With the help of Sumerian sources

But modern historians cannot name the Armenian kings who ruled in 1828—1770 BC. Although it is well known that a thousand years before that, according to Sumerian sources, there was a ruler in the state of Aratta on the Armenian plateau, and even his name was given.

Aratta is the first and most ancient Armenian state mentioned in Sumerian mythology. It is described in more detail in 2 poems: “Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta”—the oldest work of this genre in Sumerian literature, and “En-Merkar and Ensukushsiranna”.

En-Merkar is a semi-legendary ruler of the Sumerian city of Uruk, who ruled in the early 27th century BC. In the second tale, the name of the ruler of Aratta is given—Ensukushsiranna. The names of other actors are also given: the “prime minister” of Aratta is called Ansiggaria, and the high priest “mashmasha”—Urgirnunna. Although there are no other written records of this period, the fact is that there were kings as early as the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Information about earlier times is given by linguistics and paleogenetics.

The period of separation of the Armenian language from the Proto-Indo-European is attributed by linguists to the end of the 4th millennium BC, and genetic data give dates even earlier by 2 millennia, referring to the 6th millennium BC, that is, 8 thousand years ago. That is, as the results of DNA genealogy say, the Armenian genotype was formed already 8 thousand years ago and became ubiquitous in historical Armenia 4 thousand years ago.

This means not only that the Armenians are an indigenous people, but also that the oldest states here existed 4-5 thousand years ago, as evidenced indisputably by Sumerian traditions. Does this mean that we now have to return to the “Chronological Table” of Mikael Chamchyan?

The paradox is that the data of Sumerology, linguistics, and paleogenetics push back the antiquity of the Armenians by another one or even several thousand years compared to Chamchyan’s table. That is, it has also become outdated, but not in favor of shortening, but on the contrary – lengthening, thereby confirming the main trend of modern historical science in the sense that in reality everything turns out to be much older than was believed just half a century ago.

What other kings and rulers were in this real and more ancient history of Armenia, what changes, wars, and other events occurred in it – all this remains to be found out by historians of future generations.

by Armen Petrosyan

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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