Several years have passed since the death of independent researcher Ruben Mnatsakanyan, who revealed many new and astonishing things to archaeologists.
Ruben Mnatsakanyan descended from the princely family of Getashen in northern Artsakh, where he participated in the defense at the very beginning of the liberation movement, during Operation “Ring”. His paternal ancestors came from there, and his maternal ancestors were from Mush, who in 1915 had to fight their way to Eastern Armenia with weapons.
In 2015, geneticists from Switzerland specifically sought out Ruben to conduct a DNA analysis as part of an international study aimed at compiling a complete set of genealogical records of Armenian princely families. The parallel DNA analysis revealed a complete identity of the Armenian genotype with ancestors from 5-6 thousand years old burials.
During Soviet times, Ruben’s relatives removed the first part of the princely surname Melik-Mnatsakanyan, as “melik” in Armenian means “prince”. During Stalin’s era, any hint of aristocratic origin could cost a life. No one decided to change it back afterward.
Ruben Mnatsakanyan knew all of Armenia meticulously; he traversed almost all of it on foot – during countless hikes. He knew where various megaliths were located, knew the history of their discovery and research. For example, he uncovered for historians and showed them a megalithic fortress on the slope of the Tsakhkunyats ridge, above the village of Buzhakan, in the Kotayk province east of Aragats, which is conventionally called Buzhaberd, as it still does not have an official name.
Ruben recounted how astonished and excited the senior archaeologist, the first director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Babken Arakelyan, was when he first saw this fortress. He was stunned that such a monument – so close to the capital – was unknown to them. And this was far from the only instance.
There have been many such situations – for instance, one of our prominent archaeologists would claim to have discovered the largest burial or the largest burial mound in Armenia, and Ruben would respond that it was not the largest at all. The largest one was in a completely different location – he would name the area, the nearest towns and villages, and say that he was ready to go there at any time and show it.
He was a guide for the Russian LAI expedition to Armenia in 2016. A. Sklyarov, A. Zhukov, and other participants became good friends with him. Everyone affectionately called him, as in the movie “Mimino” – Rubik-jan.
In addition to studying history his whole life, not only from books but also on site, he was a horse riding expert, an actor, and a stuntman, having graduated from the Art and Theatre Institute (then called the Yerevan State Institute of Theatre and Film), and appeared in most, if not all, battle scenes in Armenian (and not only) cinema, for example, in the two-part movie “Star of Hope”: “David-Bek” and “Mkhitar Sparapet” (dir. Edmond Keosayan), among others. In his youth, he resembled the actor Andrey Mironov, which earned him a corresponding “nickname” at the institute.
Ruben personally saw the remains of giants four times. Once, he even tried to transport giant bones and a skull from the mountains to Yerevan to hand them over to archaeologists, but they showed no interest in his find.
The vast amount of information collected by him and other researchers from all over Armenia was partially presented in the 2012 film “Cities of Giants” from the “Following the Mystery” series. The rest is still awaiting publication.
As for his research in giantology (a new term, in Russian – velikanovedenie, literally meaning “study of giants”), Ruben became interested in this long ago and quite by accident. In the early 1980s, a group of young guys went on a hike not far from the city of Yeghegnadzor. When a heavy rain started, they tried to take shelter in one of the nearby caves. Entering deeper into the cave, to their surprise, they stumbled upon a skeleton 4 meters long, face down.
“In 1982, we were all convinced that we descended from monkeys, but none of us had any idea that they were that big. We started joking that it must be the skeleton of a Cyclops. I said that a Cyclops should have a single eye at the base of the nose on the forehead, and decided to turn the skull face up, but it crumbled to dust right before our eyes, something I had never seen before,” Ruben Mnatsakanyan recalled.
Two years later, Ruben and his friends, during another mountain walk, once again came across an extraordinary find. In 1984, not far from the city of Sisian, a new factory was being built. Tractors were digging a foundation. Suddenly, one of them, having removed a layer of earth, stopped. An ancient burial was revealed to the observers, where the remains of a very large man with a long sword lay.
