Recent discoveries in Armenia is astounding the archeological community - September, 2014

Recent discoveries in Armenia is forcing historians and archeologists around the world to take another look at mankind's prehistory. Until recently, the international community was essentially clueless about the historical importance of the Armenian Highlands. Until recently, western academia was essentially clueless about the archeological treasures that the Armenian Highlands hid under its ancient soil. Armenia continues to fascinate the world as it rewrites the early history of mankind. I believe additional finds will continue to shake the world as Armenia begins to reveal more-and-more of its ancient secrets that were once laying dormant underneath its much trodden land. Although the Anglo-American-Jewish community (i.e. the Western academic establishment) and their close friends in Ankara will do their best to belittle and shed doubt, there is no doubt in my mind that human civilization started within the Armenian Highlands and that Armenian, natives of the region, are amongst the most ancient of peoples. Similar to how Armenia's friends in Russia have begun to acknowledge, I am confident that the entire world will eventually come to the realization that Armenia was where mankind first walked onto the pages of history.



Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave

World's oldest, or earliest, known winemaking equipment, including a wine press (picture), as identified by a UCLA/National Geographic Society excavation

As if making the oldest known leather shoe wasn't enough, a prehistoric people in what's now Armenia also built the world's oldest known winery, a new study says. Undertaken at a burial site, their winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead—and it likely required the removal of any fancy footwear. Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was recently found, archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says. "This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production," said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years," he said. The prehistoric winemaking equipment was first detected in 2007, when excavations co-directed by Areshian and Armenian archaeologist Boris Gasparyan began at the Areni-1 cave complex. In September 2010 archaeologists completed excavations of a large, 2-foot-deep (60-centimeter-deep) vat buried next to a shallow, 3.5-foot-long (1-meter-long) basin made of hard-packed clay with elevated edges. The installation suggests the Copper Age vintners pressed their wine the old-fashioned way, using their feet, Areshian said. Juice from the trampled grapes drained into the vat, where it was left to ferment, he explained. The wine was then stored in jars—the cool, dry conditions of the cave would have made a perfect wine cellar, according to Areshian, who co-authored the new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Wine Traces

To test whether the vat and jars in the Armenian cave had held wine, the team chemically analyzed pottery shards—which had been radiocarbon-dated to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C.—for telltale residues. The chemical tests revealed traces of malvidin, the plant pigment largely responsible for red wine's color. "Malvidin is the best chemical indicator of the presence of wine we know of so far," Areshian said. Ancient-wine expert Patrick E. McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, agrees the evidence argues convincingly for a winemaking facility. One thing that would make the claim a bit stronger, though, said McGovern, who wasn't involved in the study, is the presence of tartaric acid, another chemical indicator of grapes. Malvidin, he said, might have come from other local fruits, such as pomegranates. Combined with the malvidin and radiocarbon evidence, traces of tartaric acid "would then substantiate that the facility is the earliest yet found," he said. "Later, we know that small treading vats for stomping out the grapes and running the juice into underground jars are used all over the Near East and throughout the Mediterranean," he added.

Winery Discovery Backed Up by DNA?

McGovern called the discovery "important and unique, because it indicates large-scale wine production, which would imply, I think, that the grape had already been domesticated." As domesticated vines yield much more fruit than wild varieties, larger facilities would have been needed to process the grapes. McGovern has uncovered chemical and archaeological evidence of wine, but not of a winery, in northern Iran dating back some 7,000 years—around a thousand years earlier than the new find. But the apparent discovery that winemaking using domesticated grapevines emerged in what's now Armenia appears to dovetail with previous DNA studies of cultivated grape varieties, McGovern said. Those studies had pointed to the mountains of Armenia, Georgia, and neighboring countries as the birthplace of viticulture. McGovern—whose book Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages traces the origins of wine—said the Areni grape perhaps produced a taste similar to that of ancient Georgian varieties that appear to be ancestors of the Pinot Noir grape, which results in a dry red. To preserve the wine, however, tree resin would probably have been added, he speculated, so the end result may actually have been more like a Greek retsina, which is still made with tree resin. In studying ancient alcohol, he added, "our chemical analyses have shown tree resin in many wine samples."

Ancient Drinking Rituals

While the identities of the ancient, moccasin-clad wine quaffers remain a mystery, their drinking culture likely involved ceremonies in honor of the dead, UCLA's Areshian believes. "Twenty burials have been identified around the wine-pressing installation. There was a cemetery, and the wine production in the cave was related to this ritualistic aspect," Areshian speculated. Significantly, drinking cups have been found inside and around the graves. McGovern, the ancient-wine expert, said later examples of ancient alcohol-related funerary rituals have been found throughout the world. In ancient Egypt, for example, "you have illustrations inside the tombs showing how many jars of beer and wine from the Nile Delta are to be provided to the dead," McGovern said. "I guess a cave is secluded, so it's good for a cemetery, but it's also good for making wine," he added. "And then you have the wine right there, so you can keep the ancestors happy." Future work planned at Areni will further investigate links between the burials and winemaking, study leader Areshian said.

