Category Archives: ARCHAEOLOGY


Part 1. The Chapel of John the Evangelist and Its Inscriptions


Michael E. Stone (Jerusalem)-Member of Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Khachik A. Harutyunyan-Candidate of Sciences in Philology
Over the centuries the Holy Sepulchre has been and continues to be one of the main sanctuaries of the Christian world up to our days. Armenians and other Christian peoples have visited this Basilica, renewed their vow with God, obtained new holy places, extended or lost them, celebrated holy masses there, and copied manuscripts. Indeed, in the colophons of some Armenian manuscripts it is possible to see the Holy Sepulchre as a place of copying. With the hope of leaving their names in the book of life and being mentioned in future (this phenomenon is wellknown and widespread in the colophons of the Armenian manuscripts) the Armenian pilgrims have engraved numerous graffiti in the different sites in the complex forming the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In this series of articles, we present the Armenian inscriptions of the Holy Sepulchre. In the first part we present one of the Armenian sites of the Holy Sepulchre – the Chapel of John the Evangelist and its inscriptions. The chapel is located in the eastern part of the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Rev. John Hannah (Hovhannes Hanna), a well-known scholar of Jerusalem’s history, writes that the chapel was built in the same place where, according to legend, John the Evangelist and the Mother of God stood during the crucifixion of Christ (John 26:26-27). There is no information about the date of construction of the chapel, but it was probably built  before the 6th CE century, as it is mentioned in the famous “List” of Anastas Vardapet, who presumably visited the Holy places in the middle of the 6th century.

In total, we have managed to find 8 inscriptions there, 5 of which are in the Chapel, and the other 3 are graffiti incised at the entrance of the Chapel.



Arsen E. Harutyunyan, Sergiu V. Matveev (Qishnev)
The Armenian community of Moldova was formed at least in the 10-11th centuries and developed in the 14-15th centuries after the establishment of Moldovian power in 1359. The town of Izmail previously located in the province of Bessarabia and at present within the region of Odessa of Ukraine, before its fortress having been taken by generalissimo A. Suvorov in 1790 it used to be one of the famous Armenian centers of Moldova where Armenians had several churches, were engaged in handicraft (especially in tailoring) and trade. About a dozen of epigraphs located in the Armenian cemetery adjacent to St. Astvatsatsin Church were still published by Christopher Kuchuk-Hovhannisyan at the beginning of the last century which evidence about once the dense Armenian community. One of the epigraphs is about the church rennovation activities which were accomplished in 1763, during the reign of Catholicos of All Armenians Hakob Shamakhetsi and by donations of local spiritual and secular representatives. The other epigraphs are epitaphs dated 1556-1749.

Unfortunately, those epigraphs have not been preserved but two epitaphs have recently been discovered in Izmail. One of them is situated in the yard of Maria Ivanovna’s house (Fuchik str. 184). It is dated 1725 and bears the names of deceased Friar Pilpos and probably his wife Khanghaz. The other tombstone is exhibited in the yard of Historical Museum of Izmail after O. Suvorov. It is dated 1758 and also bears the names of two deceased – Arzukhan from Bist Village (in Nakhijevan) and probably her husband Hovsep, son of Tsatur. The discovery of new tombstones again reaffirmed the active life of Armenian community in Izmail especially in the 18th century as well as served as an occasion to refer to the history of this Armenian colony and non-preserved epigraphic inscriptions in a new way.



Arsen E. Harutyunyan

Key words – Sisian, museum, cross-stone (khachkar), inscription, gravestone, exhibit, copper utensils, tile, cask (karas).

The History Museum in Sisian of the RA Syunik Province, founded in 1989, has a rich collection presenting the cultural heritage of the region that includes the working tools of the primitive men and the 19th-century samples of applied art. The yard in the front side of the museum decorated with stone obelisks is called Stone Museum (Karadaran). Here petroglyphs, architectural details of the buildings, cross-stones (khachkars), gravestones (mainly ram-shaped) and other objects brought from surrounding villages and archaeological excavations over the years are exhibited. Many of the exhibits of the Museum as well as the outdoor Stone Museum are inscribed. Among them the most prominent are the sarcophagus bearing the name of King Grigor II of Syunik (12th c.), the beautifully sculpted cross-stones (15th-16th cc.) transported from the villages of Angeghakot and Vorotan : they were erected for the salvation of the souls of Tados, Dondish, friar Mkrtich, untimely deceased Shahriar, Khumar, Oghulbek, priest Shmavon and others are especially notable. The inscribed samples of the copper utensils, as well as, the fragments of the inscribed tiles originating from Aghitu (11th-12th centuries) and the cask (karas) with two stamps (1854) are also worth mentioning. The unskillfully made fine printed inscriptions of the tiles testify that still in Medieval Ages the special italic script called “notrgir” was used (cursive). Such samples are also known from Dvin (7th c. AD).


