Recent discoveries in Armenia is astounding the archeological community

Until recent years the international community was essentially clueless about the great historical significance of the Armenian Highlands. Until recently western academia was essentially clueless about the archeological treasures that the Armenian Highlands hid beneath its ancient soil. Recent discoveries in present day Armenia and in the historic Armenian Highlands (now encompassing parts of Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan) is forcing historians and archeologists around the world to take another look at the origins of human civilization. The fields of archeology and ancient history will continue being subjected to shock and awe as the Armenian Highlands reveals more-and-more of its ancient secrets and treasures that were once laying dormant underneath its much trodden land. Although the Anglo-American-Jewish establishment, through Western academia and their close friends in Ankara, will continue doing their best to cast doubt on Armenian origins, the archeological and genetic studies we have today proves beyond any doubt that modern day Armenians are aboriginals/natives of the Armenian Highlands and that ancient Armenians were one of the earliest peoples to have culturally and genetuically impacted the early civilizations of Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus. There is also little doubt today that the Armenian Highlands is actually the cradle of human civilization, the land where man first walked the earth. While our Russian friends have for a long time acknowledged the historical significance of the Armenian Highlands, I am glad to see that some westerners are beginning to do the same. I am confident that in time the entire world will eventually come to the realization that the Armenian Highlands was where modern man first walked onto the pages of human history.




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Earliest Known Winery Found in Armenian Cave

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

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.

Modern Armenians Genetically Cosest to Humans Living 4-2 Millenia BC

The human being, who had lived since the end of the BC 4th millennium till the end of the 2nd millennium, has been the biological ancestor of the Eurasian modern area’s societies, excluding the residents of Sardinia and Sicily. And the modern Armenian is genetically closest to the human millennia BC 4-2 by its modern genetics. As “Armenpress” reports, on 05 June, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography Pavel Avetisyan and the Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology Institute, Historical Sciences Doctor Professor Levon Yepiskoposyan stated this during the meeting with the reporters, representing the results of the research conducted in cooperation with the University of Copenhagen. 101 DNA samples were subjected to the laboratory analysis for the study, which were brought from different countries - Denmark, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Russia and Sweden. For the first time, 8 human samples excavated from various sites of Armenia Bronze-Iron Ages were included in the study. 


Date of Armenia’s Birth, Given in 5th Century, Gains Credence

Movses Khorenatsi, a historian in the fifth century, wrote that his native Armenia had been established in 2492 B.C., a date usually regarded as legendary though he claimed to have traveled to Babylon and consulted ancient records. But either he made a lucky guess or he really did gain access to useful data, because a new genomic analysis suggests that his date is entirely plausible.

Geneticists have scanned the genomes of 173 Armenians from Armenia and Lebanon and compared them with those of 78 other populations from around the world. They found that the Armenians are a mix of ancient populations whose descendants now live in Sardinia, Central Asia and several other regions. This formative mixture occurred from 3000 to 2000 B.C., the geneticists calculated, coincident with Movses Khorenatsi’s date for the founding of Armenia.

Toward the end of the Bronze Age, when the mixture was in process, there was considerable movement of peoples brought about by increased trade, warfare and population growth. After 1200 B.C., the Bronze Age civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean suddenly collapsed, an event that seems to have brought about the isolation of Armenians from other populations. No significant mixing with other peoples after that date can be detected in the genomes of living Armenians, the geneticists said.

The isolation was probably sustained by the many characteristic aspects of Armenian culture. Armenians have a distinctive language and alphabet, and the Armenian Apostolic Church was the first branch of Christianity to become established as a state religion, in A.D. 301, anticipating that by the Roman empire in A.D. 380.

The researchers also see a signal of genetic divergence that developed about 500 years ago between western and eastern Armenians. The date corresponds to the onset of wars between the Ottoman and Safavid dynasties and the division of the Armenian population between the Turkish and Persian empires. “This DNA study confirms in general outline much of what we know about Armenian history,” said Hovann Simonian, a historian of Armenia affiliated with the University of Southern California.

The geneticists’ team, led by Marc Haber and Chris Tyler-Smith of the Sanger Institute, near Cambridge in England, see long-isolated populations like that of the Armenians as a means of reconstructing population history.

Armenians share 29 percent of their DNA ancestry with Otzi, a man whose 5,300-year-old mummy emerged in 1991 from a melting Alpine glacier. Other genetically isolated populations of the Near East, like Cypriots, Sephardic Jews and Lebanese Christians, also share a lot of ancestry with the Iceman, whereas other Near Easterners, like Turks, Syrians and Palestinians, share less. This indicates that the Armenians and other isolated populations are closer than present-day inhabitants of the Near East to the Neolithic farmers who brought agriculture to Europe about 8,000 years ago.

The geneticists’ paper was posted last month on bioRxiv, a digital library for publishing scientific articles before they appear in journals. Dr. Tyler-Smith, the senior author of the genetics team, said he could not discuss their results for fear of jeopardizing publication in a journal that he did not name.

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...


A Brief History of the Armenian Gampr

The Armenian Gampr dog today has more similarity to the historical origin breed of all mollosser type dogs than other more well-known breeds. Historical evidence shows the development of livestock and companion dogs to have been in existence on the Armenian plateau before other ancient civilizations. Anthropological findings indicate that the current gampr type became what it is today at least 3000 years ago (Richard Ney, n.d.), and as the breed was developed out of necessity and continues to be a necessary part of human survival in its native area, the gampr has retained a surprising amount of its original characteristics. Various central Asian countries have closely related strains of the original shepherds’ dog. However, some of the other breeds also have had genetic manipulation in the last 200 years, which in most cases has meant the loss of the primitive soundness and depth of instinct that remains today in the gampr. Located in a very fertile zone, at the crossroads of travel between ancient Persia, Asia, and Europe, the Armenian plateau has given rise to some of the earliest milestones of civilization. Armenian innovations and products have been at the forefront of the development of humanity, and many steps of human progress appeared first here. Armenia was the first country to define the zodiac, adopt Christianity, use astrology, create an astronomical observatory and a calendar with a 365-day year, and the Armenians even built a Stonehenge thousands of years before the well-known European site (Ney, n.d.).

As these developments spread across Asia, so too did the early breed of dog, protecting livestock and people as they traveled. Historical records show early breeds of domesticated livestock to have existed in Armenia 25,000 years ago, roughly 10,000 years before their existence elsewhere (Ney, n.d.). Although the oldest archeological evidence of settlements in Armenia are 90,000 years old (Ney, n.d.), under the current city of Yerevan, many early peoples were nomadic, and wealth was measured in possessions, including livestock. A dog such as the gampr is invaluable in protecting one’s possessions, particularly livestock. Even now, it is common knowledge among owners of sheep or goats and livestock guardian dogs that a good dog will save the owner thousands of dollars in prevented losses. During the thousands of years of nomadic herding and trading, a good dog could easily have meant the difference between life and death. According to early petroglyphs beginning ca. 15,000-12,000 in the Armenian highlands, specifically “at Ughtasar and on the Geghama mountain range, up to 20% of the carvings resemble the modern gampr, while others show a remarkable diversity of dog that no longer exists.”(Ney, n.d.)

The continued existence of domesticated animals at that time was most likely restricted to those which were particularly useful and relatively self-sustaining. Archeological records of early dogs are somewhat concurrent and very widespread. Many archaeological finds indicate that the “first” domesticated dog came from several origins. One fairly recent find is of two skulls that are quite similar to the gampr and other central asian shepherd breeds, and it is postulated that this may be the first link between wolves and ancient dogs (Viegas, Jennifer, May 2003). Russian scientist Mikhail Sablin reported that the two dogs found were very similar to the wolves in the area at the time, but had shorter snouts, wider palates, and measured about 27.5 inches at the shoulder, which is about average for the gampr. Found near Bryansk, which is at the westernmost tip of the Russian Federation, the dogs were in a cave at the edge of the broad plain stretching through the Ukraine, northeast through Poland and south to the Caucasus mountains, Georgia and Armenia. The skulls are reported to be about 14,000 years old (Viegas, 2003). Another possible origin of the domestication of the dog is southeast Asia. Extensive genetic mapping indicates a genetic “age” of the domestication process, 12,000-15,000 years old. A landmark study lead by Peter Savolainen and involving a team of scientists from several continents organized mitochondrial DNA clades from modern dogs into 5 main groups. Since ninety- five percent of the dogs studied were from three clades, Savolainen’s team looked to the remaining clades which included the first three but had more genetic diversity, indicating a longer age of genetic development. The greatest differences in mitochondrial DNA were apparently from southeast Asia, indicating to the analysts that this was where the original domestication process had begun (Savolainen et al, November 2002).


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 expanded. 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.



The ancient fortress Metsamor in the center of the Ararat Valley, lying as it does some 35km southwest of Yerevan, occupies a volcanic hill with its near lying area. Prompted to life by the fertile valley with its rich water resources, vegetation and hunting grounds, girdled by the meandering Metsamor River, the fortress, as before, is the site of cool bubbling springs gushing life into the entire area.

In Metsamor the regular excavation work which was begun in 1965 and is still in progress has yielded cultural layers dating to the Aenolithic, three periods of the Bronze Age (early, middle and late), the early and developed Iron Age (Pre-Urartian, Urartian and Antique) and the Middle Ages.

The excavations have shown that back in the early Bronze Age (late 4th-3rd millenia BC) Metsamor was a flourishing cultural center that had a substantial influence on the historical and cultural development of the local people. Recent studies define the monument as a large urban-type settlement which, according to preliminary data, occupied an area of 10.5 hectares and consisted of a citadel fenced in by a sturdy Cyclopean wall and a zikkurat observatory sited on a low mountain ridge. The fortress comprised a range of rotund dwellings with adjacent outbuildings.

