A Hidden Gem

Shengavit, Armenia
Jul 21, 2018

While not precisely hidden, it is certainly not widely known, even by residents of the area. Such is the site of Shengavit settlement and it was purely by chance that I stumbled upon it.

I had chanced upon a brochure that mentioned it but had no idea how to reach it. In asking a woman at a bus stop, I learned that she lived in the area but had no clue as to its whereabouts. Narine is from Vanadzor and has moved to Yerevan only recently. Today, she and her daughter are playing tourist, visiting museums. On a whim she decided to join the search party and off we went. I had lucked out – she was my guide to getting the right bus and even hunting down the location and finding someone to open the locked gate.

And yet again we lucked out. The archeologist Astgh, in charge of this site was only too happy to show us the site and explain the finds. A small museum, with the best artifacts no doubt in the History Museum downtown, this nonetheless was a far richer experience for me than the visit to the main museum. Not only was Astgh happy to explain the finds, she graciously answered my many questions about other digs scattered around Armenia and even offered suggestions on reaching them. I am now armed with a map, dotted with locations and bristling with jotted instructions.

The Urartu kingdom may have been a glorious age for Armenia, but this part of the world has roots that go back a few thousand years earlier. This little patch on the shores of Lake Yerevan was an established settlement in the Early Bronze period. It remained in use, from 3200 BC to 2500BC and thereafter, irregularly until 2200 BC. It is deemed by experts to be a part of the Kura-Araxes culture, which includes a large area from Erzurum and Lake Van in present day Turkey, Kartli in present day Georgia, to the Urmia basin in present day Iran. Today it sits forgotten by most, still awaiting full excavations. A hidden gem indeed and I was thrilled.

The exhibits include pestles and other utensils made of stone. There are pots and shards with distinctive markings. There are clay wheels supposed to be part of model chariots – imagine toys from five thousand years ago! There are needles and picks made of bone and statues of bulls and female forms. There are rounded stones with holes, supposed to be sinks used for fishing in the lake and there are those peculiarly shaped hearths with cloverleaf-like openings. A couple of pieces of pottery have holes like a sieve. There are larger stones, thought to be anthropomorphic figures and a large standing stone, thought to be a phallic stone. And based on a skull found at the site, a model of the denizen from the past.

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