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Petroglyphs of Armenia

Nowadays, petroglyphs are the most ancient and holistic archaeological materials preserved in the Armenian Highland. Armenian petroglyphs with their size, technique, variety of used characters and depicted scenes have no analogs in the world.

The art of petroglyphs appeared on the whole Eurasian continent, in its different parts, in the XII-VIII centuries. On the flat surfaces of volcanic rocks, there were depicted geographical figures, plants, figures of people, animals, birds, scenes of hunting, fighting, spiritual and religious themes, and so on.

Movses Khorenatsi wrote a legend about Tork Angegh- the great-grandson of progenitor Hayk, where he not only drove away the enemy ships, throwing giant stones at them but also polished the stones with his nails and drew eagles and other images on them. This is one of the oldest references to Armenian petroglyphs.

Until now, more than 100,000 petroglyphs have been discovered in the Armenian Highland. In the territory of the Republic of Armenia, those are mainly concentrated in Syunik (Ukhtasar), Vayk (Jermuk Mountains), Gegharkunik (Azhdahak), Kotayk (Paytasar, Zar), Aragatsotn (Aragats, Voskehat). Petroglyphs are mostly situated in high areas, but sometimes they can be found at an altitude of 1000-2000 m above sea level. Cultural and archaeological studies show that the art of petroglyphs in the Armenian Highlands was formed during the Mesolithic-Neolithic period, but it reached its development in the Bronze Age. Petroglyphs are made of stone on flat surfaces of rocks. The depth of the lines is 2-6 mm, and the width- 2-21 mm. These depictions have reached us intact. The old ones date from the V-IV millennia B.C., those are three-dimensional depictions of deer, predators, and other animals. The second large group belongs to the III-II millennia.

One of the features of Armenian petroglyphs is the lack of colored depictions. There are some traces, perhaps traces of depictions colored with mineral paints, but fully colored depictions haven't been found. Some of their features make it possible to assume that these characters were used as letters, which means that they can be the first forms of writing. Petroglyphs in Armenian mean ''itsagir''. Studies show that they were created by making depictions according to a certain principle- to give certain information. The most common depiction is made on one line, both horizontal and vertical. Also, they were depicted as radial or in a circle, apparently depending on the ideas of this phenomenon. One of the most ancient petroglyphs on the territory of Armenia is the depiction of an elephant-like animal in the mountains of Jermuk, or a herd of chamois and goats, which is headed by a leader. The herd is chased by hunters armed with spears, bows, and arrows.

The early period also includes depictions of wild buffaloes that had disappeared long ago, but the bones of which were found in monuments of the Stone and Bronze Ages.

There are loads of petroglyphs with depicted animals and people with bows and arrows in Geghamian mountains. They are located in the mountain valleys, mainly on the slopes of low hills. These stones with depictions are found in alpine meadows that were used as summer pastures. We can assume that in ancient times these pastures were places of worship.

The richest collection of petroglyphs in the territory of Armenia is in Syunik- on the slopes of Tskhuk and Ukhtasar mountains, at the foothill of Vardenis Mountains, on the slopes of mountains, from where the rivers of Eghegis, Arpa, and Vorotan start. Important centres in Syunik, where petroglyphs were found, are Ukhtasar and Jermajur. More than 2000 petroglyphs were found on the slopes of Ukhtasar. These archaeological territories are located at an altitude of about 3000 m above sea level. The territory is surrounded by mountains. There are many lakes of volcanic origin, and the largest one is Lake Al. Geometrical figures and plants, including depictions of celestial bodies that are often accompanied by images of mythological characters, are depicted on petroglyphs.
The inhabitants of the Armenian Highland were greatly impressed by meteorites, comets, and possibly UFO.

The periodicity of the repetition of these phenomena is indicated not only by their depictions on petroglyphs but also by similar images on the walls of churches (Ptkhnavank, a church in Artik). The crosses with curved edges that symbolized eternal motion, the four directions of the world, and infinity are one of the most interesting groups of petroglyphs. On the rocks, there are often found depictions of a point or a circle, which are solar signs.

At the beginning of the XX century, European researchers (William Alcott, Edward Maunder, Camille Flammarion) concluded that the signs of the zodiac were formed and got their names in the XXX-XXVIII centuries B.C., near Mount Ararat.

In 1965, on the edge of the road, in Vardenis mountains, there were petroglyphs, which served as a guide for travelers. Armenian astronomy researcher Benik Tumanyan identified these depictions with the signs of Leo, Sagittarius, and Scorpio, thus confirming the assumptions of European scientists.

You can see depictions of people, mythological characters, deities, good and evil spirits quite often. On the rocks, there are also depicted characters of female cults, such as in Vardenis mountains, where a woman is depicted with the help of geometric figures- a rectangle and a square. Next to her, there's a snake. In Aragats, there are some groups of female depictions, too. These are four female figures, which are depicted with four goats and a creature similar to a lion. There are also many depictions showing mythological stories, where the god of lightning is depicted with long fingers from which lightning comes out. It should be noted that the main symbol of the lightning was a goat, and in this sense, there are two petroglyphs in Ukhtasar, one of which shows a a bolf of lightning above the raised left hand of God and another deity is depicted with a goat above the raised right hand.

The most common are animal depictions. For example, on the rocks of Ukhtasar, you can see almost the entire fauna of the Armenian Highland made that time.  Besides depicted animals alone, they were also depicted in pairs- mother and cub, buck and doe. Not far from Paytasar, there is a petroglyph depicting a scene of a deer mother hiding a calf between her legs, protecting her child from dogs and hunters. The group scenes on rocks are depicted masterly. So, on one of the petroglyphs in Geghamian mountains, there's a depicted mother with a child in her arms and hunters with spears and ropes, who are chasing wild animals with the help of dogs.

In Geghamian mountains, Aragats and Syunik there are many depictions of hunting scenes, and the animals are depicted with great accuracy. Another scene depicts a man, a woman and a child with raised arms, men and women with arrows and bows. On another stone, a man and a woman are wearing masks. The ancient ''painters'' could amazingly give dynamics to the depictions.
One of the most discussed petroglyphs is called “Adam and Eve”. It's found in Ukhtasar and depicts a famous biblical story. But there are lots of controversies about this. Some researchers think that it does not quite match the biblical story, as there are two other human figures and two snakes beside the woman, the man, and the snake.

In any case, the secrets of the Armenian petroglyphs are not completely revealed...