The Armenian Plateau Cradle of Civilization

The oldest town in Armenia is a 90,000 BC Stone Age settlement on the shores of Lake Yerevan. Between 9000-7000 BC, a complex web of cities and fortified settlements appeared evenly spaced through the Ararat valley along a series of rivers branching off a central spine.

The successful smelting of copper and bronze (as early as 5000 BC in Armenia), along with gold, silver and magnesium, plus the mining of precious gems transformed an agrarian civilization into to an urban one. The first signs of fortified cities in Armenia are traced to this era, beginning with the excavation at Metsamor (a thriving city by at least 5,000 BC, conjectured to be as old as 9,000 BC in its first incarnation). Other 5th millennium cities include Dari Blur (Armavir), Aratashen Blur, AdaBlur and Teghut.

Inhabitants believed the technique for forging metal was given to them from the gods, and their temples combined metal idols with sophisticated stone observatories that charted the night sky. The first recorded astronomers, they were the earliest to create a calendar that divided the year into 12 segments of time, among the first to devise the compass, and to envision the shape of the world as round (see picture).

Ancestral Armenians developed a trading culture at a very early time. To do that, they needed to understand and create a system of navigation. Longitude, latitude, distance and direction had to be calculated for any trip farther than across a few mountains. Artifacts uncovered at Metsamor come from as far-flung cultures as those in Central Asia, Mesopotamia, the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Others include navigational tools, inscribed in stone and accurately mapping the night sky. In Sissian, a 4200 BC astral observatory built from stone shows an incredibly sophisticated knowledge of the universe 2000 years before the Babylonians—originally thought the first astronomers—had built their first city.

Rapid development and unification through trading between the tribes in the Armenian plateau created a rich and prosperous culture that was to last for more than 5000 years. The metal based cultures that sprung up on the Armenian plateau were neighbors with Sumeria, Elam, and the first empire Akkad. They had mapped the constellations before the great pyramids were built, while Greece wasn’t even a thought, and the first dynasty in China was about 2000 years away.

Coming on the wave of the Indo-European / Aryan migrations into Asia and the Mediterranean, the cultures were in close contact with those that developed in Mesopotamia, sharing ethnic and cultural totems among them. The territory was described as a rich land between the rivers, with their head at the "mountains of the gods" (described as "Arartu" in "Gilgamesh", a ca. 4000 BC Sumerian story, considered the first epoch. In the same epoch the land of Arartu (Uratu/ Meru/ Ararat) was called the birthplace of humankind, the font of civilization, and to travel there and back, a person had to "go by land, return by water", which perfectly describes the mountainous and river terrain in Armenia.)