there was Yerevan, or Erebuni, there was
Excavations in the Yerevan district of Shengavit
over the past two years have uncovered a city
which local and some foreign archeologists believe
to have been settled five thousand years before
the birth of Christ. Scientists say the site has
yielded some of the archeologically-richest finds
in all the Caucasus, and if the dating proves
accurate, it would mean that the area was settled
nearly 4,000 years before the Urartus founded
Among the unearthed remains are jewelry, female
idols, baked-clay statues, a furnace for making
flint forging instruments, suggesting a developed
settlement. More than 50 horse bones have been
found, evidence of developed horse-breeding -
a find that archeologists say is the first of
its kind in the Caucasus.
Shengavit is not a new site of interests for
archeologists. The shapeless hill some 30 meters
above the Yerevan Lake has been the focus of scientific
study since 1936, when archeologist Yevgeni Bayburdyan
started a two-year study there.
In 1958, excavations were renewed by a group
of archeologists under the leadership of Sandro
Sardaryan. After 1985, however, the area was turned
into a training ground for archeological practice.
It remained an archeological laboratory until
last year and over the years the site itself suffered
damage as a result.
Research restarted in 2000, but was sporadic.
But new funding from the British Embassy (about
$4,000) helped the research continue since September.
It is being carried out by the Armenian Center
of Cultural-Historical Heritage.
Two main areas have been the focus of excavation.
In one, an area of about 250 square meters, evidence
of brick and river-stone walls was found. In the
second area, on the hill's northern side researchers
found a wall surrounding the city.
"The low level dwellings discovered as a
result of the excavations were two-to-three meters
below the ground level," says director of
the Center, historian Hakob Simonyan.
According to Simonyan the dwellings were built
in a hurry, using available materials, not paying
attention to the aesthetic side and also ignoring
Unlike its common first-level houses, two meters
below the ground level are dwellings made of stone
blocks and basalt, mortared with clay, and are
of rectangular, polygonal and round shapes.
"The variety of construction materials indicates
that the society was divided into different social
and economic groups," Simonyan says.
Onyx, marble and granite staffs were found among
structures that surprised scientists by their
sense of aesthetics and attention to seismic stability.
"A very interesting method of building the
lodgings was used to resist earthquakes,"
Simonyan says. "Stones were attached to each
other with weeds dipped into liquid clay. This
made the walls more flexible and protected from
Sanctuaries, decorated by ornamentation depicting
rams, stone instruments and clay plates made with
great professionalism were also found here.
Obsidian stones were used for the sheep eyes,
which according to ancient belief, was a symbol
of protection. "This is the first case in
Armenia when eyes of an animal are decorated by
stones," Simonyan says.
Pear-shaped barns for storing grain, with round
entrances were also found. The huge, four-meter
deep storages could have held four tons of wheat.
A large quantity of sickles, axes, and tools for
wheat milling were found in the barn areas.
The principles of town-planning and house construction
suggest that Shengavit was once a city.
Further, remnants of a forge with nine smelts
indicate an industrial settlement producing copper.
Some of the artifacts have been sent to Germany,
where archeologists there confirm local scientists'
belief that the finding - from the bronze age
- shows Yerevan to have been built not only on
the basis of the ancient city of Erebuni, but
also on the basis of this earlier founded habitat.