The multitude of rock carvings (also known as petroglyphs) discovered in Armenia testifies to the millennia-old history of the rock art in the region. In the Armenian Highlands, the petroglyphic art has developed since the Neolithic and has peaked in the Bronze Age. Apart from artistic purposes, rock carvings have been a communication means because they have been used to record, store, and transfer information.
Karen Tokhatyan, a researcher at Institute of History of National Academy of Sciences in Armenia, published a scientific article on Armenian rock carvings in Armenia in 2015. According to Tokhatyan, rock carvings have great cultural value as they vividly demonstrate the historical reality of the ancestors of Armenians who lived in the Armenian Highlands between 7th-1st millennia BC. In particular, this art could help experts to learn more about the origins of the Armenian people, as well as their demographical processes.
Armenian petroglyphs are mostly located in the mountain regions. However, petroglyphs have also been preserved in valleys and at foothills. Ancient Armenians created huge galleries and mountain shrines containing tens of thousands of rock carvings.
The sites of ancient rock carvings also feature stone monuments called vishapakars, caves, cromlechs, and other types of monuments. This demonstrates that petroglyphs haven’t been an isolated feature of mountain regions but have instead been a part of the historical and cultural environment of the Armenian Highlands.
The images on the Armenian petroglyphs depict a variety of topics, including:
- Elements of the environment: mountains, volcanoes, rivers, lakes.
- Natural phenomena: lightning, clouds, rain, rainbow.
- Celestial bodies: sun, moon, stars, constellations.
- Astronomical events: eclipses, comets.
- Elements of the flora and fauna.
- Activities of men: agriculture, hunting, plowing.
- Rituals and ceremonies: worship of motherhood, ancestors, deities, heroes, fertility, time.
- Sports and competitions.
- Games and dances.
- Weaponry and tools: bows, shields, spears, lassos, clubs.
- Transport: carts, chariots, boats.
- Scientific data: celestial maps, calendars, compasses, plans of irrigation systems.
- Settlement and building plans.
Apart from that, Tokhatyan writes that rock carvings contain a large number of patterns and symbols (including those resembling letters of the Armenian and other ancient alphabets). Some of those symbols would be used in the Middle Ages as ideograms. Tokhatyan also argues that some of the aforementioned themes are exceptionally rarely met on petroglyphs outside Armenia.
Tokhatyan also remarks an important difference between Armenian and other petroglyphs. It seems that Armenian petroglyphs almost never depict too open scenes. The ancients have possibly put taboos on several topics, and that’s why they have been left out of the rock carvings.
Oldest Petroglyphs,Cradle Of Civilization
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Petroglyphs on Ughtasar (mountain), Armenia
Petroglyphs, Zarats Karer, Armenia