Archaeologists discover ancient fortune-telling shrines in Armenia
Archaeologists say three 3,300-year-old shrines set up by an unknown culture in Armenia apparently were used for occult divination.
Three shrines, dating back about 3,300 years, have been discovered within a hilltop fortress at Gegharot in Armenia. Local rulers at the time probably used the shrines for divination, a practice aimed at predicting the future, the archaeologists involved in the discovery say.
Each of the three shrines consists of a single room holding a clay basin filled with ash and ceramic vessels. Wide varieties of artefacts were discovered, including clay idols with horns, stamp seals, censers used to burn substances and a vast amount of animal bones with markings on them.
During divination practices, the rulers and diviners may have burnt intoxicating substances and drank wine, allowing them to experience altered states of mind, the archaeologists say.
“The logic of divination presumes that variable pathways articulate the past, present and future, opening the possibility that the link between a current situation and an eventual outcome might be altered,” Adam Smith and Jeffrey Leon write in an article published recently in the American Journal of Archaeology.
Smith is a professor at Cornell University, and Leon is a graduate student there.
Excavations at the shrines are part of the American-Armenian Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, also known as Project ArAGATS.
The shrines were unearthed over a period stretching from 2003 to 2011.
Smith told LiveScience that the region’s rulers probably used Gegharot as an occult centre. At the time, writing had not yet spread to this part of Armenia, so the names of the polity and its rulers are unknown.
Smith and Leon found evidence for three forms of divination at Gegharot. One form was osteomancy, trying to predict the future through rituals that involved rolling the marked-up knucklebones of cows, sheep and goats like dice.
Lithomancy, trying to predict the future through the use of coloured pebbles, also appears to have been practised at Gegharot.
And at one shrine, the archaeologists found an installation used to grind flour. Smith and Leon think that this flour could have been used to predict the future in a practice called aleuromancy.
The shrines were in use for a century or so until the surrounding fortress, along with all the other fortresses in the area, were destroyed.
The site was largely abandoned after this, Smith said. Although the rulers who controlled Gegharot put great effort into trying to predict and change the future, it was to no avail.
Water Surprise: Ancient Aqueduct Unearthed At Edge Of Roman Empire
Archaeologists have unearthed what they say is the easternmost aqueduct built by the Roman Empire. Researchers from the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia and from the University of Münster in Germany said they discovered the remains of the arched aqueduct in the ancient Armenian city of Artaxata.
Excavation of the aqueduct began in 2019, and the University of Münster released a statement this month detailing the findings of a study published in the journal Archäologischer Anzeiger.
Professor Achim Lichtenberger of the University of Münster said Romans constructed the aqueduct between A.D. 114 and 117.
Samples taken from the soil near the construction site were dated to between A.D. 60 and 460. This led the researchers to conclude that the aqueduct was most likely built under the reign of Emperor Trajan, during which the Roman Empire reached its territorial peak.
Trajan was considered a successful military ruler who oversaw the second-greatest military expansion in the history of the Roman Empire, after Augustus.
Torben Schreiber, the paper’s co-author, said that the construction was never actually completed, as Trajan died in A.D. 117 and the next emperor, Hadrian, gave up the province of Armenia, leaving the aqueduct half-completed.
Hadrian ruled from A.D. 117 to 138 and abandoned many of his predecessor’s expansionist military campaigns including the one in Armenia, resulting in disapproval from much of the empire’s elite.
He is known in Britain for having built Hadrian’s Wall, which served as a marker for the northernmost point of Roman-controlled Britannia.
Aqueducts were a cornerstone of Roman cities and towns, used to bring water into the populated territories from the surrounding areas.
German and Armenian experts used a variety of methods drawn from the fields of geophysics, archaeology, and geochemistry in the excavation work.
Geomagnetic examinations were carried out to locate areas of interest in Artaxata, then samples were taken using drills to pinpoint the aqueduct’s location. Mkrtich Zardaryan, a co-author of the study, said satellite and infrared imagery was then used to chart the path of the aqueduct’s pillars.
“We reconstructed the planned course of the aqueduct by means of a computer-assisted path analysis between the possible sources of the water and its destination,” he said.
The researchers concluded from the findings that the incomplete aqueduct in Armenia is evidence of the empire’s failure to expand into the region.
Traces of Unfinished Roman Aqueduct Uncovered in Armenia
Archaeologists from the University of Münster and the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia have discovered remains of a Roman arched aqueduct during excavation work on the Hellenistic royal city of Artashat-Artaxata in ancient Armenia.