Winemaking as Revolution

The discovery is important, the study team says, because winemaking is seen as a significant social and technological innovation among prehistoric societies. Vine growing, for instance, heralded the emergence of new, sophisticated forms of agriculture, Areshian said. "They had to learn and understand the cycles of growth of the plant," he said. "They had to understand how much water was needed, how to prevent fungi from damaging the harvest, and how to deal with flies that live on the grapes. "The site gives us a new insight into the earliest phase of horticulture—how they grew the first orchards and vineyards," he added. University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Naomi Miller commented that "from a nutritional and culinary perspective, wine expands the food supply by harnessing the otherwise sour and unpalatable wild grape. "From a social perspective, for good and ill," Miller said, "alcoholic beverages change the way we interact with each other in society."

The ancient-winery study was led by UCLA's Hans Barnard and partially funded by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)


Areni Wine-Making Industry 6 Thousand Years Old

“If this is a wine-press, so we have really had a wine-making industry”,-informed Boris Gasparyan, the co-leader of the archaeological team from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of RA. In the cave of Areni Birds, in Vayots Dzor Marz, during the excavations 50 liters clay jars, pitchers, samples of crockery, vines were found, which entitled the scholars to suppose that there was an industrial area of wine production there. According to the results of the examinations made in Oxford laboratory, the vine found in the cave dated to the end of the 5 century and beginning of the 4 century. “The results of the examination made in Oxford laboratory are out of doubt”, said Boris Gasparyan.

The Armenian small caves of volcanic origin, which are spread along the feet of Aragats, in the gorges of Qasakh and Hrazdan, are well-examined.

And the caves, which originate in case of the limestone structure of the massifs, now are being examined. The caves in Areni are suchlike and are of a great archaeological value. Since 2007 joint excavations are being held by the archaeologists of Ireland, California, Great Britain and Armenia. “The substances found in the caves mostly refer to Eneolith period, the end of the 5th century and the mid of the 4th century (4.100-4.200), i.e. 3 500 years, so we have the Middle Ages substances. Last year we found pieces of manuscripts in Armenian and Persian. Also we have some buildings and hearths of the Middle Ages”, - told Boris Gaspatyan.

In the niches of the caves the organic substances are well preserved, here the microclimate is not changing much in winter and summer. The caves in Areni are not exceptions. The archaeologist reminded about the Armenian tale of Anahit and Vachagan where the whole craftsmanship was held in the cave, and this was not groundless and had a historical basis. In the economy, the monument of Areni had an important role, and the caves served as places for living, cult worshiping and household activities. In the caves in Areni the skulls of young girls were found, which pointed to the fructification ritual funerals. Also the bones of goat and sheep were found. As montioned Boris Gasparyan the goats were mostly bred for milk and wool, and sheep were bred for meat and wool.

The archeologists dug to 4 meters and there the stratum of cultural activities of the Copper Stone Age ended, and the sediments of Pleistocene period started. “This little surface does not let us dig deeper and we could not widen the hall not to damage the nearby clay constructions”,-mentioned Boris Gaspartan. These archeological samples now are in different laboratories of the world. The archeologists are looking forward to the results, and the excavations of the caves in Areni are still going on.


Oldest Leather Shoe Steps Out After 5,500 years

World's Oldest Leather Shoe Found in Armenian Cave:!

About 5,500 years ago someone in the mountains of Armenia put his best foot forward in what is now the oldest leather shoe ever found. It'll never be confused with a penny loafer or a track shoe, but the well-preserved footwear was made of a single piece of leather, laced up the front and back, researchers reported Wednesday in PLoS One, a journal of the Public Library of Science. Worn and shaped by the wearer's right foot, the shoe was found in a cave along with other evidence of human occupation. The shoe had been stuffed with grass, which dated to the same time as the leather of the shoe — between 5,637 and 5,387 years ago. "This is great luck," enthused archaeologist Ron Pinhasi of University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, who led the research team.

"We normally only find broken pots, but we have very little information about the day-to-day activity" of these ancient people. "What did they eat? What did they do? What did they wear? This is a chance to see this ... it gives us a real glimpse into society," he said in a telephone interview. Previously the oldest leather shoe discovered in Europe or Asia was on the famous Otzi, the "Iceman" found frozen in the Alps a few years ago and now preserved in Italy. Otzi has been dated to 5,375 and 5,128 years ago, a few hundred years more recent than the Armenian shoe. Otzi's shoes were made of deer and bear leather held together by a leather strap. The Armenian shoe appears to be made of cowhide, Pinhasi said.

Older sandals have been found in a cave in Missouri, but those were made of fiber rather than leather. The shoe found in what is now Armenia was found in a pit, along with a broken pot and some wild goat horns. But Pinhasi doesn't think it was thrown away. There was discarded material that had been tossed outside the cave, while this pit was inside in the living area. And while the shoe had been worn, it wasn't worn out. It's not clear if the grass that filled the shoe was intended as a lining or insulation, or to maintain the shape of the shoe when it was stored, according to the researchers.