New details on the origin of Simon Vratsyans’ family


Artsruni S. Sahakyan, Ashot G. Manucharyan, Hakob S. Khatlamajyan, Sasun M. Harutyunyan

Key words – inscription, Armenian, village, cemetery, gravestone, source, scientific, information, history, survey.

Great Sala is one of the five villages in Myasnikyan region, Rostov Province, Russian Federation. It is on the left bank of the river Don and was founded by the Crimean Armenians who were exiled by the Empress of all Russia Yekaterina II (1762-1796). Independent of the hardships the re-settlers, who had left the mild climate of the Black Sea and pictueresque countryside behind, got gradually adjusted to the harsh desert conditions of Don. Moreover, they could both turn it to blooming territories and prosper themselves. According to the facts given by academician Vladimir Barkhudaryan the population of the village rose from 262 to 4191 from 1793 to 1914. Simon Vratsyan (1882-1969), the popular Armenian political person and Statesman, the first Prime-Minister of Armenia (1918-1920) stated that his birthplace of Great Sala was one of the richest, prosperous and civilized centres among the villages. He even, half-ironically but mainly with deep pride, mentioned that it was considered to be called Petite/Small Paris.

It was supposed that Armenian epigraphic inscriptions existed in the village. In 1967 a known Armenian epigraphic professor Grigor Grigoryan in the course of expedition field works managed to collect 9 inscriptions, the two of which were from the Church of Surb Astvatsatsin/St. Holy Mother, and other 7 – from the local cemetery. The collected materials were included in “Collection of Armenian Inscriptions” (VIII publication, Russian Federation, Yerevan, 1999, p.153).

In 2017 23 inscriptions were found and copied by us, 20 of which were published for the first time. Those newly found cuneiform inscriptions 50 years ago were deeply covered by thick layers of earth, grass and bushes. Due to the mentioned fact they were not revealed then and, consequently, they were not examined. The inscriptions are dated back to the mid-XIX and beginning of the XX centuries. The gravestones and grave slabs bear the names of the Armenians, the years both of their birth and death. It is interesting to mention that we can find a lot of information about Armenians and their origins in the history, namely six-volume collection by Simon Vratsyan, titled “On the Ways of Life” (Beirut, 2007).



Armine A. Gabrielyan

Key words – Tigranakert in Artsakh, antique ceramics, ornamental decoration, heraldic scene, Tree of Life, goats, Ancient East, glyptic.

One of the main results of ashcan logical excavations is the rich collection of late antique pottery of Tigranakert of Artsakh (1st century BC-3rd century AD). This distinguished by the great variety of forms and types. The present article is devoted to the morphological, functional and artistic examination of antique ceramics of Tigranakert of Arsakh.

The number of such vessels founded from Tigranakert is over three dozens. One of their peculiarities is the flat-cut lip and the unique solution of the crown, which has a circular groove. These vessels do not carry any trace of fire. There are some examples of boiler-shaped vessels which have rich decorations, that is why it gives grounds to say that they were used as a tableware.

One of the sucl, vessels composition is the Life Tree and two goats standing besides.

The iconography of the heraldic-standing goats on both sides of the tree was widespread even before the 4th-3rd millennium BC in the Old East’s glyptic and in the ornamental decoration of ceramics, later also in the toreutics.

We do not know anything about the illustration with such composition among antique ceramics of Armenia. The finding of Tigranakert is still the only one that shows the viability of the existing tentative motive. The detailed examination of this composition is also important in the sense that later, especially in the Middle Ages, it was widely spread, in particular, it was stamp-ornament: of socalled stamped jars



Hagop M. Tcholakian

Key words – Hambushie village; Aramo villege, Lattakia’s region; villages with Armenian population; Catholicos Mkhitar Garnertsi; tower; lithography, lithographic fragment; bridge, fountain, stone-cutter rooms.

The article presents the content of Armenian migration in the Middle Ages in northern-western regions of Syria and speaks about the lithographic record drawn up at upper stone door of the tower of Hambushie by the Catholicos of Mkhitar Garnertsi, which complete copy has come to us by Zakaria vartabed of Zumurnia. Now, the village is completely cleared of the Armenians. The tower is completely destroyed and at the same in this area the mentioned lithographic fragment has been found on the wall of one of the houses built in the middle of the 20th century. Other Armenian relic of antiquity such as rocks, bridges, fountains is presented.