In the middle Bronze period (late 3rd - middle of the 2nd millenia BC) urbanization processes acquired a vivid expression leading to complex architectural forms and extending the bounds of the settlement. The Late Bronze period introduced more pronounced class distinctions. Evidence of this are the objects of funeral rites and the precious materials discovered in the tombs of elite rulers.

In the early Iron Age (11th-9th cc BC) Metsamor was already a city. The citadel, observatory and dwelling blocks that occupied the lowland stretching to Lake Akna covered an area of 100 hectares. The fortress proper within the huge Cyclopean wall housed the palatial structures, the temple ensemble with its seven sanctuaries and the outbuildings. Half a kilometer to the southeast of the citadel was the traditional necropolis which was tentatively supposed to cover an area short of 100 hectares. Small interments have been excavated along with large burial mounds and underlying crushed-stone layers yielding large-sized tombs built of red tufa blocks and encircled by cromlechs.

The material artifacts dealing with funeral ceremonies testify to the high rank of the buried: numerous horses, cattle and other farm animals, pigs, dogs, and even people were sacrificed in their honor. The discovered grape and pear pits show that fruits also had a part to play in the funeral ceremonies. Among funeral objects a special place belongs to amethyst bowls, ornamented wooden caskets, inlaid-work covers, glazed ceramic perfume bottles, and ornaments of gold, silver and semi-precious stones and paste decorated with traditional mythological scenes typical of local art traditions.

Among the finds a special place belongs to an agate frog-weight in the possession of the Babylonian ruler Ulam Vurarish (end of the 16th century BC) and a seal of cornelian with Egyptian heiroglyphs owned by the Babylonian ruler Kurigalz (15th century BC). These finds along with many other items show that from ancient times Metsamor stood at the crossroads of travel routes running across the Ararat plain and linking Asia Minor with the Northern Caucasus.

In the early Iron Age Metsamor was on eof the 'regal' towns and administrative-political and cultural centers sited in the Ararat lowlands. The traces of wars, devastations and fires discovered during excavation work coincide in time with the conquest of the Ararat plain by the Van kingdom in the early 8th century BC.

Stratigraphic data and the discovered material confirm the fact that following a brief interruption life on Metsamor hill was resumed. The Van rulers erected a new Cyclopean wall and Metsamor apparently acquired the status of taxpayer. The territory of the citadel has also yielded materials pertaining to the antique and Hellenic periods. Life continued to thrive in Metsamor throughout the Middle Ages up to the 17th century. The best evidence of this are the traces of former buildings discovered on the hilltop and its eastern slope, the glazed and unglazed earthenware, and items of luxury.

A special place belongs to coins excavated from Metsamors medieval layers. Among them one should mention the coin of Levon II (1270-1289), the medieval coin of the Khulavites minted in Tabriz (16th century), and the West European 13th-14th cc. coin which confirms Metsamor's position throughout the ages as a centre at the crossroads of trade routes.  The rich and diverse material discovered in the multilayer excavations at Metsamor has naturally led to the founding of the Metsamor Museum at the site of the monument.

The Museum of History and Archaeology was opened in 1968. Today it is the repository of 22,000 items. Its ground floor holds along with the diagram of the stratigraphic picture of the excavated layers chronological materials discovered in the fortress and the burial grounds dating from the Early Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. The second floor boasts two departments. The first displays materials dealing with trades, stone artifacts, items employed in jewelry-making, textile-weaving and leather working, carpet-weaving and the production of ceramics, and the glazed bluish-green decorative tiles that had ornamented the palace and temple halls. There is also a fine collection showing the metal-working process of those times.

The other department is devoted to the temple ensemble and items of worship. Here one sees idols, phallic sculptures, makeshift hearths, pintader seals for stamping blessed bread loaves, and amulets.

The museum basement is the repository of archeological wealth: an exposition showing the funeral ceremony of the Van Kingdom, the collection of gold displayed in two small halls comprising necklaces of gold, silver and semi-precious stones, amber and paste, along with other samples of jewelry-working discovered in the burials of wealthy Metsamor residents. The exposition is regularly replenished and renewed. The museum attracts many visitors. The Metsamor monument and Museum have recieved a high appraisal of archaeologists, astrophysicists and other high-ranking specialists. There is no overstating the role of Metsamor in studying the history and culture of the people that once inhabited the Armenian plateau. Excavations of the ancient settlement are in full progress.


Karahunj: Armenia's Stonehenge
CNN International Explores the Secrets of Armenia's Stone Henge:
Around 200km from Yerevan, the capital of the Republic of Armenia, not far from the town of Sisian, there is a Prehistoric Monument consisting of hundreds of Standing Stones on a territorial area of approximately 7 hectares. Many of these stones have smooth angled holes of 4 to 5cm in diameter, the angles of the holes being directed at different points on the horizon and outer space. Professor Paris Herouni, a member of the Armenian National Academy of Science and President of the Radiophysics Research Institute in Yerevan, has undertaken a series of scientific expeditions, starting from 1994 (four days each occasion), the timing of these expeditions being at equinox and solstice days. The objective of this research was to investigate and try to solve the mysteries of this Monument. During these expeditions, the following tasks were achieved:
• 223 Stones were numbered, 84 of which were found to have holes;

• the exact topographical map of the Monument was prepared;

• the latitude, longitude and magnetic deviation of the site was measured; and

• many unique astronomic instruments consisting of one, two or three Stones were identified, and using these, many observations of the Sun, Moon and stars at their rising, setting and culmination moments, were made.

Research to date has established that the name of the Monument was carahunge (“Speaking Stones”). The age of Carahunge has been estimated to be 7500 years or older (VI millennium BC). This was accurately ascertained by taking readings of the motion of the Sun, Moon and stars, using four independent astronomical methods based on the laws of the changes of the Earth’s axis precession and incline. The period when Carahunge’s activities took place was also calculated, this being a period of more than 5500 years. It was also demonstrated that the main functions of Karahunge were:

1). to serve as the temple of AR (Sun) – The Father and Main God of the Armenians;

2). to provide protection through TIR, the old Armenian God of science;

3). to play the role of a large and sophisticated Observatory (the North and South stone Arms); and

4). to serve as a University.

(The Armenian scientists of old, during the time of Carahunge, could accurately measure latitude; knew that the Earth was ball-shaped; that its radius was equal to 6300km; had an accurate calendar, etc). These scientists also planned and were involved in the implementation of other well known ancient Monuments, such as the Great Pyramid in Egypt (3000 years “younger” than Carahunge); Stonehenge in England (3500 years “younger”); and others. Many of these Monuments retain until now, a link with the original Armenian name, e.g. Stonehenge, which has the same connotation as Carahunge, because “stone” in Armenian is “kar” and “henge” (a word which is absent in English) is the same “hunge” (voice, sound, echo in Armenian).Another example is Callanish in Scotland (Luis island in North Gebrids), because “kal” = “car”, “nish” in Armenian is “sign” and Luis is “light”. The same principle applies to the name given to the standing Stones in Carnac in Brittany (France), in Egypt, etc.Finally, it must be very interesting to our readers that many of the world’s well known ancient Monuments were built in definite and equal latitudinal distances from Karahunge. For example, the latitude difference between Karahunge and Stonehenge is about +10°; Karahunge and the Great Pyramid is about –10°; between Carahunge,Kallanish and the oldest Egyptian observatory and Temple of the Principal God RA (AR), near present Assuan, is ±16°.Armenian scientists of old knew mathematics, geometry, written language, astronomy, philosophy, etc. There were laws and order in existence, and Armenia was a Kingdom with dynasties. Carahunge confirms that Armenia was the first civilization on Earth, propagated knowledge and kindness everywhere and was the cradle of Indo-Europeans and Indo- European languages.

Discovery of 12,000 Year Old Temple Complex Could Alter Theory of Human Development
As a child, Klaus Schmidt used to grub around in caves in his native Germany in the hope of finding prehistoric paintings. Thirty years later, representing the German Archaeological Institute, he found something infinitely more important -- a temple complex almost twice as old as anything comparable on the planet. "This place is a supernova", says Schmidt, standing under a lone tree on a windswept hilltop 35 miles north of Turkey’s border with Syria. "Within a minute of first seeing it I knew I had two choices: go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here." Behind him are the first folds of the Anatolian plateau. Ahead, the Mesopotamian plain, like a dust-colored sea, stretches south hundreds of miles to Baghdad and beyond. The stone circles of Gobekli Tepe are just in front, hidden under the brow of the hill.

Compared to Stonehenge, Britain’s most famous prehistoric site, they are humble affairs. None of the circles excavated (four out of an estimated 20) are more than 30 meters across. What makes the discovery remarkable are the carvings of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions, and their age. Dated at around 9,500 BC, these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia, and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge. Never mind circular patterns or the stone-etchings, the people who erected this site did not even have pottery or cultivate wheat. They lived in villages. But they were hunters, not farmers. "Everybody used to think only complex, hierarchical civilizations could build such monumental sites, and that they only came about with the invention of agriculture", says Ian Hodder, a Stanford University Professor of Anthropology, who, since 1993, has directed digs at Catalhoyuk, Turkey’s most famous Neolithic site. "Gobekli changes everything. It’s elaborate, it’s complex and it is pre-agricultural. That fact alone makes the site one of the most important archaeological finds in a very long time."