The Armenian shoe was small by current standards — European size 37 or U.S. women's size 7 — but might have fit a man of that era, according to Pinhasi. He described the shoe as a single piece of leather cut to fit the foot. The back of the shoe was closed by a lace passing through four sets of eyelets. In the front, 15 pairs of eyelets were used to lace from toe to top. There was no reinforcement in the sole, just the one layer of soft leather. "I don't know how long it would last in rocky terrain," Pinhasi said. He noted that the shoe is similar to a type of footwear common in the Aran Islands, west of Ireland, up until the 1950s. The Irish version, known as "pampooties" reportedly didn't last long, he said. "In fact, enormous similarities exist between the manufacturing technique and style of this (Armenian) shoe and those found across Europe at later periods, suggesting that this type of shoe was worn for thousands of years across a large and environmentally diverse region," Pinhasi said.

While the Armenian shoe was soft when unearthed, the leather has begun to harden now that it is exposed to air, Pinhasi said. Oh, and unlike a lot of very old shoes, it didn't smell. Pinhasi said the shoe is currently at the Institute of Archaeology in Yerevan, but he hopes it will be sent to laboratories in either Switzerland or Germany where it can be treated for preservation and then returned to Armenia for display in a museum. Pinhasi, meanwhile, is heading back to Armenia this week, hoping the other shoe will drop. The research was funded by the National Geographic Society, the Chitjian Foundation, the Gfoeller Foundation, the Steinmetz Family Foundation, the Boochever Foundation and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA.

This Shoe Had Prada Beat by 5,500 Years

Think of it as a kind of prehistoric Prada: Archaeologists have discovered what they say is the world’s oldest known leather shoe. Perfectly preserved under layers of sheep dung (who needs cedar closets?), the shoe, made of cowhide and tanned with oil from a plant or vegetable, is about 5,500 years old, older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, scientists say. Leather laces crisscross through numerous leather eyelets, and it was worn on the right foot; there is no word on the left shoe. While the shoe more closely resembles an L. L.Bean-type soft-soled walking shoe than anything by Jimmy Choo, “these were probably quite expensive shoes, made of leather, very high quality,” said one of the lead scientists, Gregory Areshian, of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

It could have fit a small man or a teenager, but was most likely worn by a woman with roughly size 7 feet. The shoe was discovered by scientists excavating in a huge cave in Armenia, part of a treasure trove of artifacts they found that experts say provide unprecedented information about an important and sparsely documented era: the Chalcolithic period or Copper Age, when humans are believed to have invented the wheel, domesticated horses and produced other innovations.

Along with the shoe, the cave, designated Areni-1, has yielded evidence of an ancient winemaking operation, and caches of what may be the oldest known intentionally dried fruits: apricots, grapes, prunes. The scientists, financed by the National Geographic Society and other institutions, also found skulls of three adolescents (“subadults,” in archaeology-speak) in ceramic vessels, suggesting ritualistic or religious practice; one skull, Dr. Areshian said, even contained desiccated brain tissue older than the shoe, about 6,000 years old.

“It’s sort of a Pompeii moment, except without the burning,” said Mitchell Rothman, an anthropologist and Chalcolithic expert at Widener University who is not involved in the expedition. “The shoe is really cool, and it’s certainly something that highlights the unbelievable kinds of discoveries at this site. The larger importance, though, is where the site itself becomes significant. You have the transition really into the modern world, the precursor to the kings and queens and bureaucrats and pretty much the whole nine yards.”

Previously, the oldest known leather shoe belonged to Ötzi the Iceman, a mummy found 19 years ago in the Alps near the Italian-Austrian border. His shoes, about 300 years younger than the Armenian shoe, had bearskin soles, deerskin panels, tree-bark netting and grass socks. Footwear even older than the leather shoe includes examples found in Missouri and Oregon, made mostly from plant fibers.

The Armenian shoe discovery, published Wednesday in PLoS One, an online journal, was made beneath one of several cave chambers, when an Armenian doctoral student, Diana Zardaryan, noticed a small pit of weeds. Reaching down, she touched two sheep horns, then an upside-down broken bowl. Under that was what felt like “an ear of a cow,” she said. “But when I took it out, I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s a shoe.’ To find a shoe has always been my dream.” Because the cave was also used by later civilizations, most recently by 14th-century Mongols, “my assumption was the shoe would be 600 to 700 years old,” Dr. Areshian said, adding that “a Mongol shoe would have been really great.” When separate laboratories dated the leather to 3653 to 3627 B.C., he said, “we just couldn’t believe that a shoe could be so ancient.”

The shoe was not tossed devil-may-care, but was, for unclear reasons, placed deliberately in the pit, which was carefully lined with yellow clay. While scientists say the shoe was stuffed with grass, acting like a shoe tree to hold its shape, it had been worn. “You can see the imprints of the big toe,” said another team leader, Ron Pinhasi, an archaeologist at University College Cork in Ireland, who said the shoe resembled old Irish pampooties, rawhide slippers. “As the person was wearing and lacing it, some of the eyelets had been torn and repaired.” Dr. Pinhasi said the cave, discovered in 1997, appeared to be mainly used by “high-status people, people who had power,” for storing the Chalcolithic community’s harvest and ritual objects. But some people lived up front, probably caretakers providing, Dr. Areshian said, the Chalcolithic equivalent of valet parking.

