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Vishap (dragon) stone at Sardarapat museum entrance

The unique monuments of prehistoric Armenia, "višap" vishaps (Arm. Վիշապ višap ‘serpent, dragon’ an Iranian borrwing) or “dragon stones” are spread in many provinces of historical Armenia – Gegharkunik, Aragatsotn, Javakhk, Tayk, etc. They are cigar-shaped huge stones, 10-20 feet tall, usually situated in the mountains, near the sources of rivers and lakes. Many of them are in the shape of fish; they have a bull’s skin (complete with head and feet) carved into them; there is also a stream of water flowing from the mouth of the bull’s skin and some vishaps have images of water birds carved below the bull’s head. The earliest višap "višap" stelae would be dated, probably, from the 18th-16th centuries BC; an Urartian inscription in a višap from Garni testifies that they were created in pre-Urartian times (before the 8th century BC).

A number of theories try to interpret the meaning of these stones. One theory holds that these monuments represented mythological dragons guarding the sources of the waters (B. Piotrovski). Another two trace back, respectively, to Astghik, the goddess of fertility and love (M. Abeghian) and Ara Geghecik ‘Ara the Handsome,’ the “dying and rising god” of Armenian tradition (G. Ghapantsyan). The present author has his own interpretation of these stalae, which may be represented as follows.