With only a fraction of the site opened up after a decade of excavations, Gobekli Tepe’s significance to the people who built it remains unclear. Some think the site was the center of a fertility rite, with the two tall stones at the center of each circle representing a man and woman. It’s a theory the tourist board in the nearby city of Urfa has taken up with alacrity. Visit the Garden of Eden, its brochures trumpet, see Adam and Eve. Schmidt is skeptical about the fertility theory. He agrees Gobekli Tepe may well be "the last flowering of a semi-nomadic world that farming was just about to destroy," and points out that if it is in near perfect condition today, it is because those who built it buried it soon after under tons of soil, as though its wild animal-rich world had lost all meaning. But the site is devoid of the fertility symbols that have been found at other Neolithic sites, and the T-shaped columns, while clearly semi-human, are sexless. "I think here we are face to face with the earliest representation of gods", says Schmidt, patting one of the biggest stones. "They have no eyes, no mouths, no faces. But they have arms and they have hands. They are makers." "In my opinion, the people who carved them were asking themselves the biggest questions of all," Schmidt continued. "What is this universe? Why are we here?"

With no evidence of houses or graves near the stones, Schmidt believes the hill top was a site of pilgrimage for communities within a radius of roughly a hundred miles. He notes how the tallest stones all face southeast, as if scanning plains that are scattered with archeological sites in many ways no less remarkable than Gobekli Tepe. Last year, for instance, French archaeologists working at Djade al-Mughara in northern Syria uncovered the oldest mural ever found. "Two square meters of geometric shapes, in red, black and white - a bit like a Paul Klee painting," explains Eric Coqueugniot, the University of Lyon archaeologist who is leading the excavation. Coqueugniot describes Schmidt’s hypothesis that Gobekli Tepe was meeting point for feasts, rituals and sharing ideas as "tempting," given the site’s spectacular position. But he emphasizes that surveys of the region are still in their infancy. "Tomorrow, somebody might find somewhere even more dramatic." Director of a dig at Korpiktepe, on the Tigris River about 120 miles east of Urfa, Vecihi Ozkaya doubts the thousands of stone pots he has found since 2001 in hundreds of 11,500 year-old graves quite qualify as that. But his excitement fills his austere office at Dicle University in Diyarbakir. "Look at this", he says, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. "It’s a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. Southeastern Turkey, northern Syria - this region saw the wedding night of our civilization."


Gobekli Tepe: The Birth of Religion

The reenactors are busloads of tourists—usually Turkish, sometimes European. The buses (white, air-conditioned, equipped with televisions) blunder over the winding, indifferently paved road to the ridge and dock like dreadnoughts before a stone portal. Visitors flood out, fumbling with water bottles and MP3 players. Guides call out instructions and explanations. Paying no attention, the visitors straggle up the hill. When they reach the top, their mouths flop open with amazement, making a line of perfect cartoon O's.

Before them are dozens of massive stone pillars arranged into a set of rings, one mashed up against the next. Known as Göbekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh), the site is vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge, except that Göbekli Tepe was built much earlier and is made not from roughly hewn blocks but from cleanly carved limestone pillars splashed with bas-reliefs of animals—a cavalcade of gazelles, snakes, foxes, scorpions, and ferocious wild boars. The assemblage was built some 11,600 years ago, seven millennia before the Great Pyramid of Giza. It contains the oldest known temple. Indeed, Göbekli Tepe is the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world.

At the time of Göbekli Tepe's construction much of the human race lived in small nomadic bands that survived by foraging for plants and hunting wild animals. Construction of the site would have required more people coming together in one place than had likely occurred before. Amazingly, the temple's builders were able to cut, shape, and transport 16-ton stones hundreds of feet despite having no wheels or beasts of burden. The pilgrims who came to Göbekli Tepe lived in a world without writing, metal, or pottery; to those approaching the temple from below, its pillars must have loomed overhead like rigid giants, the animals on the stones shivering in the firelight—emissaries from a spiritual world that the human mind may have only begun to envision.

Archaeologists are still excavating Göbekli Tepe and debating its meaning. What they do know is that the site is the most significant in a volley of unexpected findings that have overturned earlier ideas about our species' deep past. Just 20 years ago most researchers believed they knew the time, place, and rough sequence of the Neolithic Revolution—the critical transition that resulted in the birth of agriculture, taking Homo sapiens from scattered groups of hunter-gatherers to farming villages and from there to technologically sophisticated societies with great temples and towers and kings and priests who directed the labor of their subjects and recorded their feats in written form. But in recent years multiple new discoveries, Göbekli Tepe preeminent among them, have begun forcing archaeologists to reconsider.

At first the Neolithic Revolution was viewed as a single event—a sudden flash of genius—that occurred in a single location, Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq, then spread to India, Europe, and beyond. Most archaeologists believed this sudden blossoming of civilization was driven largely by environmental changes: a gradual warming as the Ice Age ended that allowed some people to begin cultivating plants and herding animals in abundance. The new research suggests that the "revolution" was actually carried out by many hands across a huge area and over thousands of years. And it may have been driven not by the environment but by something else entirely.

After a moment of stunned quiet, tourists at the site busily snap pictures with cameras and cell phones. Eleven millennia ago nobody had digital imaging equipment, of course. Yet things have changed less than one might think. Most of the world's great religious centers, past and present, have been destinations for pilgrimages—think of the Vatican, Mecca, Jerusalem, Bodh Gaya (where Buddha was enlightened), or Cahokia (the enormous Native American complex near St. Louis). They are monuments for spiritual travelers, who often came great distances, to gawk at and be stirred by. Göbekli Tepe may be the first of all of them, the beginning of a pattern. What it suggests, at least to the archaeologists working there, is that the human sense of the sacred—and the human love of a good spectacle—may have given rise to civilization itself.

Klaus Schmidt knew almost instantly that he was going to be spending a lot of time at Göbekli Tepe. Now a researcher at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Schmidt had spent the autumn of 1994 trundling across southeastern Turkey. He had been working at a site there for a few years and was looking for another place to excavate. The biggest city in the area is Şanlıurfa (pronounced shan-LYOOR-fa). By the standards of a brash newcomer like London, Şanlıurfa is incredibly old—the place where the Prophet Abraham supposedly was born. Schmidt was in the city to find a place that would help him understand the Neolithic, a place that would make Şanlıurfa look young. North of Şanlıurfa the ground ripples into the first foothills of the mountains that run across southern Turkey, source of the famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Nine miles outside of town is a long ridge with a rounded crest that locals call Potbelly Hill—Göbekli Tepe.

In the 1960s archaeologists from the University of Chicago had surveyed the region and concluded that Göbekli Tepe was of little interest. Disturbance was evident at the top of the hill, but they attributed it to the activities of a Byzantine-era military outpost. Here and there were broken pieces of limestone they thought were gravestones. Schmidt had come across the Chicago researchers' brief description of the hilltop and decided to check it out. On the ground he saw flint chips—huge numbers of them. "Within minutes of getting there," Schmidt says, he realized that he was looking at a place where scores or even hundreds of people had worked in millennia past. The limestone slabs were not Byzantine graves but something much older. In collaboration with the DAI and the Şanlıurfa Museum, he set to work the next year.

Inches below the surface the team struck an elaborately fashioned stone. Then another, and another—a ring of standing pillars. As the months and years went by, Schmidt's team, a shifting crew of German and Turkish graduate students and 50 or more local villagers, found a second circle of stones, then a third, and then more. Geomagnetic surveys in 2003 revealed at least 20 rings piled together, higgledy-piggledy, under the earth.

The pillars were big—the tallest are 18 feet in height and weigh 16 tons. Swarming over their surfaces was a menagerie of animal bas-reliefs, each in a different style, some roughly rendered, a few as refined and symbolic as Byzantine art. Other parts of the hill were littered with the greatest store of ancient flint tools Schmidt had ever seen—a Neolithic warehouse of knives, choppers, and projectile points. Even though the stone had to be lugged from neighboring valleys, Schmidt says, "there were more flints in one little area here, a square meter or two, than many archaeologists find in entire sites."

The circles follow a common design. All are made from limestone pillars shaped like giant spikes or capital T's. Bladelike, the pillars are easily five times as wide as they are deep. They stand an arm span or more apart, interconnected by low stone walls. In the middle of each ring are two taller pillars, their thin ends mounted in shallow grooves cut into the floor. I asked German architect and civil engineer Eduard Knoll, who works with Schmidt to preserve the site, how well designed the mounting system was for the central pillars. "Not," he said, shaking his head. "They hadn't yet mastered engineering." Knoll speculated that the pillars may have been propped up, perhaps by wooden posts.

To Schmidt, the T-shaped pillars are stylized human beings, an idea bolstered by the carved arms that angle from the "shoulders" of some pillars, hands reaching toward their loincloth-draped bellies. The stones face the center of the circle—as at "a meeting or dance," Schmidt says—a representation, perhaps, of a religious ritual. As for the prancing, leaping animals on the figures, he noted that they are mostly deadly creatures: stinging scorpions, charging boars, ferocious lions. The figures represented by the pillars may be guarded by them, or appeasing them, or incorporating them as totems.

Puzzle piled upon puzzle as the excavation continued. For reasons yet unknown, the rings at Göbekli Tepe seem to have regularly lost their power, or at least their charm. Every few decades people buried the pillars and put up new stones—a second, smaller ring, inside the first. Sometimes, later, they installed a third. Then the whole assemblage would be filled in with debris, and an entirely new circle created nearby. The site may have been built, filled in, and built again for centuries.

Bewilderingly, the people at Göbekli Tepe got steadily worse at temple building. The earliest rings are the biggest and most sophisticated, technically and artistically. As time went by, the pillars became smaller, simpler, and were mounted with less and less care. Finally the effort seems to have petered out altogether by 8200 B.C. Göbekli Tepe was all fall and no rise.