Many tools found were of obsidian, whose closest source was a 60-mile trek away. (Perhaps why they needed shoes, Dr. Areshian suggested.) “It’s an embarrassment of riches because the preservation is so remarkable,” said Adam T. Smith, an anthropologist at the University of Chicago who has visited the cave. He said that distinguishing Chalcolithic objects from later civilizations’ artifacts in the cave had been complicated, and that “we’re still not entirely clear what the chronology is” of every discovery. “The shoe,” he said, “is in a sense just the tip of the iceberg.” (He probably meant to say wingtip.)

5,900 year old skirt found in Armenian Cave

An Armenian archaeologist says that scientists have discovered a skirt that could be 5,900 year old. Pavel Avetisian, the head of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Yerevan, said a fragment of skirt made of reed was found during recent digging in the Areni-1 cave in southeastern Armenia. Avetisian told Tuesday's news conference in the Armenian capital that the find could be one of the world's oldest piece of reed clothing. Earlier excavation in the same location has produced what researchers believe is a 5,500-year-old shoe, making it the oldest piece of leather footwear known to researchers. Boris Gasparian, an Armenian archaeologist who worked jointly with U.S. and Irish scientists at the site, said they also found a mummified goat that could be 5,900-year-old, or more than 1,000 years older than the mummified animals found in Egypt.

Shengavit preserve offers glimpse to Armenia's pre-history

The foundation of Yerevan is often cited as 782 B.C., the year the Urartuan fortress of Erebuni was founded by Argishti I on a hill within the borders of the modern city of Yerevan. While Yerevan may be considered the direct descendant of Erebuni, mankind has lived there for many thousands of years before King Argishti I built his city.

Visitors arriving at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport pass the U.S. Embassy on the way to Yerevan's center. In back of the embassy is a small, man made lake. Rising above the lake's opposite shore is the Shengavit Historical and Archeological Culture Preserve. Within the preserve are excavations revealing settlements from the end of the fourth to the beginning of the second millennium B.C., as well as a small museum containing artifacts found at the site. The neatly arranged artifacts are labeled in English, Armenian, and Russian. The actual archeological site spans an area of six hectares (about 15 acres). During the Soviet era a hospital was built over part of the site destroying forever the yet unexamined archeological evidence underneath. 

The Shengavit archeological record contains four layers, each about four meters (12 feet) in depth representing distinct phases of habitation. The lowest and oldest layer contains the archeological record of inhabitants living around 4000 - 3000 B.C., while the uppermost, most recent layer is dated to about 2000 B.C. Scholars believe the site was continually inhabited for over 2000 years.

Found within the oldest stone age layer were crude stone tools and other items, while the upper layer revealed sophisticated pottery, the presence of agricultural activity, cattle raising, and copper tools as well as stone molds used to cast copper implements. Buildings were constructed of unbaked clay bricks set upon stone foundations with connected circular and rectangular rooms. The inside walls of the rooms were plastered. There was evidence that the walls were painted, though that evidence no longer exists. Within the rooms were found triangular hearths set upon stands. The circular rooms contained centrally located stone pedestals upon which columns rested to support the roof. Floors were made of pebbles covered with clay. 

The Shengavit culture was spread throughout the Ararat valley and was influential as far as western Armenia, Cilicia, northern Mesopotamia, and Palestine. Obsidian tools from Armenia were found in the Middle East. Anthropologists, analyzing human remains from Shengavit tombs, believe the "Armenoid" skull type typical of current day Armenians evolved in this region.

Shengavit was linked to other settlements in the region, all of which demonstrated a similar culture and were connected by trade. While there is no record of the language used at the time, scientists believe that a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European language or family of languages was prevalent, traces of which remain today within the Armenian language. 

While it can not be stated that the early residents of Shengavit were "Armenian", as the Armenian nation, people, and language may not have been formed at that time, it is likely that the tribes living in the region ultimately coalesced to form the Armenian people and the Armenian language. At a much later time migrating tribes introduced Indo-European elements into the Armenian language. 

Initial excavation of the site began in 1936 by Joseph Orbeli (1887-1961) and Eugeni Bayburtyan (1898-1938) and lasted two years; then the site was abandoned. Orbeli was the director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bayburtyan apparently was a bit too nationalistic; he was arrested by Stalin and was never seen again.

From 1945-1950 Sandro Sardaryan (1912-1995) studied the site and then, from 1950-1983, led a new excavation of Shengavit. Yuli Tamanyan, being an architect and member of the excavating team, performed the site's measurements. He was the son of famed architect Alexander Tamanian who, in 1925, developed the general layout of Yerevan. In 1967 Sardaryan published a study "Primitive Society in Armenia" in English describing Shengavit and other ancient settlements within the Armenian highlands.

Armenian Cave Yields Oldest Human Brain

Excavations have produced roughly 6,000-year-old relics of a poorly known culture existing near the dawn of civilization

In a cave overlooking southeastern Armenia’s Arpa River, just across the border from Iran, scientists have uncovered what may be the oldest preserved human brain from an ancient society. The cave also offers surprising new insights into the origins of modern civilizations, such as evidence of a winemaking enterprise and an array of culturally diverse pottery. Excavations in and just outside of Areni-1 cave during 2007 and 2008 yielded an extensive array of Copper Age artifacts dating to between 6,200 and 5,900 years ago, reported Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles, January 11 at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. In eastern Europe and the Near East, an area that encompasses much of southwest Asia, the Copper Age ran from approximately 6,500 to 5,500 years ago. The finds show that major cultural developments occurred during the Copper Age in areas outside southern Iraq, which is traditionally regarded as the cradle of civilization, Areshian noted.