It is the easternmost arched aqueduct in the Roman Empire. Excavation work took place back in 2019, and an evaluation of the find has now been published in the “Archäologischer Anzeiger” journal.
“The monumental foundations are evidence of an unfinished aqueduct bridge built by the Roman army between 114 and 117 CE,” explains author Prof. Achim Lichtenberger from the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Christian Archaeology at the University of Münster.
“At that time, Artaxata was destined to become the capital of a Roman province in Armenia.”
It was during this time that the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent – if only for a short while – because it was under Trajan, who was Emperor of Rome from 98 to 117 CE – that the Romans attempted to incorporate the province of Armenia into the Roman Empire.
“The planned, and partially completed, construction of the aqueduct in Artaxata shows just how much effort was made, in a very short space of time, to integrate the infrastructure of the capital of the province into the Empire,” says co-author Torben Schreiber from the Institute of Classical Archaeology and Christian Archaeology at the University of Münster.
“The aqueduct remained unfinished because after Trajan’s death, in 117 CE, his successor Hadrian relinquished the province of Armenia before the aqueduct was completed.”
The archaeologists, therefore, see their find as furnishing evidence for the failure of Roman imperialism in Armenia.
In their excavation campaign, the team used a multidisciplinary combination of methods from the fields of archaeology, geophysics, geochemistry and archaeoinformatics.
The area of the Hellenistic metropolis of Artaxata in the Ararat Plain was first examined geomagnetically. At this stage of their work, the experts surveyed and charted any anomalies.
The geomagnetic image showed a conspicuous dotted line, which they analysed with so-called sondages. The results were documented by the archaeologists three-dimensionally.
Additional drillings provided evidence of further unfinished or destroyed pillars of the aqueduct.
“We used satellite pictures and infrared images from a drone to visualise the course of the aqueduct’s pillars,” says co-author Dr Mkrtich Zardaryan from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia.
“We reconstructed the planned course of the aqueduct by means of a computer-assisted path analysis between the possible sources of the water and its destination.”
A scientific analysis of the lime mortar used showed that it was a typical Roman recipe.
An analysis of soil samples dated the construction of the aqueduct to between 60 and 460 CE, and in the opinion of the researchers, this makes the reign of Emperor Trajan the most likely dating for it.
Project: “Artaxata in Armenia – Fieldwork in a Hellenistic Metropolis in the Ararat Plain”
Since 2018 a team of German and Armenian scientists – headed by Achim Lichtenberger (Münster University), Mkrtich Zardaryan (Armenian Academy of Sciences) and Torben Schreiber (Münster University) – have been carrying out research into the Hellenistic metropolis of Artaxata in the Ararat Plain in Armenia. Their aim is to examine both a newly established Hellenistic royal city and the many-faceted cultural imprint between Central Asia, Iran and the Mediterranean region.
The excavation project is being funded by the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia and by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
World’s oldest leather shoe which is 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid.
In a cave in Armenia, a fully preserved shoe has been discovered, 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and 400 years older than Stonehenge in the UK.
A team of global archaeologists found the 5,500-year-old shoe, the world’s oldest leather shoe, and their findings will be published in the online science journal PLoS ONE.
The cow-hide shoe dates back to ~ 3,500 BC (the Chalcolithic period) and is in perfect condition. It was made of a single piece of leather and was shaped to fit the wearer’s foot.
It contained grass, although the archaeologists were uncertain as to whether this was to keep the foot warm or to maintain the shape of the shoe, a precursor to the modern shoe-tree perhaps? “It is not known whether the shoe belonged to a man or woman,” said lead author of the research, Dr Ron Pinhasi, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland “as while small (European size 37; US size 7 women), the shoe could well have fitted a man from that era.”
The cave is situated in the Vayotz Dzor province of Armenia, on the Armenian, Iranian, Nakhichevanian and Turkish borders, and was known to regional archaeologists due to its visibility from the highway below.
The stable, cool and dry conditions in the cave resulted in exceptional preservation of the various objects that were found, which included large containers, many of which held well-preserved wheat and barley, apricots and other edible plants.
The preservation was also helped by the fact that the floor of the cave was covered by a thick layer of sheep dung which acted as a solid seal over the objects, preserving them beautifully over the millennia!
“We thought initially that the shoe and other objects were about 600-700 years old because they were in such good condition,” said Dr Pinhasi.