Armenia’s Cradle of Civilization

Armenia’s ‘Fertile Crescent’ was located in two places: at the headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris, and along the Arax River, its tributaries a series of liquid ribs along a central Ararat spine. Within the Ararat Valley lies a smaller crescent of land, still bearing the marks of vast marshlands and forests that once covered the entire valley floor. As you wander through this area, you can spot sudden eruptions of the terrain, hills that seem to appear from nowhere. They do not ‘fit’ the contour of the land. These are the remains of the first urban civilization to leave its imprint on the ancient Armenian world: they are the sentinels of the Metsamor Kingdom, the ‘Cradle of Armenian Civilization’.

The oldest settlement found in Armenia is a 90,000 BC Stone Age settlement in suburban Yerevan. From then through the Paleolithic period, proof of human settlement is scattered between cave dwellings and stone inscriptions on the Geghama Lehr. Suddenly, at the end of the Mesolithic period, a complex web of cities and fortified settlements appeared throughout the Ararat valley, only handfuls of which have been excavated. But enough have been uncovered to show a startlingly developed culture that rivaled the Mesopotamian urban cities, and in the area of astronomy, led the way.

Between 7000 and 4000 BC, this series of cities appeared at evenly placed spots in this crescent, all of them built around the metal industry. The inhabitants were the first known to forge copper and bronze; and are the first recorded to successfully smelt iron. The metal ore mined in this area was among of the purest in the world, and the natives shaped their culture around it. They believed the technique for forging metal was given to them from the heavens, and their temples combined metal idols with sophisticated stone observatories that charted the night sky. The first recorded astronomers, they were the earliest to create a calendar that divided the year into 12 segments of time, among the first to devise the compass, and to envision the shape of the world as round.

The successful smelting of bronze (along with gold, silver and magnesium) and the mining of precious gems transformed an agrarian civilization into to an urban one. The first signs of fortified cities are traced to this era, beginning with the excavation at Metsamor (a thriving trade culture by 5,000 BC, and with many more strata to be uncovered, conjectured to be as old as 10,000 BC in its first incarnation). Other 5th millennium cities include Dari Blur (Armavir), Aratashen Blur, AdaBlur and Teghut. In the 4th millennium BC the cyclopic walls of Lechashen had been erected by Lake Sevan, while in the Ararat valley cities at Shengavit, Aigevan and Aigeshat were established.

By 3000 BC a large kingdom was established around Metsamor with additional cities at MokhraBlur Jerahovit, Lejapi Blur, Kosh and Voski Blur (Voski means “golden” in Armenian). Shengavit is distinct among the cities in Armenia for its use of round shaped dwellings made from river stones and mud brick. The artifacts found at Shengavit (ca. 5000-3000 BC) include black-varnished, red and gray pottery, in geometric patterns similar to those used in the Minoan culture. The culture had distinctive religious beliefs revolving around the sun and planets, reflected in burial artifacts found at the sites.

Ancestral Armenians developed a trading culture at a very early time. To do that, they needed to understand and create a system of navigation. Longitude, latitude, distance and direction had to be calculated for any trip farther than across a few mountains. Artifacts uncovered at Metsamor come from as far-flung cultures as those in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Others include navigational tools, inscribed in stone and accurately mapping the night sky. In Sissian, an astral observatory built from stone shows an incredibly sophisticated knowledge of the universe way before the Babylonians—which used to be thought the first astronomers—had built their first city.

Rapid development and unification through trading between the tribes in the Armenian plateau created a rich and prosperous culture that was to last for more than 5000 years. The metal based cultures that sprung up on the Armenian plateau were neighbors with Sumeria, Elam, and the first empire Akkad. They had mapped the constellations before the great pyramids were built, while Greece wasn’t even a thought, and the first dynasty in China was about 2000 years away.

The Rise of Astronomy in Armenia

By the Copper-Bronze Age (5000 - 2000 BC), pictograms at Metsamor and the Geghama Lehr record ever more sophisticated celestial iconography, including the signs of the zodiac. Two observatories found in Armenia show a developed awareness of astronomy at least by 2800 BC, and possibly as early as the 5th millennium BC. Using astronomy, Ancestral Armenians developed a calendar based on 365 days, one of the first compasses, and were able to envision the shape of the world as round. The appearance of the signs of the zodiac in Armenia occurred before the Hittite and Babylonian kingdoms, which were heretofore credited with developing astronomy. Conclusive dating is still being fought over, but two astral observatories in Armenia vie for the position of birthplace of the zodiac constellations.

At Metsamor (ca. 5000 BC), there is a series of stone platforms which were reported in 1967 to be part of an astronomical instrument dating to 2800 BC, about the time historians think the naming of the zodiac was completed. The observatory at Metsamor is oriented towards the star Sirius, the brightest in the northern sky. The Metsamorians are figured to have calculated the beginning of the New Year with the appearance of Sirius in the rays of the dawning sun at the spring solstice. Numerous carvings show the locations of stars in the night sky, and one is a compass pointed due East. Other inscriptions include the signs for Aries, Leo, Capricorn and Taurus.


A Second Observatory in southern Armenia lies near the town of Sissian. Initial studies suggested a 3rd millennium BC date for the site and noted a number of sighting holes bored into large stones placed at the site. The holes point to the locations where solar and lunar phases could be tracked during they year, as well as stars and constellations. Later investigations led to a conjectured dating of the oldest stone telescope at the site to around 4200 BC, when the star Capella was ascendant in the region. If true, this would make it the oldest astral observatory in the world. Located close to the village of Karahundj, which in Armenian is a direct translation of the English word Stonehenge, the stones are becoming the focus of increasing interest, suggesting a link between Ancestral Armenian exploration of the heavens with the naming of the zodiac and the numerous henges in Europe.

England's Stonehenge is dated ca. 2200-1800 BC. Both observatories in Armenia predate the English henge, Karahundj perhaps predating them as much as 2000 years. For perspective, the people living in the Metsamor Kingdom were neighbors with the oldest civilization Sumeria, the first important trade city Elam, and the first empire Akkad. They inhabited the Armenian Plateau before the great pyramids, Greece wasn’t even a thought, and the first dynasty in China was about 2000 years away. At the same time Metsamor was flourishing, the Minoans were beginning to create their culture on Crete, and the Old Kingdom in Egypt had just brought together the lower and upper kingdoms into one unified country.

Metal and Iron

Of course both are metal, but speaking poetically, we are thinking of the difference between soft metals and the hard stuff. Both liquids, the difference is in the way they freeze. Sometime between 3000 and 2000 BC, a new metal was forged for the first time, and its use would change everything about making weapons and building empires. We’re talking iron here, the thing that we buy Rustoleum to protect, but which the ancients worshipped and coveted. Iron is a plentiful resource; most areas of the world can extract it. Pure strains occur in abundance in the Armenian Plateau, just as pure strains of gold, copper, tin, mercury, manganese and silver were extracted by the Metsamor culture and developed into a large industry. Since metal foundries forging copper, brass and bronze go back to 5000 BC in Armenia; they would be pretty good places for research and development.

The difference between bronze and iron is like the difference between a Bic lighter and a blowtorch. With iron shields, helmets and weapons, soldiers lasted a lot longer in battle against arrows and spears. Those who had iron weapons pretty much made bronze and copper useless except as decorator items. And iron was a protected monopoly. At first restricted to large vessels and cooking utensils, the military applications soon became apparent, then coveted, the metal valued more than precious gems or gold. If not by bribery, they learned the secret through agents sent to ferret the secret out. If not by spying, then by war. When was iron first smelted? No one can say for sure, but the smelting of iron--like bronze--was engineered by the people living in this part of the world, the technique slowly migrating outwards to surrounding territories. Now, while the Hittites (which came on the scene along with the Babylonians and Assyrians about 1800 BC) are credited with being among the first, and it wasn’t until 1350 BC that the Egyptians were able to process it themselves, excavations in Armenia show the first smelting of iron as early as 3000 BC.

Metsamor reached its zenith in the Mid Bronze Age, when it encompassed more than 200 hectares (about 500 acres). At the center of trade between Asia and the budding cultures in the West, the mineral mines and metal forges in the Metsamor kingdom were the focus of constant warfare with neighboring city-states, and by the end of the 3rd millennium, with the growing empires in Mesopotamia. The Metsamor culture thrived through the Bronze and early Iron Age, when it was integrated into the Urartu Empire (ca. 7th c. BC). The city of Metsamor continued under the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans until the 18th century, when it was abandoned. 6700 years of continuous inhabitation, and counting—not a bad record.

The Second Wave

Close to the Mesopotamian cultures, ancestral Armenian tribes developed a series of city-states by the 3rd millennium BC, with federations formed and reformed between them for most of the Bronze Age period. The territory was described as a rich land between the rivers, with their head at the “mountains of the gods” (described as “Arartu”). This description comes from the oldest story known, Gilgamesh (ca. 5th millennium BC). To earn that kind of praise, a land would have to be very rich indeed. 2000-1800 BC cuneiform note migrating peoples from the outside who lived with the original tribes. These peoples would have been the migrating Indo-Europeans (including the Hittites), for cuneiform used such expressions as “we came, we conquered and we captured” as their calling cards.

The combination of migrating Indo-Europeans with native cultures was bound to create more than a little cross-fertilization of people and ideas, and within the next 1000 years several regional kingdoms using an Indo-European language emerged. By the 2nd millennium, trading between the tribes on the Armenian plateau led to a loose federation led by the Nairi, which were based around Southern Lake Van. The Nairi were recorded as early as 2000 BC on Assyrian cuneiform as the people from the “land between the rivers,” holding about 60 tribes and 100 cities. The Nairi were one tribe among many, but their name became synonymous with that for the entire region. From what we know of the tribes, their customs and traditions were similar to others found in Mesopotamia, and they mixed Semitic or Ugaritic origins with their earlier Indo-European genetic and cultural roots. Among the tribes in Nairi was one called Urartu.