The new cave discoveries move cultural activity in what’s now Armenia back by about 800 years. “This is exciting work,” comments Rana Özbal of Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. A basin two meters long installed inside the Armenian cave and surrounded by large jars and the scattered remains of grape husks and seeds apparently belonged to a large-scale winemaking operation. Researchers also found a trio of Copper Age human skulls, each buried in a separate niche inside the three-chambered, 600-square–meter cave. The skulls belonged to 12- to 14-year-old girls, according to anatomical analyses conducted independently by three biological anthropologists. Fractures identified on two skulls indicate that the girls were killed by blows from a club of some sort, probably in a ritual ceremony, Areshian suggested. Remarkably, one skull contained a shriveled but well-preserved brain. “This is the oldest known human brain from the Old World,” Areshian said. The Old World comprises Europe, Asia, Africa and surrounding islands.

Scientists now studying the brain have noted preserved blood vessels on its surface. Surviving red blood cells have been extracted from those hardy vessels for analysis. It’s unclear who frequented Areshi-1, where these people lived or how big their settlements were. No trace of household activities has been found in or outside the cave. Whoever they were, these people participated in trade networks that ran throughout the Near East, Areshian proposes. Copper Age pottery at the site falls into four groups, only one of which represents a local product. A group of painted ceramic items came from west-central Iran. Some pots display a style typical of the Maikop culture from southern Russia and southeastern Europe. Still other pieces were characteristic of the Kura-Arax culture that flourished just west of Maikop territory in Russia.

Radiocarbon dating of pottery and other Copper Age finds pushes back the origins of the Maikop and Kura-Arax cultures by nearly 1,000 years, Areshian says. Additional discoveries at Areni-1 include metal knives, seeds from more than 30 types of fruit, remains of dozens of cereal species, rope, cloth, straw, grass, reeds and dried grapes and prunes. A hard, carbonate crust covering the Copper Age soil layers, along with extreme dryness and stable temperatures inside the cave, contributed to preservation of artifacts and, in particular, the young girl’s brain. Medieval ovens from the 12th to 14th centuries have also been excavated at the cave’s entrance, underneath a rock shelter. Areshian expects much more material to emerge from further excavations at Areni-1 and from explorations of the many other caves bordering the Arpa River. “One of these caves is much larger than Areni-1, covering about an acre inside,” he said.

Tracing the Origins of Indo-European Languages to Armenia

Biologists using tools developed for drawing evolutionary family trees say that they have solved a longstanding problem in archaeology: the origin of the Indo-European family of languages.The family includes English and most other European languages, as well as Persian, Hindi and many others. Despite the importance of the languages, specialists have long disagreed about their origin.

Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea about 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, about 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.

The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and colleagues have taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and computationally walked them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin.

The result, they announced in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science, is that “we found decisive support for an Anatolian origin over a steppe origin.” Both the timing and the root of the tree of Indo-European languages “fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8,000 to 9,500 years ago,” they report.

But despite its advanced statistical methods, their study may not convince everyone.

The researchers started with a menu of vocabulary items that are known to be resistant to linguistic change, like pronouns, parts of the body and family relations, and compared them with the inferred ancestral word in proto-Indo-European. Words that have a clear line of descent from the same ancestral word are known as cognates. Thus “mother,” “mutter” (German), “mat’ ” (Russian), “madar” (Persian), “matka” (Polish) and “mater” (Latin) are all cognates derived from the proto-Indo-European word “mehter.”

Dr. Atkinson and his colleagues then scored each set of words on the vocabulary menu for the 103 languages. In languages where the word was a cognate, the researchers assigned it a score of 1; in those where the cognate had been replaced with an unrelated word, it was scored 0. Each language could thus be represented by a string of 1’s and 0’s, and the researchers could compute the most likely family tree showing the relationships among the 103 languages.

A computer was then supplied with known dates of language splits. Romanian and other Romance languages, for instance, started to diverge from Latin after A.D. 270, when Roman troops pulled back from the Roman province of Dacia. Applying those dates to a few branches in its tree, the computer was able to estimate dates for all the rest.

The computer was also given geographical information about the present range of each language and told to work out the likeliest pathways of distribution from an origin, given the probable family tree of descent. The calculation pointed to Anatolia, particularly a lozenge-shaped area in what is now southern Turkey, as the most plausible origin — a region that had also been proposed as the origin of Indo-European by the archaeologist Colin Renfrew, in 1987, because it was the source from which agriculture spread to Europe.

Dr. Atkinson’s work has integrated a large amount of information with a computational method that has proved successful in evolutionary studies. But his results may not sway supporters of the rival theory, who believe the Indo-European languages were spread some 5,000 years later by warlike pastoralists who conquered Europe and India from the Black Sea steppe.

A key piece of their evidence is that proto-Indo-European had a vocabulary for chariots and wagons that included words for “wheel,” “axle,” “harness-pole” and “to go or convey in a vehicle.” These words have numerous descendants in the Indo-European daughter languages. So Indo-European itself cannot have fragmented into those daughter languages, historical linguists argue, before the invention of chariots and wagons, the earliest known examples of which date to 3500 B.C. This would rule out any connection between Indo-European and the spread of agriculture from Anatolia, which occurred much earlier.

