Aknashen, the First Sedentary Settlement – Armenia

Aknashen, the First Sedentary Settlement – ArmeniaKids of Aknashen frequently visit the outskirts of the village. Out of curiosity, they often climb the hill where the archaeological excavations of a Neolithic monument are carried out. It is quite difficult to explain to them that an archaeological site is a bad place for games, says the head of the expeditionary group, the head of the department of ancient archaeology of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia Ruben Badalyan.

According to Badalyan, the investigation of this unique settlement began in 1998. It was shortly suspended to be then resumed in 2004. Although the hill is rather small, the cultural layer that formed as a result of consecutive populations is over 5 meters thick.

Archaeological excavations provided scientists with a massive amount of data, which, for example, allowed them to conclude that a lake existed in the territory of the Ararat Plain in the 7th-6th millennia BC. This lake formed after a volcano eruption that got the watercourse of the Araxes River covered by lava.

The water level of the lake would gradually decrease. During the first half of the 6th millennium BC, Aknashen was founded on one of its shores. This village is the first known Neolithic settlement of the Ararat Plain.

“Everything known prior to this period mostly relates to cave shelters, temporary settlements, and hostels. But here, we deal with a sedentary village, as well as the first experience of house building and ceramics production,” says Badalyan.

It’s not quite the time to begin guessing who had precisely inhabited this area as there are no written accounts that could help with identifying the language that those peoples spoke. It is certainly known though that from that time, people have been establishing sedentary settlements.

“So we deal with the beginning of some very long sequence, which eventually brought to the formation of our society,” says Badalyan.

According to Badalyan, a large percentage of the artifacts found here are tools mostly built from bones and obsidian harvested from the volcanoes of the Gegham Mountains.

“One could conclude that aesthetics hasn’t been extraneous for the settlers. They decorated themselves, their attire, as well as their tools. There are even traces of cosmetics,” remarks Badalyan.

Several years ago, a stone bar with alternate figures of eight was discovered at the site. “The very first assumption is that this is a stamp. But the purpose of this artifact is unknown. It could have been a tool for applying ornamentations to pottery, as an example,” says Badalyan.

“We have samples of painted pottery which had supposedly been supplied from Syria and Mesopotamia. We also found seashells that could tell us about the possible transit contact of the locals with the populations of Red and Mediterranean Seas. In other words, one could conclude that cultural-economic relations have been already developing in the 6th millennium BC.”

Apart from that, evidence shows that the settlers of ancient Aknashen have been breeding cattle, pigs, and dogs. Excavations also revealed some funerary traditions: the deceased have been typically buried on their sides individually and half-bent beneath the flooring of their homes.

Ancient Aknashen was abandoned in the middle of the 6th millennium BC. It is difficult to say why, though people could have resettled due to natural, social, or political circumstances, says Badalyan.

The excavations in Aknashen will be continued for about 10 years or, more precisely, until the archaeologists reach the lowest layer, which corresponds to the time of the settlement’s establishment.

Նեոլիթի դարաշրջան. Ակնաշենում պեղումները շարունակվում են

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