Also around 2000 BC, a second wave of Indo-European migration began, this time coming full circle back to the Armenian plateau. Thousands of years of development created distinct dialects and physical attributes, which further influenced the “mother tribes” in Armenia. Among them were the Hittites, which entered the region of Asia Minor around 2000 BC. There is a clay tablet written by the Hittites about 2000 BC (discovered in an excavation of the Hittite capital Hatusas--or Boghazkeui-- in N. Central Turkey), which first mentions a tribe of people called Haius, and said they were from the country of Haiassa-Aza. This was a predominant tribe in the region, vassals of the Hittite kingdom, and said to be a distinct Indo-European tribe that introduced its language and customs to neighboring tribes. The Haius were often in rebellion with the Hittites, and they were influential in spreading their culture eastwards, to the peoples on the Armenian plateau.

In addition, the architectural and cultural influences of the Hittites were filtered into the region through Haiassa-Aza. Another movement of Indo-Europeans is recorded in the 12th c BC. It is about Thraco-Phrygian tribes (called “foreign settlers”) who were pushed out of Thrace and Phrygia by “the people of the Sea” (i.e., early Greeks, Minoans or Mycanaeans) around 1200 BC (there’s Troy again!), and who moved through the Euphrates into the Armenian Plateau. These tribes lived with Armenian Ancestors and other tribes and formed a hybrid culture which is the beginning of an extant Armenian identity, including an Indo-European language and Aryan features (tall with blonde-hair and blue-eyes) among the people. First inhabiting the land immediately East of the Trojan kingdom in Asia Minor, the Thraco-Phrygians settled on the Western edges of the Armenian plateau and intermingled with the Haiassa-Aza, further developing Indo-European language, culture and physical features.

Other rival tribes (or kingdoms, as they were called) in the area included the Mitanni, southwest of Lake Van, the Manah (around Lake Urmia) and the Diaukhi (around present day Erzurum). The Mitannians and Hurrians were dominant cultures in the Armenian Plateau until the mid 2nd millennium BC. Kurgans (burial mounds) of the 17th and 16th centuries BC have been excavated at Vanadzor showing chased gold and silver cups and bronze weapons. Kurgans in the following period excavated at Lechashen, and at a cemetery at the village of Artik on the slopes of Mt. Aragats uncovered Mitannian cylinder seals dating from the 15th to early 14th centuries BC—the final phase of the Mitannian kingdom. After the destruction of Mitanni by the Hittites at the turn of the 15th-14th cc. BC, the tribes on the Armenian plateau maintained their ties with the Hittites, which had begun to expand into Northern Syria.

By the time the Hittite kingdom fell around 1200 BC, the ancestral Armenian tribes had forged powerful alliances and were considered a challenge to the northward expansion of the Assyrians, who became the primary power after the fall of Mitanni. The Diaukhi were, at the time of the rise of Urartu, the most powerful political formation of the Nairi. By the time of Urartu’s rise, the Nairi tribes had retreated Southwest of Lake Van to a country called Khubushkia. The area of present day Armenia was held by the kings of Etwikhi (Etwini). Kept up with all this? If you have, then you begin to understand why it has been so hard to trace Armenia’s lineage in the region, and how--with all these tribes inhabiting the same land, more than a little cross-pollination occurred, creating a race of tribes which were all culturally related, sharing language and ethnic roots among them.

And frankly, even as the Egyptians and Assyrians were pollinating like bees, being made up of several ethnic groups themselves. Their cousins, the tribes in Armenia were still rivals for land and mineral resources, and a few rose to prominence. One of these tribes succeeded in uniting or conquering surrounding city-states into a single empire, which rivaled even the Assyrians and Hittites for power. They were called the Nairi and Urartians by the Assyrians. Let’s put this into perspective and mark ancetral continuously inhabiting the Armenian Plateau before and throughout the rise and fall of the Old and Middle Kingdoms in Egypt, the entire history of Minoan and Mycanaean cultures (ca 2200-1400 BC) and the Indus civilization in present day Pakistan (ca. 2500-1500 BC), the first semi-mythical Hsia (ca 2000-1523 BC) and most of the Shang (1766-1027 BC) Dynasties in China. Greece and Rome are by now a gleam in the eyes of historian researchers.


7000 Year Old DNA Found in Artsakh Cave Matches Genes of Modern Armenians

Archaeological work at Azokh cave (Source: People of Ar)

Scholars from Britain, US, Denmark and Armenia led by Professor Levon Yepiskoposyan have been examining prehistoric caves near the village of Azokh in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and found unique artifacts from different periods, among them a tooth from a human who lived 7000 years ago. Due to the cave’s climate DNA was preserved inside the tooth and was send to Copenhagen University’s genetics department (in Denmark) for examination. The results of this inquiry have revealed that the genetic makeup of the tooth belonging to an individual 7000 years ago perfectly matches with the genetic makeup of modern Armenians. “This is the conclusion we’ve reached after numerous excavations carried out on the territory of Karabakh, where we examined more than a dozen caves, among them the cave of Azokh and Alexan Uzes,” Yepiskoposyan said.
The caves near the village of Azokh are unique sites that have preserved organic traces from various periods of our history. Since the excavations at Azokh started in 2002, the team led by Dr. Tania King (Blanford Museum, UK) has uncovered hundreds, if not thousands, of bones of the giant and now extinct cave bear (Ursus speleaus). In addition to countless remains of mammals archaeologists have now found evidence for three different species of hominin – Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens. The fossil records are exceptionally rich and demonstrate that paleontological data alone from Alexan Uze cave could define the cave as a regionally important scientific discovery. You can read more about the Azokh cave complex in the book titled: Azokh Cave and the Transcaucasian Corridor (2016)

The human tooth was discovered in the Alexan Uzes cave which preserved human DNA. Referring to this cave Yepiskoposyan added that “Here we found a tooth of a human who lived on the territory of Karabakh, about seven thousand years ago. DNA can be preserved in teeth for very long periods of time, as we know.” “As a result, it was found that the genes of our distant ancestors correspond with those of modern Armenians,” he continued.


Blue-Eyed Immigrants Transformed Ancient Israel 6,500 Years Ago

Thousands of years ago in what is now northern Israel, waves of migrating people from the north and east — present-day Iran and Turkey — arrived in the region. And this influx of newcomers had a profound effect, transforming the emerging culture. What's more, these immigrants not only brought new cultural practices; they also introduced new genes — such as the mutation that produces blue eyes — that were previously unknown in that geographic area, according to a new study. Archaeologists recently discovered this historic population shift by analyzing DNA from skeletons preserved in an Israeli cave. The site, in the north of the tiny country, contains dozens of burials and more than 600 bodies dating to approximately 6,500 years ago, the scientists reported.

DNA analysis showed that skeletons preserved in the cave were genetically distinct from people who historically lived in that region. And some of the genetic differences matched those of people who lived in neighboring Anatolia and the Zagros Mountains, which are now part of Turkey and Iran, the study found. Ancient Israel (then called Galilee) belonged to a region known as the southern Levant, part of a larger area, the Levant, which encompasses today's eastern Mediterranean countries. The southern Levant experienced a significant cultural shift during the Late Chalcolithic period, around 4500 B.C.E. to 3800 B.C.E, with denser settlements, more rituals performed in public and a growing use of ossuaries in funerary preparations, the researchers reported.

Though some experts had previously proposed that cultural transformation was driven by people who were native to the southern Levant, the authors of the new study suspected that waves of human migration explained the changes. To find answers, the scientists turned to a burial site in Israel's Peqi’in Cave, in what would have been Upper Galilee 6,500 years ago.
Unraveling an ancestry puzzle

Peqi'in is a natural cave, measuring around 56 feet (17 meters) long and about 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 m) wide. Inside the cave are decorated jars and burial offerings — along with hundreds of skeletons — suggesting that the location served as a type of mortuary for Chalcolithic people who lived nearby. However, not all of the cave's contents appeared to have local origins, study co-author Dina Shalem, an archaeologist with the Institute for Galilean Archaeology at Kinneret College in Israel, said in a statement.

"Some of the findings in the cave are typical to the region, but others suggest cultural exchange with remote regions," Shalem said. The artistic styles of these artifacts bear closer resemblance to styles common to more-northern regions of the Near East, lead study author Eadaoin Harney, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, told Live Science in an email. The scientists sampled DNA from bone powder from 48 skeletal remains and were able to reconstruct genomes for 22 individuals found in the cave. That makes this one of the largest genetic studies of ancient DNA in the Near East, the researchers reported.
Blue eyes and fair skin

The scientists found that these individuals shared genetic features with people from the north, and those similar genes were absent in farmers who lived in the southern Levant earlier. For example, the allele (one of two or more alternative forms of a gene) that is responsible for blue eyes was associated with 49 percent of the sampled remains, suggesting that blue eyes had become common in people living in Upper Galilee. Another allele hinted that fair skin may have been widespread in the local population as well, the study authors wrote. "Both eye and skin color are traits that are controlled by complex interactions between multiple alleles, many — but not all — of which have been identified," Harney explained.