Murad M. Hasratyan

Key words – fortress-church; monastery- fortress; Middle Ages; defensive wall; fences; sacristies; pyramids; felting constructions, refectory

In Middle Ages in Armenia in addition to fortresses and monasteries separate churches were also used for defense. There are two architectural groups of fortress-churches in Armenia. The first group includes those churches, which were initially built for defensive purposes, for instance the one-nave basilica of Agarak (IV century), the church and the vestibule of the monastery of Arakelots in Ijevan (XIII century), a three-storied fortress-church of Sedvi (XIII century).]

The second larger group includes the churches that were converted into fortresses in the Middle Ages. the Ashtarak basilica (V century), the Tsiranavor church in Parbi (V century), the central-cupola church in Mastara (VII century), etc., were surrounded by walls without towers, while the churches of Kumayri (VII century), Jrapi ( VII century), Noragavita (X-XI centuries) Ashnak (X-XI centuries) were surrounded by walls with semi-circular pyramid towers. Over the roof of the Shirakavank cathedral (IX century) a room for the defenders was built.

In the architecture of the fortress-churches their genetic connection with the fortification art of medieval Armenia is definitely manifested and the innovation is that it is an original combination of the compositions of the cult building and the defensive structure.



Arsen E. Harutyunyan

Key words – Khachkar (cross stone), memorial inscription, church, arrangement, rosette, east, window, the front of altar bema, benefactor.

Khachkars (cross-stones) take a special place in a number of monuments of Medieval Armenia, about which numerous albums, researches and articles have been published. Our immediate reference is related to the khachkars placed on the walls of the churches dating from the 17-18th centuries and and created simultaneously with them. These khachkars have so far not been awarded any attention yet.

As shown by our research, the discussed khachkars are primarily distinguished by their compositional features. In particular, they are characterized by: simplicity of decorative ornaments, ornamental belt and cross in the form of braids, undecorated areas on the cross, the absence of a rosette at the base of the palmettes. The latter circumstance can be explained by the fact that the khachkars were usually built into the upper part of the church walls, and the church itself took the role of the rosette in this case. Similarly, the placement of the khachkars above the window is explained, when the window replaces the rosette forming the compositional unity with the cross, and, being conditioned by the semantics of light, obviously symbolizes Christ and the «star-light» coming of the cross.

The examined cross-stones primarily decorate the eastern walls of the churches, which symbolizes the idea of the direction of the Second Coming of J. Christ. Similar khachkars were also built in the central part of the outer walls, above the main entrance, into the base of the altar, etc. Apparently, this is explained by the perception of the khachkar as an intermediary between the God and the believer.

Some memorable inscriptions are often placed on the built-in khachkars. The latter transmit documentary information about the creation of the building, the customer and his relatives, the caretaker of the church, and sometimes the master-builder of the church.

The examined type of late medieval khachkars is distinguished mainly by its compositional, functional and memorable features, thanks to which the art of creating khachkars found its new and original manifestation also in the 17th-18th centuries.



Arsen E. Harutyunyan

Key words – epitaph, manuscript, copyist, ordination, customer, art of copying, monument, seal.

Archbishop Ghunkianos Ashtaraketsi, a cenobite of St. Etchmiadzin, a prominent clerk of the second half of the 18th century, the notary, encyclicalist of the catholicoses of Simeon I Yerevantsi (1763-1780) and his successor Ghukas I Karnetsi (1780-1799), the “det” of the city of Yerevan (controller, overseer), is one of the most proficient spiritual figures of the Armenian church. The literary merit of clerk Ghukianos is presented by around ten cursive manuscript writings (N 2, 1880, 2289, 2499, 2646, 2652, 3281, 7424, 10853) generally preserved at Mashtots Institute of Manuscripts.

The names of some of the initiators of the above-mentioned manuscripts prompt that Ghukianos used to be one of the most prominent and talented scribes of his time to whom the responsible work of writing the manuscripts was entrusted by the respective persons. For example, by the order and under the Catholicos Hakob V Shamakhetsi (1759-1763) Ghunkianos wrote the manuscript N 2646 in 1761 which the record of the manuscript testifies about.

The annals on ordaining Ghunkianos Ashtaraketsi spiritual degrees is best manifested in the ordination lists of the catholicoses Simeon and Ghukas of N 2882 manuscript of “Chronicle of ordinations” (N 2882) preserved in Matenadaran after Mashtots. Among them the register compiled by Catholicos Simeon is an important and trustworthy document in regard with the biographies of St. Etchmiadzin friary of the second half of the 18th century. According to the register Ghunkianos Ashtaraketsi was ordained a deacon under the Catholicos of Simeon Yerevantsi in 1763, a monk in 1771, a preceptor (abuna, vardapet) in 1772 and under Ghukas Karnetsi Ghunkianos he was granted a degree of an bishop in 1781. After three years in 1784, Ghunkianos, usually mentioned as a “clerk”, was granted an “ultimate wand” which is, perhaps, dignifying with a title of archbishop.