“It was only when the material was dated by the two radiocarbon laboratories in Oxford, UK, and in California, the US that we realised that the shoe was older by a few hundred years than the shoes worn by Ötzi, the Iceman.”
Three samples were taken in order to determine the absolute age of the shoe and all three tests produced the same results.
The archaeologists cut two small strips of leather off the shoe and sent one strip to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford and another to the University of California -Irvine Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility. A piece of grass from the shoe was also sent to Oxford to be dated and both shoe and grass were shown to be the same age.
The shoe was discovered by an Armenian PhD student, Ms Diana Zardaryan, of the Institute of Archaeology, Armenia, in a pit that also included a broken pot and wild goat horns.
“I was amazed to find that even the shoe-laces were preserved,” she recalled. “We couldn’t believe the discovery,” said Dr Gregory Areshian, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, US, co-director who was at the site with Mr Boris Gasparyan, co-director, Institute of Archaeology, Armenia when the shoe was found. “The crusts had sealed the artefacts and archaeological deposits and artefacts remained fresh dried, just like they were put in a can,” he said.
The oldest known footwear in the world, to the present time, are sandals made of plant material, that were found in a cave in the Arnold Research Cave in Missouri in the US. Other contemporaneous sandals were found in the Cave of the Warrior, Judean Desert, Israel, but these were not directly dated so that their age is based on various other associated artefacts found in the cave.
Interestingly, the shoe is very similar to the ‘pampooties’ worn on the Aran Islands (in the West of Ireland) up to the 1950s.
“In fact, enormous similarities exist between the manufacturing technique and style of this 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,” said Dr Pinhasi.
“We do not know yet what the shoe or other objects were doing in the cave or what the purpose of the cave was,” said Dr Pinhasi. “We know that there are children’s graves at the back of the cave but so little is known about this period that we cannot say with any certainty why all these different objects were found together.” The team will continue to excavate the many chambers of the cave.
The team involved in the dig included; lead author and co-director, Dr Ron Pinhasi, Archaeology Department, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland; Mr Boris Gasparian, co-director and Ms Diana Zardaryan of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Armenia; Dr Gregory Areshian, co-director, Research Associate at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, US; Professor Alexia Smith, Department of Anthropology of the University of Connecticut, US, Dr Guy Bar-Oz, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Israel and Dr Thomas Higham, Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, University of Oxford, UK.
The research received funding from the National Geographic Society, the Chitjian Foundation (Los Angeles), US, Mr Joe Gfoeller of the Gfoeller Foundation of US, the Steinmetz Family Foundation, US, the Boochever Foundation, US, and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA, US.
A Mysterious 3,000-Year-Old Castle Has Been Found Under a Lake in Turkey
A story describing the ruins of an ancient castle buried underneath the picturesque waters of Lake Van, Turkey, has been proclaimed entirely real.
The preserved ruins of a castle dating back more than 3,000 years to the Iron Age under the civilisation of Urartu have been found by archaeologists from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University.
Tahsin Ceylan, head of the dive team, told the Turkish Daily Saba that “There was a report that there was something under the water but most archaeologists and museum officials told us that we’re not going to find it.” Instead, Ceylan and his team ended up uncovering a massive fortress spanning a kilometre over the lakebed.
“Since the water of Lake Van is alkaline, the castle has not been damaged and has kept its characteristics underwater,” Ceyland added to the Hurriyet Daily News, referencing Van’s distinction as the largest sodium lake in the world.
“We have detected the castle’s exact location and photographed it and have made progress in our research. We now believe we have discovered a new area for archaeologists and historians to study.”
As shown in the video below, the fortress appears remarkably well preserved, with mortared rocks giving way to perfectly cut, smooth stone walls.
Visible sections span some 9 to 14 feet, with much of the rest buried under sediment.
A boon to archaeology and tourism
Lake Van has been subjected to dramatic rises and falls in water levels throughout much of its history.
During the Ice Age, the lake was more than 200 feet above its present level, while some 9,500 years ago it was nearly 1,000 feet lower.
Because the lake has no outlet, it is rich in sediment, with some layers estimated to be more than 1,300 feet.
This makes it extremely interesting to climate scientists, who estimate these sediments may contain the preserved climate history of the last 800,000 years.
According to Ceyland, the discovery of the submerged castle is not only a boon to the archaeological community, but also for tourists interested in learning more about the region’s rich history.