"The two alleles that we highlight in our study are known to be strongly associated with light eye and skin color, respectively, and are often used to make predictions about the appearance of various human populations in ancient DNA studies," she said. However, it is important to note that multiple other alleles can influence the color of eyes and skin in individuals, Harney added, so "scientists cannot perfectly predict pigmentation in an individual." The scientists also discovered that genetic diversity increased within groups over time, while genetic differences between groups decreased; this is a pattern that typically emerges in populations after a period of human migration, according to the researchers.
A dynamic past

By presenting DNA from the distant past, these findings offer exciting new insights into the dynamic ancient world and the diverse human populations that inhabited it, said Daniel Master, a professor of archaeology at Wheaton College in Illinois. "One of the key questions of the Chalcolithic has always been to what extent the groups in Galilee were connected to the groups in the Be'ersheva Valley or the Jordan Valley or the Golan Heights," Master, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email. "The publication of the artifacts from Peqi'in has shown many cultural links between these regions, but it will be interesting to see, in the future, whether those links are genetic as well," Master said. The researchers' results also resolve a long-standing debate about the pivotal factor that changed the trajectory of the Chalcolithic peoples' unique culture, Shalem said in the statement.  "We now know that the answer is migration," she said.


Ancient Egyptians were closer to Armenians than to Africans; a new genetics study reveals

Egyptian mummy portraits, 1st c. B.C.E. - 1st c. C.E.

A recent study sheds light on the age old question “who were the ancient Egyptians?”

A team of international scientists from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany analyzed the DNA of 93 Egyptian mummies dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 CE. The evidence from their study reveals a surprising close relation to ancient people of the Near East such as Armenians.
Our analyses reveal that ancient Egyptians shared more ancestry with Near Easterners than present-day Egyptians, who received additional sub-Saharan admixture in more recent times. We find that ancient Egyptians are most closely related to Neolithic and Bronze Age samples in the Levant, as well as to Neolithic Anatolian and European populations.
Furthermore, the researchers found that over the 1,300-year period that the mummies represented, the population genetics of the ancient Egypt stayed surprising stable, despite foreign invasions.

The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300-year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained, genetically, relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule.
The sub-Saharan African genetic influx seems to have only started after the Roman period, which coincides with the advent of monotheism in particularly Islam. Hence why modern Egyptians are more genetically shifted towards African people than the ancient Egyptians.

We found the ancient Egyptian samples falling distinct from modern Egyptians, and closer towards Near Eastern and European samples. In contrast, modern Egyptians are shifted towards sub-Saharan African populations.
So it turns out that modern Egyptians share more genetic ancestry with Sub-Saharan Africans than ancient Egyptians did, while the ancient Egyptians show a closer genetic affinity with ancient people from the Near East and the Levant like Armenians.

Tutankhamun’s paternal lineage

Something similar was revealed a few years ago when a controversy erupted surrounding Tutankhamun’s paternal lineage. Egyptian scholars have tested the autosomal and Y-DNA markers of three Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty : Amenhotep III, his son Akhenaten and grandson Tutankhamun. The aim was to determine the cause of death of Tutankhamun, who died at age 19. They however did not release the genetic data to the public themselves. The Discovery Chanel was making a documentary about this research and perhaps by mistake has recorded and aired some of the results from scientists computers. Keen observers of the genetics company iGENEA quickly pointed out that the video from Discovery Channel shows the Y-STR results, which appear to be R1b. R1b and its variants is rare among modern Egyptians and the Middle East, it is however quite common in Europe and among the Armenians. This revelation however has not been taken seriously by academia, since the results were never officially published by Egyptian scholars. Looking back however, with the recent study in mind, it is highly possible that the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs had European or Armenian ancestry. 

Ancient Europeans and modern Armenians

The Armenian Highlands and Anatolia form a bridge connecting Europe, the Near East and the Caucasus. Anatolia’s location and history have placed it at the centre of several modern human expansions in Eurasia: it has been inhabited continuously since at least the early Upper Palaeolithic, and has the oldest known monumental complex built by huntergatherers in the 10th millennium BCE (Armenian Portasar commonly known as Göbekli Tepe). It is believed to have been the origin and/or route for migrating Near Eastern farmers towards Europe during the Neolithic, and has also played a major role in the dispersal of the Indo-European languages. A genetics study by Haber et. al (2015) published not so long ago in the Nature’s European Journal of Human Genetics has demonstrated this connection.

We show that Armenians have higher genetic affinity to Neolithic Europeans than other present-day Near Easterners, and that 29% of the Armenian ancestry may originate from an ancestral population best represented by Neolithic Europeans.
Hence today’s Armenians show genetic affinity to both the ancient Europeans and Egyptians. For more details read the following article: Armenians Have A High Genetic Affinity To Ancient Europeans

The Hyksos

One explanation for the ancient Egyptian genetic affinity to Near East and Europe could be the Hyksos invasion. The Hyksos (Egyptian heqa khaseshet, meaning: “ruler(s) of the foreign countries”) were a people of unknown origin who settled in the eastern Nile Delta, some time before 1650 BC and ruled over Egypt well into the Hellenistic era. The Hyksos were often described as bowmen and cavalrymen wearing the cloaks of many colors. They were excellent archers and horse riders, who brought chariot warfare to Egypt. Various theories have been postulated regarding their origin among them the theory of their Hurrian and Indo-European descent. Their way of life certainly resembles that of the Armeno-Aryan peoples of the time. The Hyksos for example practiced horse burials, and their chief deity was a storm God who later became associated with the Egyptian storm and desert god Set. Ancient Armenians worshiped the storm God Teshub/Teisheba. Teshub was later also identified with Aramazd and Hayk.

Furthermore, the Hyksos brought several technical innovations to Egypt, as well as cultural infusions such as new musical instruments and foreign loanwords. The changes introduced include new techniques of bronze working and pottery, new breeds of animals, and new crops. In warfare, they introduced the horse and chariot, the composite bow, improved battle axes, and advanced fortification techniques. All of this strongly suggests Indo-European origin. Robert Drews (1994) in this book “The Coming of the Greeks: Indo-European Conquests in the Aegean and the Near East” describes the Hyksos as follows:

“Where the hyksos chiefs who took over Egypt ca. 1650 B.C. may have gotten their chariots and charioteers is not known, but eastern Anatolia is not an unlikely source. The most direct evidence for the importance of Armenia in the development and manufacture of military chariots in the Late Bronze Age comes from Egyptian tombs. Since Egypt lacked the necessary woods, one assumes that the pharaohs regularly purchased from abroad either finished chariots or-after Egyptian woodworkers had perfected their skills-the requisite chariot wood. A tomb inscription from the reign of Amenhotep II declares that the wood for His Majesty’s chariot was brought from “the country of Naharin” (Mitanni). Since Mitanni itself was not wooded, we may suppose that the material come from the mountains to the north of Mitanni. In the case of the fifteenth century chariot now in Florance’s Museo Archeologico, studies of the wood done more than fifty years ago concluded that the chariot was made in Armenia, or quite precisely in the mountainous area bounded on the east by the Caspian, and on the south and west by a diagonal line extending from the southern shores of the Caspian to the Black Sea coast in the vicinity of Trebizond. If Egypt was to some extent dependent upon eastern Anatolia for its chariotry during the Eighteenth Dynasty, there are grounds for suspecting that when the chariot warfare first came to Egypt, it came from Armenia.”
That there was plenty of contact between ancient Egypt and ancient Armenia is apparent from Egyptian artifacts that were found in ancient Armenian burials. Whether the Hyksos explain the ancient Egyptian affinity to Armenians and other ancient people of Levant, Anatolia and Europe, or that perhaps this genetic influx extends to far older times remains a mystery. It is not unthinkable that the entire ancient Egyptian civilization radiated from the Armenian plateau after the invention and the spread of agriculture that occurred on the Armenian Highlands and its adjacent territories. The fact that within 1,300-year timespan that these DNA samples represent, there is great genetic continuity among the ancient Egyptians, suggests that it might extend to much older periods even predating the Hyksos invasion. Unless scholars find older Egyptian DNA to analyse and compare, this will remain a subject of discussion.

Another caution regarding the generalization of these findings should be considered. All of the 93 mummies that have been investigated were found in the same place at Abusir el-Meleq. It is possible that they represent only the upper class of ancient Egyptian life or a regional subgroup. However, because of the fairly large time period (1300 years) these mummies belonged to, it is also feasible to assume that they indeed represent a large portion of the genetics of ancient Egypt, with its roots possibly in Armenian Highlands.


Armenians Have A High Genetic Affinity To Ancient Europeans


A new study into Armenian genetics reveals that present day Armenians are a mixture of local Bronze Age people who have retained homogeneity for over three thousand years, and show great affinity to Neolithic Europeans. Armenians are an ethno-linguistic-religious group distinct from their surrounding neighbors. They have their own church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which was founded in the 1st century CE, and became in 301 CE the first branch of Christianity to become a state religion. They have also their own alphabet and language which is classified as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family.