“I see the wheeled-vehicle evidence as a trump card over any evolutionary tree,” said David Anthony, an archaeologist at Hartwick College who studies Indo-European origins.

Historical linguists see other evidence in that the first Indo-European speakers had words for “horse” and “bee,” and lent many basic words to proto-Uralic, the mother tongue of Finnish and Hungarian. The best place to have found wild horses and bees and be close to speakers of proto-Uralic is the steppe region above the Black Sea and the Caspian. The Kurgan people who occupied this area from around 5000 to 3000 B.C. have long been candidates for the first Indo-European speakers.

In a recent book, “The Horse, the Wheel and Language,” Dr. Anthony describes how the steppe people developed a mobile society and social system that enabled them to push out of their homeland in several directions and spread their language east, west and south.

 Dr. Anthony said he found Dr. Atkinson’s language tree of Indo-European implausible in several details. Tocharian, for instance, is a group of Indo-European languages spoken in northwest China. It is hard to see how Tocharians could have migrated there from southern Turkey, he said, whereas there is a well-known migration from the Kurgan region to the Altai Mountains of eastern Central Asia, which could be the precursor of the Tocharian-speakers who lived along the Silk Road.

Dr. Atkinson said that this was a “hand-wavy argument” and that such conjectures should be judged in a quantitative way.

Dr. Anthony, noting that neither he nor Dr. Atkinson is a linguist, said that cognates were only one ingredient for reconstructing language trees, and that grammar and sound changes should also be used. Dr. Atkinson’s reconstruction is “a one-legged stool, so it’s not surprising that the tree it produces contains language groupings that would not survive if you included morphology and sound changes,” Dr. Anthony said.

Dr. Atkinson responded that he did indeed run his computer simulation on a grammar-based tree constructed by Don Ringe, an expert on Indo-European at the University of Pennsylvania, but that the resulting origin was, again, Anatolia, not the Pontic steppe.

Armenia, Cradle of Indo-European Civilization

Recent discoveries of Armenian archeologists could lead to rewriting history of the Ancient World in the near future. In the study of ancient civilizations Armenia often remained on the sidelines, as if she had not been involved in major historical turnovers. The researchers’ interest was almost always confined to the territory of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. But, naturally the “factor” of Armenia could not be excluded in the formation of ancient civilizations. There is much evidence to prove it. Nevertheless, for one reason or another Armenia, yet, was left out from the list of possible leaders.

Reaching after the truth, scientists have always faced many fundamental questions. The first - where did the ancient civilizations get their unique knowledge from? The second - development of sciences and arts is not recorded in the annals of ancient civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Iran, etc.). Technological revolution seems “instantaneous”. But technological advance is a long-term development, which should be reflected in the evolution of applied technologies. The process of phased development should be reflected in the cultural layers of this or that civilization. It must have been shown on artifacts, which would affirm the “copyright” of these civilizations on the “know-how” ancient inventions. The third - in early years, objects reflecting the advanced state of Mesopotamia, Egypt and other regions were often imported. It has been proved by laboratory studies, using the methods of exact sciences (spectral and radiocarbon tests, etc.). It seems that the known so far advanced civilizations lived on some unknown source that provided them with cultural and technical growth. Historians have always wrestled with the question where this amazing knowledge was obtained from.

The latest facts of Armenian archaeology fill this gap.

On the southern slopes of Mount Aragats in the territory which has been called Naver since the earliest times, ancient necropolis (Nerkin Naver - lower graves and Verin Naver – upper graves) was discovered still back in 1975. This finding immediately attracted the archaeologists’ attention. Soon it was clear where the name of this place came from. In many ancient European languages “Nav” or “Nef” not only meant a ship, but also a grave. Apparently, in ancient times this concept was associated not only with sea voyages. It also had a sacred meaning: ships carried the souls of the dead to the netherworld. The whole “flotilla” of these “ships” revealed to the world such an abundance of unknown facts that the researchers were just stunned. Burial mounds date back to the 3000-2000 B.C. This was proved by a series of radiocarbon analyses of artifacts held in laboratories of Germany and the USA. These data wonderfully confirm the written information given by ancient Armenian historians, in particular, Movses Khorenatsi (“History” 5th c.), who states that the son of Hayk (ancestor of the Armenian people), Aramanyak and his family settled down on the southern slopes of Aragats, near a river. It happened after the victory of Hayk over the Mesopotamian king - tyrant Bel. According to the chronology of the Armenian historian Ghevond Alishan (19th c.) it was in 2492 B.C.

Nerkin Naver was the burial place for high-ranking people. Verin was for peasants. In the upper graves there has been excavated an area of 7000 m2 and 70 burial mounds of common people are discovered, while in the lower graves there were excavated only 8 princely burial mounds.