“Before that, I thought giants lived in the immemorial times. But the sword was made of metal, because a layer of rust from the iron had remained along the entire body,” Ruben explained.
Next to the burial, the researchers found an ancient settlement, the remains of which have survived to this day. There were houses made of stones arranged in five rows, each weighing several tons, subsequently destroyed by an earthquake. The fortress that surrounded the city was built in 2-3 rows of huge megaliths. But today there is little left of it.
A Big Find
The next find occurred two years later. In 1986, Ruben Mnatsakanyan often visited the Syunik region for work. In his spare time, he enjoyed traveling to the nearby mountains. Once, when he was descending from the Ughtasar mountain, a flood washed out the surroundings, and for the fourth time, just as accidentally, he came across the skeleton of a real giant.
“The bones were very large, the entire length of the skeleton was 4 m 10 cm. The shin was above my waist, it was about 1m 15 cm. This bone, like the skull, was heavy. The nearest populated area was more than 20 km away, but I didn’t get lazy, I took the skull and shin with me and got to the village. I took the skull because I was very curious to know what these giants looked like. A friend of mine had a friend who studied ways of reconstructing facial features from a skull, and it was interesting to know what they looked like. It seemed to me then that everyone knew about this, because if I came across them so often, then scientists should know even more,” Ruben Mnatsakanyan recounted.
At the village post office, Ruben called a friend, asked him to go to the Institute of Archaeology and find out if it was worth taking all this to the city. The friend agreed, and they arranged to call each other in the evening.
One of the signs of the truth of a theory is its ability to predict future discoveries. If giants have burials, it means they must have lived somewhere nearby. It is logical to assume that their cemeteries should be near settlements, as it happens in our time.
About 10 years ago, these observations and generalizations by Ruben Mnatsakanyan received a brilliant confirmation in Egvard. There, the locals told that in the basement of one of the houses, they found huge cyclopean bones in the earthen floor. Ruben said that if this is a cemetery, there should be remnants of a megalithic fortress of an ancient giants’ settlement nearby. And literally within 10 minutes, these remnants in the form of the bottom rows of masonry from huge stones were found in the garden of the house directly opposite. The megaliths were so large that several people could comfortably sit on them.
“In the evening I call and ask: “well, how valuable is it?” And the friend says, they told him there that nothing like that exists, they would know if there was something like that. And all this is empty talk and it cannot be.
I asked my friend to ask a skull specialist whether to bring the skull to him, and whether its appearance could be restored. It turned out that this specialist was very busy for the next 8-9 months, he had a lot of work, I left the skull and bones in the village on the condition that I would return for them in a few days. But the next time I was in this village only a few years later and found out that nothing was preserved there. This was a stimulus, I began to take an interest in the giants myself, to find out what they represented. I started looking for evidence in all the places where they were discovered accidentally. And it turned out that there were dwellings made of large stones everywhere,” Ruben Mnatsakanyan recalled.
Ruben Mnatsakanyan is a classic example of the type of people called “independent researchers”. And although today this definition often hides amateurism and omniscience of a homegrown “expert” who is ready to comment on anything but knows little seriously, Ruben is a completely different case. He is indeed independent, as he did not accept any dogmas, and he is indeed a researcher, as he claimed only what he saw, measured, and investigated personally.
For more than 35 years, Ruben Mnatsakanyan worked as an independent researcher. He died from a stroke on September 6, 2019. Before that, he had been suffering from kidney failure, from which he had been treated for a long time. Ruben collected information from all over Armenia and, since he visited everywhere himself, knew all the locals, they informed him of new finds.
Entire directions of research that he was engaged in remain without continuation. But it’s just a matter of time. Over the past 10 years, many people have become interested in these topics. New books have been published, many films have been released.
Someday the time will come for the first book on this topic in Armenia. Ruben didn’t have time to write it. But when others do it, they will tell more about the vast amount of data collected and researched by Ruben Mnatsakanyan.
by Armen Petrosyan
Translation by Vigen Avetisyan