The historical homeland of the Armenians sits north of the Fertile Crescent, a region of substantial importance to modern human evolution. Genetic and archaeological data suggest farmers expanding from this region during the Neolithic populated Europe and interacted/admixed with pre-existing huntergatherer populations. Furthermore, Armenia’s location may have been important for the spread of Indo-European languages, since it is believed to encompass or be close to the Proto-Indo-European homeland (Anatolia or Pontic Steppe) from which the Indo-Europeans and their culture spread to Western Europe, Central Asia and India.

thus describes the medieval Armenian chronicler Movses Khorenatsi (ca. 410–490s AD) the legendary founding of the Armenian nation, dating it to 2,492 BCE. While the legend remains unattested the dating of the foundation of the Armenian nation seems to have gained credibility from a recent genetic study.  According to a new study into Armenian genetics, published on the bioRxiv preprint service for biology, the Armenian people derive their ancestry from a number of local Bronze age tribes. A team of international scholars (from UK, Spain, Italy and Lebanon) led by Marc Haber have analysed Armenian genes and compared them to 78 other worldwide populations including some ancient DNA samples. They conclude that:
The Armenians show signatures of an origin from mixture of diverse populations occurring 3,000 to 2,000 BCE. This period spans the Bronze Age, characterized by extensive use of metals in farming tools, chariots and weapons, accompanied by development of the earliest writing systems and the establishment of trade routes and commerce.
However, unlike Armenian neighbors the Armenians show no significant traces of further admixture after 1,200 BCE, some three and a half thousand years ago. It appears that Armenians have stopped mixing around that time and today carry little to no mixture of foreign populations, retaining their ethnic and cultural homogeneity since the end of the Bronze Age. Haber et. al describe:
Our tests suggest that Armenians had no significant mixture with other populations in their recent history and have thus been genetically isolated since the end of the Bronze Age, 3,000 years ago.
The authors explain the cessation of Armenian admixture as resulting from a collapse of Bronze Age civilizations coupled with a development of Armenian cultural distinctiveness.
Admixture signals decrease to insignificant levels after 1,200 BCE, a time when Bronze Age civilizations in the eastern Mediterranean world suddenly collapsed, with major cities being destroyed or abandoned and most trade routes disrupted. This appears to have caused Armenians’ isolation from their surroundings, subsequently sustained by the cultural/linguistic/religious distinctiveness that persists until today.      Armenians’ adoption of a distinctive culture early in their history resulted in their genetic isolation from their surroundings. Their genetic resemblance today to other genetic isolates in the Near East, but not to most other Near Easterners, suggests that recent admixture has changed the genetic landscape in most populations in the region.
This genetic isolation makes Armenians quite unique in the region as the study goes on to describe:
We compared patterns of admixture in Armenians to other regional populations and detected signals of recent admixture in most other populations. For example, we find 7.9% (±0.4) East Asian ancestry in Turks from admixture occurring 800 (±170) years ago coinciding with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia from their homelands near the Aral Sea. We also detect sub-Saharan African gene flow 850 (±85) years ago in Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians, consistent with previous reports on recent gene flow from Africans to Levantine populations after the Arab expansions.
The genetic landscape in most of the Middle East appears to have been continuously changing. Modern Armenians much more so than the Turks, therefore appear to be a prime representatives of ancient Anatolian inhabitants:
The position of the Armenians within the global genetic diversity is unique and appears to mirror the geographical location of Anatolia. Previous genetic studies have generally used Turks as representatives of ancient Anatolians. Our results show that Turks are genetically shifted towards Central Asians, a pattern consistent with a history of mixture with populations from this region.
These results seem to corroborate with previous studies (Hellenthal et. al., 2014) which also didn’t find admixture with Armenians for the past 3 to 4 thousand years.

Affinity to Ancient Europeans

The Armenian Highlands and Anatolia form a bridge connecting Europe, the Near East and the Caucasus. Anatolia’s location and history have placed it at the centre of several modern human expansions in Eurasia: it has been inhabited continuously since at least the early Upper Palaeolithic, and has the oldest known monumental complex built by huntergatherers in the 10th millennium BCE (Armenian Portasar commonly known as Göbekli Tepe). It is believed to have been the origin and/or route for migrating Near Eastern farmers towards Europe during the Neolithic, and has also played a major role in the dispersal of the Indo-European languages. Armenia’s location at the northern tip of the Near East suggests a plausible relationship to the expanding Neolithic farmers. In order to compare Armenians with ancient Europeans the authors have analysed ancient DNA samples from Europe including that of Ötzi the Iceman (a 5,300-year-old individual discovered on the Italian part of the Ötztal Alps). The study concludes:

We show that Armenians have higher genetic affinity to Neolithic Europeans than other present-day Near Easterners, and that 29% of the Armenian ancestry may originate from an ancestral population best represented by Neolithic Europeans. We find in Armenians and other genetic isolates in the Near East high shared ancestry with ancient European farmers with ancestry proportions similar to presentday Europeans but not to present-day Near Easterners… Our tests show that most of the Near East genetic isolates ancestry shared with Europeans can be attributed to expansion after the Neolithic period.
These results suggest that the Armenians (the genetic isolates in the Near East) probably retain features of an ancient genetic landscape in the Near East that had more affinity to Europe than most of the present day Near Eastern populations do.  The long period of genetic isolation makes Armenians in particular unique to the region. The study of the Armenian DNA is therefore very interesting to scholars who study European DNA, because to them Armenians are like an image of what the DNA groups were before they started spreading out.


Why Armenians are a “Living Fossil” to Geneticists

A number of genetic studies have recently investigated Armenian DNA from different perspectives revealing some fascinating and consistent results. For example in 2014 Hellenthal et. al. in a paper published in Science have investigated worldwide human admixture history over the past 4000 years and created a Genetic Atlas of human admixture. Oddly enough they could not identify the Armenian admixture for the past 4000 years and placed Armenians into the “no admixture, uncertain” category (read more about it HERE).

Another recent study by Haber et. al. (2015) has shed more light in this regard by specifically focusing on Armenian genetics. They found that Armenians show a signatures of an origin from mixture of diverse populations occurring 3,000 to 2,000 BCE which incidentally coincides with the legendary founding of Armenia by the patriarch Hayk in 2492 BCE. This revelation was even picked up by the New York Times. Haber et. al. also found that Armenian admixture after the late bronze age seized, showing no significant traces of further admixture for some three and a half thousand years. It appears that Armenians have stopped mixing from that time on showing genetic isolation to a great extent. The authors describe: “Our tests suggest that Armenians had no significant mixture with other populations in their recent history and have thus been genetically isolated since the end of the Bronze Age.” This makes Armenian genetics very unique in the region marked by great diversity and admixture. As such Armenians above all seem to better represent the ancient populations of the Near East. Haber et. al. have shown that the genetic landscape in most of the Middle East appears to have been continuously changing and that:

“the position of the Armenians within the global genetic diversity is unique and appears to mirror the geographical location of Anatolia… Armenians’ adoption of a distinctive culture early in their history resulted in their genetic isolation from their surroundings. Their genetic resemblance today to other genetic isolates in the Near East, but not to most other Near Easterners, suggests that recent admixture has changed the genetic landscape in most populations in the region.”
Moreover they found that modern Armenians show a great genetic affinity to ancient Europeans, meaning that Armenians of today because of their isolation have retained the genetic makeup of the ancient people of the Near East who have spread into Europe during various migration waves (read more about it HERE).

5000 Year Old Armenian Ancestry

As the genetic studies progress so does our understanding of Armenian ancestry increases. One might wonder, wouldn’t it be interesting if we dug out ancient bones from the Armenian Highlands and compared it to see how and if they are related to modern Armenians? Well, that is exactly what a team of archaeologists and geneticists set out to investigate along with a bunch of other questions related to ancient DNA.

DNA samples from ancient burial sights found all over the Republic of Armenia have been collected and send off to be tested by the University of Copenhagen. The data has now been collected and the results are soon to be published in the prestigious Nature journal, authored by 44 people from 13 different countries. The authors of the study however have already lifted the vale on some of the findings affirming that the DNA from these ancient bones indeed matches with those of the modern Armenians. Referring to the international genetic study, the Head of the Laboratory of the Institute of Molecular Biodiversity of the National Academy of Sciences Levon Yepiskoposyan has recently stated in an interview to the press that: “Modern Armenians are direct descendants of the people who lived in the territory of Armenia 5000 years ago.” Eight samples from ancient burial sights across Armenia, dated to the middle and the late Bronze Age as well as the Iron Age, have been collected and tested.

“The results of genetic studies have shown that the DNA samples of the Bronze Age individuals that have been found on the territory of Armenia have a genetic portrait that is almost indistinguishable from the genetic portrait of people living today in Armenia” - said Yepiskoposyan.
He added that from these results we can safely conclude that modern Armenians indeed have very old roots in the Armenian Highlands.

In this study, we were able to solve not only some of the the genetic, historical and archaeological questions, but also to some extent disprove the allegations that the Armenians are only living 200 years in the territory of Eastern Armenia.
These findings again affirm that modern Armenians represent an ancient Near Eastern population, due to their genetic isolation in Armenian Highlands. As such Armenians can be regarded as a “living fossil”. To better understand the implications of these studies, I’ve been following several discussions on the internet about these recent findings. One expert, who was also involved with the above mentioned project, explains as follows:

Armenians became genetically isolated during the Late Bronze Age (about 3500 years before the present) and have not intermixed with populations from distant regions since then. Because Armenians are Late Bronze Age (LBA) genetic isolates, we, as a population are like a living fossil. When comparing the ancient DNA of individuals dug up in modern Armenia with those of Armenians, there isn’t much of a difference in the DNA. It essentially means that we represent a genetic continuum of at least 3500 years. What this means beyond just Armenians, as the article that will be out in the prestigious journal of Nature soon, is that we can compare modern European populations with modern Armenians, knowing that it’s the same as comparing the modern European population with ancient Near Easterners (as Armenians represent an essentially pure sample of the Late Bronze Age). We are closer to the basal populations that existed in the Near East, subsequently migrated toward Europe during the Bronze Age-Iron Age, than any other population in present Europe.
So if you compare ancient DNA found in Europe between the Neolithic to the Iron Age, you see huge shifts in populations as Near Easterners and others from the East settled and influenced the substructure of the European genome. These groups were present as populations in the Near East, having contributed to the early Highland group that then became genetically isolated and became the Armenians as we know it today. Think of us as frozen in time for at least 3500 years. Comparing us to modern European groups is like comparing the modern groups to 3500 year old Highland tribes.
So imagine that you have various tribes in the Near East that coalesced to form Armenians. Let’s designate them with alphabetical letters. So assume that people from tribes A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H, and J became genetically isolated during the Bronze Age and coalesced to form Armenians. A few groups of people from some of these tribes, say A-D, migrated to Tuscany and mixed with indigenous tribes M,N,O,P,Q forming modern Tuscans. We can now compare modern Tuscans with modern Armenians as though we were comparing modern Tuscans with ancient Armenians (the Near Eastern tribes from over 3500 years ago) and uncover the links between the two. By doing so, we can recover the fact that Armenians and Tuscans share A-D in their genome. We can then recover ancient DNA from Tuscany and determine when the A-D tribal migration took place. As we do this all over Europe, we find certain patterns. These patterns show that there were substantial population shifts in the genome of Europeans, particularly after the Neolithic, based on Near Eastern waves of migration. The groups that migrated from the Near East during the Mesolithic/Chalcolithic, were later replaced by Early Bronze Age groups, then Mid-Late Bronze Age, then Iron Age, etc. By looking at ancient DNA, and also comparing the admixture of modern populations with each other, we can make sense of how Europe was populated.

