Jacques de Morgan

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The first excavations in Armenia, undertaken by Russian savants in 1876, brought to light a burial-ground near Dilijan in which were 76 prehistoric graves. Jacques de Morgan in 1887‑89 unearthed 576 graves around Alaverdi and Akhatala, on the Tiflis-Alexandropol railway line. Later on, 300 more were discovered by V. Belck near Elisavetpol (Gandzak), and yet others were excavated by Lalayan (second in importance only to de Morgan's) and Ivanovski. In Turkish Armenia only one tumulus, that of Shamiramalti, near the fort of Van, has been studied so far. But many ancient arms and implements have been discovered, in various places on the plainsº and slopes, in the Valleys of Lori, on the shores of the Lakes of Sevan and Van, in the salt mines of Koghb (Kulp) and along the Aradzani and upper Tigris Rivers. The oldest Neolithic relics so far found in Soviet Armenia are large stone axes, with grooves which show that the handles were attached by lashings. In Armavir, Vagharshapat and elsewhere, Neolithic weapons, knives, axes, hammers, mortars for grinding grains, saw, makhats (large needles for coarse sewing), awls, made of stone, obsidian or bone, and pottery, some of it with geometrical ornamentation, have been found, as well as traces of human habitations, cremations or other mortuary disposals, fossils of domestic animals, such as sheep, goats and dogs, and remains of wheat and barley.

One human skeleton found on the bank of the river Zanku, with a flint implement beside it, is believed to be that of a man of the Palaeolithic Age. Other excavations of small circular hillocks — at Shresh, near Etchmiadzin and at Eylar, near Erevan — underneath which are graves, usually covered with a slab, have yielded many Neolithic relics. Nearby were cinder beds with objects of stone, funeral urns (proofs of the practice of cremation) and piles of human bones.

Huge stone placements, presumably Neolithic, are numerous in Armenia — dolmens (large unhewn stones resting on two or more smaller ones), menhirs (standing stones), cromlechs (stone circles), and cyclopean walls. The region of Aragadz Mountain is a natural museum of archaeology; and the extensive plains around the towns of Oshakan, Parbi, Amberd and Aghtz, as well as near Shusha and Sisian, are dotted with hundreds of Neolithic monuments.

In megalithic fields on higher levels are found constructions in huge blocks, composed of a number of concentric walls of decreasing heights. Those at Kosh and Aghavnatun, which are the best preserved, might have served either as forts or enclosures of a sanctuary. The wall near Daylakla on a small tributary of the River Arax, is of the same type, though inside were circular or oddly-shaped rooms, walled with smaller stones, which might have been dwelling places roofed with large slabs.

Almost all the excavated graves belong to Metallic eras later than the Neolithic, probably to the later years of the Bronze Age. They are all of similar construction, a sort of box, with four large slabs as partitions and two more as covers, placed together without mortar — a kind of dolmen.

In some tombs the dead are in large jars, usually sitting or squatting, though in some cases two connected jars were used, the limbs being in one, the rest of the skeleton in the other. Objects found with the dead comprised ornaments, tools, broken pottery and weapons such as daggers, swords, lances, axes, bows and arrows. Of 76 daggers found in one cemetery, seven were of iron, the remainder of bronze. A few club-heads of stone were found, one dented ring, which was probably used in boxing, and smaller rings believed to have been parts of a lasso, used either in hunting or domestication of animals.