“Many civilizations and people had settled around Lake Van,” he said. “They named the lake the ‘upper sea’ and believed it had many mysterious things. With this belief in mind, we are working to reveal the lake’s ‘secrets.”
7,500-years-old “Armenian Stonehenge” discovered at Carahunge (the Armenian Stonehenge)
Opposing research institutes have agreed to set aside their disputes over the nature of the so-called ‘Armenian Stonehenge’ to solve its mysteries for once and for all.
Made up of 223 stones, Carahunge has been argued to predate Wiltshire’s Stonehenge by 2,500 years — but its purpose has long been a bone of contention.
Although some archaeologists have argued that the prehistoric site was used as an astronomical observatory, others contend it was just a conventional settlement.
Members of the Bnorran Historic-Cultural NGO and the Armenian Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography co-signed an agreement on July 30 to collaborate in plumbing the mysteries of Carahunge, which lies near Sisian, in Armenia’s Syunik Province.
For the former group of researchers, the archaeological site — which some experts claim is 7,500 years old — represents the earliest-known observatory.
‘We think Carahunge — where more than 200 stones are located, with 80 having holes in them — is an ancient astronomical observatory,’ Bnorran board member Arevik Sargsyan told Armenpress.
This idea is partly based on the work of the physicist Paris Herouni, who had argued that the ancient complex dated back to around 5,500 BC.
Some of the stones, he suggested, had been deliberately positioned in order to align with Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation of Cygnus, along with the positions of the sun and the moon at certain times in the year.
‘According to another opinion, Carahunge isn’t an astronomical observatory,’ Ms. Sargsyan said.
For them, she added, ‘it is simply an ancient site, a settlement, which has a status of a mausoleum.’
In this theory, the stones form the structural remains of a city wall, in which the rocks supported piles of rubble and loam that have since been removed from the site.
This is the opinion held by researchers at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, who have long disagreed with the astronomical interpretation of Ms. Sargsyan and her associates.
Not a single astronomical tool has been unearthed from the Carahunge site, institute director Pavel Avetisyan and archaeological expedition team leader Ashot Piliposyan reportedly told Armenpress.
Furthermore, they noted, some of the holes in the stones — which are often cited as evidence in support of the site- have been an astronomical observatory — are located on the lower parts of the basalt rocks and thus do not even point at the stars.
For the moment, both academic groups have agreed on a temporary suspension of their excavations and research at the Carahunge site.
Investigations will resume once a jointly-held seminar of experts from various disciplines — including archaeologists, astronomers, and ethnographers — has been held to determine a shared research plan for the ancient stone feature.
‘It requires studies in all aspects,’ said Dr. Piliposyan, who argues that the site is unique across the whole Transcaucasia region
‘We discussed many issues during the signing of the agreement, we even considered that maybe in the future it will be possible to build a museum near the monument to display all materials regarding the ancient site.’
Burial of an ancient female warrior discovered in Armenia
A teenage Armenian woman was at the frontline of a war more than 2,000 years ago. Now her newly discovered remains allow archeologists to see how ancient societies lived and died on the battlefield.
In 2017 researchers excavated the poorly preserved remains and found the woman buried on her side with flexed arms and legs and her head oriented to the northwest.
Her skeleton was “fragmented and incomplete,” with cracks and fractures occurring on her bones in the thousands of years since her burial.
An analysis of her dental wear, cranial sutures, and other indicators of trauma allowed for an understanding of the type of injuries she suffered just before her death.
A metal arrowhead was found buried in her femur likely shot by a bow, strongly suggesting that the woman was injured in some type of combat.
Healing around the site of the arrowhead indicates that she lived for some time with the injury before dying, possibly from an additional sword or hatchet blows to the pelvic bone, femur, and tibia in a “rich array of traumatic lesions.”
“During the combat, the woman had been most likely exposed to direct blows to the defensive shield (the power transmitted from the end of the shield to the ulna), or direct blows when the forearm was used to ward off the blow,” study author Anahit Khudaverdyan told daily mail.
It was determined that the woman died aged between 20 and 29. Radiocarbon dating of the artifacts located in and around her grave indicates that she was likely a woman of stature.
“We know nothing about her social position, but the burial with rich inventory testifies to high status.
Though the overall position of women was lower than men, yet, on the whole, the position of woman was good,” write the authors of the study published in International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, noting that upper-class women enjoyed the freedom and were generally well-respected.
During her time, the Kingdom of Urarti (Urartu), or Bianili, was an “uncommon developed culture” flourishing in the Armenian Highland from the 9th century BCE to 585 BE.