 The Armenian Plateau Hypothesis Gains In Plausibility


The idea that most European languages are related and possibly originate from a common ancestral tongue known as the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) has been well accepted by scholars of various disciplines. The so called Indo-European language family includes most European but also some languages of the Fertile Crescent, the Caucasus, West and South Asia. With over 400 languages (including dialects) it is by far the world’s largest language family and is spoken by almost 3 billion native speakers world wide. Armenian language is considered by some to be one of the oldest surviving members of this family, with some estimates going as far as 5000 BC.

The hypothesized homeland of the Proto-Indo-European speakers however has been subject to much debate. There are largely four competing hypotheses which place the origin of the Indo-European language family either in the Pontic Steppe, Anatolia, Balkans or the Armenian Plateau. The conventional view places the homeland in the Pontic steppes about 6000 years ago. An alternative hypothesis claims that the languages spread from Anatolia with the expansion of farming 8000 to 9500 years ago. Yet another hypothesis places the PIE homeland in the Balkans from where Indo-European farmers supposedly spread the language throughout Europe. And the final hypothesis names the Armenian Plateau as the most likely candidate for the Proto-Indo-European homeland.

A long awaited study into ancient DNA recently posted on the bioRxiv preprint site has shed more light on the issue with quite interesting and maybe more so enigmatic results for the role of early Armenians in the spread of the Indo-European language and genes. The work was done by a large team led by geneticists David Reich and Iosif Lazaridis of Harvard Medical School in Boston and Wolfgang Haak of the University of Adelaide in Australia. The study used state-of-the-art DNA techniques to analyse ancient DNA from 69 Europeans who lived between 8000 and 3000 years ago to genetically track ancient population movements.

The Yamnaya culture
Artifacts from Yamnaya culture (c.a. 4000 BCE). Hermitage Exhibitions, Saint-Peterburg, Russia
Among the team’s samples were nine ancient individuals—six males, two females, and a child of undetermined sex—from the Yamnaya culture north of the Black Sea in today’s Russia. Beginning about 6000 years ago, these steppe people herded cattle and other animals, buried their dead in earthen mounds known as kurgans, and may have created some of the first wheeled vehicles. The study found a striking similarity between the Yamnaya DNA and that of the Corded Ware people of the central and northern Europe. The comparison of the two cultures’ DNA showed that Corded Ware people could trace an astonishing three-quarters of their ancestry to the Yamnaya suggesting a massive migration of Yamnaya people from their steppe homeland into central Europe about 4500 years ago. The Corded Ware culture soon spread across north and central Europe, extending as far as today’s Scandinavia. So the “steppe ancestry,” as the authors of the study call it, is found in most present-day Europeans, who can trace their ancestry back to both the Corded Ware people and the earlier Yamnaya. All of the males from the study belonged to haplogroup R1b1a and were marked by the absence of R1a.

The Armenian connection

The study also revealed an interesting Armenian connection with the Yamnaya people. As Dienekes describes in his analysis of the study, it seems that the: Yamnaya (a Bronze Age Kurgan culture) were a mixture of the EHG (East European Hunter-Gatherers) and something akin to Armenians. The researchers found that:
The Yamnaya differ from the EHG (East European Hunter-Gatherers) by sharing fewer alleles with MA1 (|Z|=6.7) suggesting a dilution of ANE ancestry between 5,000-3,000 BCE on the European steppe. This was likely due to admixture of EHG with a population related to present-day Near Easterners, as the most negative f3-statistic in the Yamnaya (giving unambiguous evidence of admixture) is observed when we model them as a mixture of EHG and present-day Near Eastern populations like Armenians (Z = -6.3; SI7).Yamnaya-Armenian-Karelian-connectionYamnaya show a pattern of negative correlation when using Karelia_HG and Armenian as references. This is consistent with it having a component of ancestry related to the Caucasus/Near East.
Testing of the Yamnaya DNA has revealed a pattern of negative correlation when using Karelia Hunter-Gatherers and Armenian as references. Evidently: “The Yamnaya can be modeled as a mixture of Armenians and Karelian Hunter-Gatherers.” The authors further describe:
Ancient genomes from the Caucasus, the Near East, and Central Asia might reveal the existence of Neolithic populations there that may be involved in the ancestry of ancient steppe populations and central Europeans.
It is evident that the Yamnaya pastoralists from the Samara district are not descended only from European Hunter Gatherers that preceded them in eastern Europe, but also posses an interesting Near Eastern component to their genetics of which modern Armenians are a reasonable surrogate.

How the Armenian plateau hypothesis gains in plausibility

The study discusses 4 main hypotheses of Indo-European language dispersals and the effects of the new findings on these hypotheses. While the results do not settle the debate about the location of the proto-Indo European homeland, they do increase the plausibility of some hypotheses and decrease the plausibility of others.
  • The Steppe hypothesis has increased plausibility because of the overwhelming evidence for the connection between the Yamnaya steppe people and the Corded ware people of central and northern Europe.

  • The Anatolian hypothesis becomes less plausible as an explanation for the origin of all Indo European languages in Europe, because it can no longer claim to correspond to the only major population transformation in European prehistory. While the study does not contradict early Neolithic migration of farmers from Anatolia, they now provide us with evidence of at least another wave of migration from the Pontic steppe into north and central Europe, which could explain the spread of Indo-European languages.

  • The Balkan hypothesis also loses credibility on the grounds that it does not account for the steppe migration and their overwhelming influence on the genetic makeup of the Corded ware culture.

  • And finally the Armenian plateau hypothesis just as the steppe hypothesis gains in plausibility. The Armenian plateau hypothesis somewhat resembles the Steppe hypothesis in postulating a role for the steppe in the dispersal of languages into Europe, but places the homeland of Proto-Indo-European speakers south of the Caucasus. Which is supported by the Near Eastern component discovered with the ancient DNA of the Yamnaya people. The authors elaborate: The Armenian plateau hypothesis gains in plausibility by the fact that we have discovered evidence of admixture in the ancestry of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists, including gene flow from a population of Near Eastern ancestry for which Armenians today appear to be a reasonable surrogate.
In conclusion it must be said that the debate about the Indo-European homeland is far from over. Nonetheless this study provides us with more insight into the migration patterns of people who populated Europe. The study confirms an early migration of farmers from the Near East and the Armenian Highlands into Europe, but it also provides new evidence for a later migration of Pontic steppe people with a Near Eastern (Armenian) component into central and later northern Europe and thus increasing the plausibility of both the steppe and the Armenian Plateau hypotheses.

Pottery work from the Yamnaya culture, Russia.
Pottery work from the Yamnaya culture (c.a. 4000 BC), Russia.

Pottery from the Corded Ware culture of Northern Europe.
Pottery from the Corded Ware culture of Northern Europe.




Anonymous said...

Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog!!!

Fabio K. Juliano said...

Perhaps I am being dim, but I did not see a way to contact you other than via a comment on your blog.

I wanted to thank you for your manifesto (if that's the right word) on and say that I was very impressed by it. While your opinion and mine diverge significantly on some lateral issues, we are in complete agreement
regarding a theoretical reconciliation between Armenians and Turks.

Should you feel like dialoguing about this question that is so dear to both of our hearts, please contact me at floydbennett[at]

Aaron said...

Wow, I'm astonished at your biographical info. Truly a fresh perspective for someone living on the other side of the globe. Bible research led me to Armenian highlands and ultimately your blog. I encourage you to look deep into the Bible which confirms the facts you're presenting on your blog. You must look deep into old testament writings of King James Version to see what I mean.

You can contact me at corp.xei[at} if you want some dialogue.

Sullivan Reid said...

So what if Armenia is at the root of these things.
It is still just a bump on our rock!
I wasted an entire education listening to teachers. Who sound like you.
Blethering on about how "Great" Britain was and is.

Anonymous said...

A little info about unesco above.

What I notice in these archealogical digs in Armenia is the presence of people whose religion instructs them to destroy Armenians.

"Anatolia" was Benjamin De Israeli's creation. There is an ancient disease haling from Babylon that will lay claim to your heritage if it can. It's satanic reality is everywhere on display in the world for everyone to see. It's adherents have deliberately misinterpreted cuneiform writings to ensure the connection to Armenian is not made.

Anonymous said...

Informative blog. The Armenian highlands are the most central and the highest of the three plateaus that together form the northern sector of western Asia. Here I observed the history of these highlands and cardle of Indo-European civilization. Thanks for sharing. Along with this article, I would like to share some facts about the hammerhead sharks habitat which are a group of sharks that form the family sphyrnidae.