“The collected material suggests that Armenia is the ancestral home of Indo-European civilization,” says Director of the Scientific and Research Institute of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the RA Ministry of Culture, candidate of historical sciences Hakob Simonyan. “This is the most ancient burial site, where information about the Aryan way of life and Aryan thinking is recorded. Here we find evidence of goods production, which was unique for those times. The findings provide a new interpretation of the development of civilizations,” Simonyan says. In the burial site there were also found lots of gold decorations, weapons, bones of revered animals, well-ornamented black- and red-glossed pitchers. This was a “traditional” set typical for the graves of that period. However, the sensational findings mark out his necropolis from others of this kind. This message canned in centuries gives a fair idea about the role and significance of the ancient Armenian civilization.

“Here we find all types of Indo-European burials: cremation (for VIPs), gnawing of corpses by specially trained dogs (for retinue of the king) and the simple burials (for peasants). The latter were buried on their side: men on the right and women on the left,” continues Simonyan. “And in every royal grave we usually find bones of two sacrificed horses. But the most striking thing that we found here is the iron bits, whose composition, according to chemical analysis, is similar to the oldest metal products from Dorak and Alagja-Uyuk (Asia Minor, the end of 3000 B.C.). In fact, this is the third such discovery in the world, dating back to the 23c. B.C. In the burial mound N2 there has been discovered a black hydria (a large jar), on the “shoulders” of which there are depicted six pairs of chariot wheels. The wheels have 4 spokes. It is typical of the earliest chariot wheels. Another startling discovery is the red-glossed pitcher. It shows a herd of thoroughbred domesticated horses. An eloquent proof of it is their hair-cut manes and braided tails. An image of a herd of such antiquity is unique in the whole Near East. This information is a weighty argument in favor of the fact that Armenia, among other things, is the home of horse breeding. Excavations revealed also fine pieces of jewelry and beads of colored glass. Some products are made of quartz. However, it’s striking, taking into consideration that the melting temperature of quartz is 1700 °C. How our ancestors did it remains a mystery. Such quality of glass is exclusive throughout the ancient East of 3000 B.C.! Glass beads were also found in the ancient settlement of Shengavit (4000-3000 B.C.) and were over 1000 years older than these findings. Patterns on gold products are quite similar to the ornaments on ceramics. And because ceramics is of local production, it would be logical to assume that gold jewelry is the handiwork of the same local craftsmen.”

Many facts indicate that Armenia at that time was involved in international trade relations. Examples of this are Mesopotamian clam shells, agaltomelit beads (deposits of this stone are found only in Korea, China and Japan), lapis lazuli beads from Badahshan (Central Asia), imported goods from the East Coast of the Mediterranean Sea, etc. Hence, it can be concluded that trade relations were already regulated by certain legal norms, such as purchase contracts, exchange contracts, etc.

Another finding of special importance is the rapier, which was the first professional military weapon. It dates back to the XXIII c. B.C. Spectral analysis showed that the found rapier is made of tin bronze. The content of tin in the rapier is 11-12%. It’s the classic formula. According to isotopic analysis, the copper ore is of Armenian origin. It was extracted from Alaverdi (Lori Region). The tin is imported (presumably from Central Asia). It should be noted that all these artifacts have something in common with the samples obtained from the ancient city of Shengavit. 

There is also observed rapid development of crafts and technology (pottery, metallurgy, wine-making).

In this regard, involved in the excavation works in Shengavit, Mitchell S. Rothman, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania declared that all these data suggest that approximately in 3000 B.C. the culture of ancient Armenia spread across the world. “Armenia is the missing piece of the mosaic of building civilizations of the ancient world. Shengavit and Naver have completed those missing “chains” that we faced while studying the ancient culture of Mesopotamia,” says Rothman.

The American scientist’s words overlap with ancient Mesopotamian information sources (such as the Epic of Gilgamesh 3000 B.C.), which states that from the knowledge of at least 5 branches: construction, metallurgy, grain cultivation, gardening, and wine making spread from Armenia to Mesopotamia (see Artak Movsisyan, “Armenia in 3000 B.C.”). Considering all these latter-day facts, it can be assumed that in the near future the history of the Ancient World will have to be rewritten. However, there is a time for things.


Armenian Archeologists Unearth Third Millennium B.C. Aryan Burial Mounds

Archeologists said Wednesday they have unearthed burial mounds dating back to the third millennium B.C. which they believe contain remains and trinkets from ancient Aryan nomads. Historian Hakob Simonian said Wednesday that the four mounds were among 30 discovered about 35 miles west of the Armenian capital Yerevan, containing beads made of agate, carnelian and as well as the remains of what appears to be a man, aged 50-55. Also found were remains of domesticated horses and glazed pottery appearing to show chariots, Simonian said.


German scholars suggest recognizing Armenian petroglyphs as world’s cultural value

A group of German scholars who have studied Armenian petroglyphs suggest recognizing Armenian petroglyphs as a world cultural value and have them registered by UNESCO. They have promised to support Armenia in this effort. This is what Armenologist Hamlet Martirosyan said during today’s press conference, but informed that there have to be some corrections made in the studies prior to appealing to UNESCO.

“The new data show that the petroglyphs in the Syunik region were created 14-15,000 years ago, meaning that they belong to the Stone Age. The studies conducted in the 1970s show that those petroglyphs were created in the Bronze Age. In addition, the researchers of the past didn’t consider the petroglyphs writing, but now there are grounds for considering them writings. If these two corrections are made in the current studies, there will be answers to many historical questions, particularly the questions related to the origin of mankind and the specific location where that took place,” said Martirosyan.

Martirosyan also informed that the few monographs and studies about the Armenian petroglyphs are only in Armenian and that it could be said that the world knew nothing about them before 2010. The scholar also mentioned that it all depends on what steps Armenia’s cultural structures and organizations will take and that someday the world will be able to decode all that is hidden in the Armenian petroglyphs.

Armenian Petroglyphs

The Rock Arts of the Armenian Elevation are the Primary Source of the Armenian, Egyptian, Indian and Hettitian Ideograms (Hieroglyphs)

It is known, that with the appearance and the development of language the man is becoming a unique “symbolic animal”, passing a way from a biological being to a thinking one. But the reason is that the language, as an informatics object is a developing, open, huge library of interactive symbols, elements. Each of the elements is modeling, projecting and means one appearance of the world, out of the edges of the human race particularly and entirely. Taking in set that symbols and elements are summarized in one image of the space, environment, where live and create the users of that language. As the natural conditions, in which our forefathers lived, and the situation, which is expressed by the representatives of that culture, in many cases are changed from one ethnos to another, in the result we observe differences in the languages of various ethnic groups, and, in some cases, the differences are not essential in one ethnic group.
As the authors think, these differences obviously appeared in the stages of the development of rock art, rock images and pictures. Sometimes the graphical languages (executive manners, typical forms, etc.) of various ethnic groups are non-similar. It is supposed, that the complexes of the rock images, which were discovered on the historical territory of Armenia, are differed from each other in a measure of mental characteristics and dialect differences of the representatives of Armenian people from various parts and regions of Armenia. The graphical language, symbols and signs are available. They are invariant and never depend on time, geographical and natural coordinates. Many nations had successfully learned and developed this language. Language symbols are general and understandable basically in the limits of one ethnic group, in determined geographical space and time. The authors think that just the moment of the investigation of the graphical archetypes is supposed to be the start of the civilization. The graphical image, picture, symbol or sign, which is fixed on the stone, exists singly, never depends on its creator - «is alienated from him». All this systems possess by the feature of autonomy and independence. Linguist V.V. Martinov call the language – “Actuality – 2'', in diversity of “Actuality – 1”, which is the world environment.
The graphical language, the language of petrography and rock pictures allowed a floating, harmonic and efficient (less actions) passing from ''Actuality – 1'' to ''Actuality – 2''. The construction of ''Actuality – 2'' relative to the objective, real or imaginable process, weighing of negative and positive features, hesitation in sincerity of thoughts, projection and development of the structure of logical constructions, choice of more acceptable decisions and their spreading – for all mentioned the man and the human language are obliged to the features of graphical language, as well as to simultaneity, invariance, reflectiveness, regularity, totality, etc. The hieroglyphs or the symbols (the word “ideogram” comes from the Greek words “idea” and “I’m writing”) have a significant place in the history of letter writing. Hieroglyphs usually considered to be the first step in the development of letter writing and were on the lowest development degree, as if they do not express sounds or syllables. They express whole words or parts of them and, naturally, do not submit any grammatical rule and cause serious difficulties in reading. Egyptians, Shummers and Chinese implemented this kind of letter writing. The ancient nations, such as Armenian, also had hieroglyphs in their letter writing...


Stone Tool Discovery in Armenia Gives Insight into Human Innovation 325,000 Years Ago

An analysis of about 3,000 stone tools from a 325,000-year-old archaeological site near the village of Nor Geghi in the Kotayk Province of Armenia challenges the theory held by many scientists that the so-called Levallois stone tool-making technique was invented in Africa and then spread across the world as the human population

Named after flint tools discovered in the 19th century in the Levallois-Perret suburb of Paris in France, Levallois technique is a distinctive style of flint knapping developed by early humans during the Paleolithic. This technique involves the multistage shaping of a mass of stone in preparation to detach a flake of predetermined size and shape from a single preferred surface.


Many anthropologists argue that Levallois technique was invented in Africa more than 300,000 years ago and spread to Eurasia with expanding human populations, replacing a more basic type of technology - biface technique - in which a raw block of stone is shaped through the serial removal of interrelated flakes until the remaining volume takes on a desired form, such as a hand axe.

But now a team of archaeologists and anthropologists from the United States and Europe led by Dr Daniel Adler of the University of Connecticut has discovered at the Armenian archaeological site of Nor Geghi that Levallois tools already existed there between 325,000 and 335,000 years ago, suggesting that local populations developed them out of biface technique, which was also found at the site. The co-existence of the two techniques provides the first clear evidence that local populations developed Levallois technique out of existing biface technique.

"The discovery of thousands of stone artifacts preserved at this unique site provides a major new insight into how Stone Age tools developed during a period of profound human behavioral and biological change", said Dr Simon Blockley of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is a co-author of the paper describing the discovery in the journal Science.

"The people who lived there 325,000 years ago were much more innovative than previously thought, using a combination of two different technologies to make tools that were extremely important for the mobile hunter-gatherers of the time."

Moreover, the chemical analysis of several hundred obsidian tools from Nor Geghi shows that early humans at the site utilized obsidian outcrops from as far away as 120 km, suggesting they must have been capable of exploiting large, environmentally diverse territories.