Strategically located between Europe and Asia, it is likely that the society had contacts with major empires of the ancient world. The defensive architecture suggests that the city likely experienced warfare and fear of assault.
As soon as they passed eight or 10, boys rode on horseback and hunted deer, buffalo, and mountain goats in much the same way that they used for defensive purposes.
“For the people of the Armenian Highland, bows, and arrows turned into an efficient weapon to be used against the intruders, particularly when shot from horseback.
Research shows that both men and women rode horseback while participating in battles and hunting. This is evidenced by female warrior graves discovered in many parts of the Caucasus,” wrote the authors.
Her remains are the second burial discovered in Armenia that provides evidence on female warriors.
As Khudaverdyan notes, evidence suggests that Urartian kings fought with the enemy along with their wives, potentially serving as the “prototype of the Amazons,” the Greek myth of the tribe of warrior women that supposedly came from the Caucasus, which Armenia is part of.
This 5,500-Year-Old Leather Shoe is the Oldest Ever Discovered
The oldest leather shoe known to archeologists was discovered lodged in a sheep dung pit in a cave in Armenia, and is about 5,500 years old, according to a BBC article. The so-called Areni-1 shoe is an example of early, simplistic footwear which may have influenced the creation of other types of shoe design in the ancient world.
Anthropologists believe that humans started wearing shoes around 40,000 years ago contributing to anatomical changes in human feet and limbs. However, we have very little idea of what these prehistoric shoes might have looked like.
Entrance to the Areni-1 cave in southern Armenia near the town of Areni. The cave is the location of the world’s oldest known winery and where the world’s oldest known leather shoe has been found.
Several pairs of rope sandals discovered by archaeologists in a cave in Oregon are thought to be the oldest footwear ever discovered, dating to approximately 8,000 BC. However, the oldest shoe, made from leather and featuring a closed toe, was found in a remote cave in Armenia in 2008.
The shoe was excavated as part of a project led by archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia.
The team was exploring a cave known as Areni-1, in the Vayots Dzor region. Areni-1 contained a number of Neolithic and Copper Age remains, including food containers holding barley, wheat and apricots.
The shoe itself was found inside a pit, perfectly preserved in the cool, dry conditions of the cave. It was cemented in with several layers of sheep dung, which acted as a seal, protecting the contents of the pit from the air and water.
The Areni-1 shoe was made from a single piece of tanned leather from the hide of a cow. It was seamed at the front and the back and tied together with leather cords, and appears to have been made to measure.
According to National Geographic, the leather was probably wrapped around the foot before stitching to ensure a tight fit. It corresponds to a size 7 (US) in modern footwear, and so could have conceivably been worn by either a man or a woman.
The shoe was also found stuffed full of grass. The archaeologists could not determine whether this was intended as a way to ensure that it held its shape while not being worn, or whether it was insulation designed to keep the wearer’s feet warm.
The Areni-1 shoe was carbon-dated to around 3,500 BC, making it the oldest footwear of its kind ever to be discovered. Shoes would have been particularly important to the Copper Age inhabitants of the cave, as the area around the site is well known for its rocky terrain, with sharp, pointed rocks and thorny plants.
The shoe itself showed considerable signs of wear and tear, particularly at the heel and ball of the foot, suggesting that the wearer habitually walked very long distances. This assumption is further supported by the other items discovered in the cave including obsidian, thought to have been brought from a site over 75 miles away.
According to National Geographic, the Areni-1 shoe appears to be an example of the earliest leather footwear designs, creating a basic prototype that would be exported throughout the region.
The shoe closely resembles other ancient shoes discovered in the Middle East and North Africa and even draws a comparison with traditional clothing from the Balkans and North Africa, which are still worn in festivals today. In particular, it bears close similarities to the opanke, a form of traditional Balkan footwear.
The second oldest leather shoe discovered by archaeologists was found on Ötzi “the Iceman”, a mummified corpse uncovered in the Austrian Alps and dating from between 3,400 and 3,100 BC.
Ötzi’s shoe was significantly more sophisticated, comprising a bearskin base and deerskin side panels, pulled tight with a bark-string net. Dating just a few hundred years after the Areni-1 shoe, Ötzi’s shoe represents a significant leap forward in footwear design and technology.
Nevertheless, the Areni-1 shoe provides an important and extremely rare insight into the clothing and footwear worn by the Copper Age inhabitants of Armenia. Today it is on display in the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan.