In an interview with “APKA Style” in 2015, the director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences Pavel Avetisyan told about the sensational findings of Armenian archeologists, their plans, and the need to present the phenomenon of the Armenian civilization to the world.
Mr. Avetisyan, 2014 turned out to be quite a significant year for Armenia in terms of archaeological discoveries. Could you tell us more about the uniqueness of the finds found during the excavations?
“2014 entered the history of Armenian archeology thanks to the numerous finds discovered during archaeological excavations. Based on the results of one them, our findings go beyond just Armenian studies. This concerns the discovery of stone tools made by early humans in Hrazdan Gorge.
We estimated the age of these tools made with bifacial and the Levallois technique to be around 325-330 thousand years. It is noteworthy that until now, it was believed that late Homo Erectus or early Homo Sapiens had appeared in Africa and then spread throughout the planet.
This early human learned to process stone in Africa using the Levallois technique which replaced the more primitive bifacial method. The new technique would then be spread throughout their habitat.
Earlier, tools processed with the Levallois technique found in Eurasia and Western Asia were immediately thought to have belonged to Homo Erectus or Homo Sapiens who had arrived from Africa.
During the excavations in Nor Geghi (near the Hrazdan Gorge), it was found out that these tools appeared here earlier than the ones found in Africa.
And all the data testifies that this technology has been developed on spot rather than brought from the outside. Thereby, the dominant to this day point of view about the area of distribution of early humans from Africa can be questioned.
Another hypothesis emerged about the origin and range of distribution of early humans. Now, it is necessary to find similar monuments and artifacts that will confirm our hypothesis. This gives reason to believe that there is another version of how the planet Earth has been settled.”
What else is remembered from 2014 in terms of breakthrough in archeology?
“Every year, we receive very interesting information from Artashat. During the excavations, our archaeologists found a church, remains of a destroyed public bath, and many other buildings. We continue to find the stamps on letters and documents, indicating the existence of an ancient archive in this city.
These stamps belong to the 3rd-5th centuries, to the Sassanid period. They contain the images of kings. Each of them is priceless, and we have already found about 800 samples.
In 2014, 43 field research programs were carried out, most of which were related to the restoration of monuments. It is very important that the government, understanding the significance of our work, allocated funds us. In addition to excavations, this would allow us to perform renovation of historical monuments, in particular, in Dvin.
The objects we previously excavated were gradually re-covered with earth and conserved. This year, we will begin to rediscover what has been discovered at the time so that Dvin becomes a site attractive for tourists.
This is a very important and fundamentally new direction of our activity. Similarly, we are going to work in the village of Areni in the vicinity of the city of Vanadzor. It is planned to install barriers there to prevent damaging unauthorized access to historical monuments.”
Could you share your plans for 2015 with us?
“In recent years, we have completed a significant amount of work and collected a huge amount of materials, much of which can change the outlook of scientists not only within Armenia but also in the entire region. All these works must be published.
The second stage of our archaeological research is the reconstruction of materials, analysis, and then transfer to the respective museums. To this day, we have been skimming off our finds, publishing the most sensational discoveries. But most of the materials we found is improperly explored.
In the future, this will be one of our priorities. Archaeological excavations will also be continued, some of which will be carried out jointly with foreign partners. The excavations in Dvin, Artashat, Artsakh, and Tigranakert will definitely be continued.
This year, we are planning to hold a republican or international scientific conference in Armenia, during which the results of scientific activities will be presented and discussed. Then, we will try to publish these materials, which is a complex and costly process.”
Sometimes, it seems that in the world archeology, the role and importance of the Armenian civilization are not adequately represented. What is the reason for this?
“When we speak of a Sumerian or Egyptian civilization, we imply the civilizations of the early period that left colossal historical monuments that still amaze us with their grandeur. As for the Armenian civilization, it was not so impressive at the time and could not compete with the aforementioned peoples in scale. But the cultures formed in the Armenian Highlands are a part of the civilization of the Near East and had unique features that, of course, greatly influenced its development.
But there is one more circumstance that does not directly relate to the value of the cultural heritage left by our ancestors. The Sumerian civilization was discovered and began to be investigated by European scientists who arrived in Egypt together with Napoleon. They so vividly described their finds to the Europeans that they provoked an influx of tourists to Egypt.
The excavations in the Soviet period, as well as in the territory of Western Armenia, were covered by European experts not so actively for various reasons. Thus, the question of properly covering the phenomenon of the Armenian civilization only recently arose before us.
An important task of our Institute is to invite foreign specialists who will provide the scientific community with an independent expert assessment of the Armenian civilization. Experience shows that when Armenian experts talk about this, they are often accused of nationalism.”