“Gavazanagirk” (chronicle of kings and patriarchs) is an inseparable part of a literary merit of Ghunkianos Ashtaraketsi continued by the latter on the order of Catholicos Simeon, a work commenced by Avetik Tigranakertsi still in the beginning of the 18th century and later replenished by Hakob Shamakhetsi (1743). Gyut Aghanyants took the ordination list of Catholicos Simeon from the mentioned work. N 1492 manuscript “Digest” of Matenadaran after Mashtots contains the very work of author-writers Avetik Tigranakertsi, Hakob Shamakhetsi, and then Ghunkianos: N 7424 manuscript of Matenadaran (written in 1743, 1751, 1763 in Etchmiadzin), as well as N 6243 manuscript later copied by the clerk of mahdesi (pilgrim of Jerusalem) Hambardzum Harutyunyan in Alexandropol in 1847 also have the same context.

The circular or octagon seal bearing the name of Ghukianos Ashtaraketsi has preserved in a series of manuscripts of Matenadaran mainly written in Etchmiadzin (N 704, 710, 874, 1100, 1546, 1576, 2182, 2289, 2340, 8763, 9563 etc.) on which it was usually mentioned: “SERVANT OF CHRIST, PRECEPTOR GHUNKIANOS” (ՔՐԻՍՏՈՍԻ ԾԱՌԱՅ ՂՈԻՆԿԻԱՆՈՍ ՎԱՐԴԱՊԵՏ); they are mainly dated by the years of 1760-1780. This fact also testifies about the high position and status of a leading notary in the face of Ghunkianos in the Holy See of St. Echmiadzin.

It is noteworthy that Ghukianos died at the end of the 18th century from the plague epidemic. According to the inscription of his recently found cradleform gravestone in the monastic cemetery of St. Etchmiadzin it took place on February 6 of 1798. His mother rests in the same cemetery and where, according to her gravestone epitaph, she is the mother of; “…the lord Ghunkianos, the clerk of the God-descended throne” «…պետին Ղունկիանոսի, Աս տուածաէջ գահիս գըրչի…».



Nzhdeh A. Yeranyan

Key words – menhir, the vishap stone stelae, anthropomorphic stone stelae, Artsakh, Utik, Scythian culture, Arjaq Qaleh.

The artistic treatment of stone in South Caucasian region has been known for millennia. There are various known menhirs, vishap stelae, phallic and anthropomorphic stelae, etc. This assemblage could be followed until various stelae of the medieval period. During this long chronological period, all forms of stelae changed morphologically, typologically and semantically, but, most probably, had certain ideological similarities. The anthropomorphic stelae of eastern regions of historical Armenia (Artsakh and Utik provinces) are of a special importance but still remain unstudied. In this article are presented these anthropomorphic stone stelae, problems of their chronology, iconography and ideology.

The mentioned stelae are flat and prolonged slabs, approximately rectangular in section, that are divided into three parts by two horizontal lines: the head, the body and the part below the waist. The stelae are 30-60 cm wide, 120-140 cm high and up to 20 cm thick. There are seventeen stelae of this type known in the mentioned region. Each stela will be described in our paper separately.

The stone anthropomorphic stelae, which were accidentally found in Artsakh and surrounding plain territories, judging by their iconography, morphological specifics as well as through comparison with famous parallels from the neighboring regions, could be dated back to VII-VI cc. BC. Despite the fact that monumental sculpture is widespread, has a long history and appears separately in each ethno-cultural group, we are using the data about similar anthropomorphic stelae in the region to discuss the ideology of the stelae under discussion, to reconstruct their importance and ethno-cultural environment as well as to interpret them. These anthropomorphic sculptures are similar to the Scythian stone anthropomorphic sculptures known from the Northern Caucasus, Black Sea basin, Crimea, etc. The Scythian stelae, as a rule, represent the Scythian warrior (probably an ancestor) and were placed on burials. Currently, there are 160 stelae of that type.

Similar stelae we meet also in Iranian steppes. Тhese stelae were first described during Charles Burney`s Meskinsahr survey in 1978 .

Thus, as a result of the study of these stelae, we could gain some idea about the beliefs, ideology and history of the people who created them. It allows us to understand the history of artistic phenomena and of the historical environment in which this art was formed. It is possible that the stone anthropomorphic stelae under consideration depicted the dead or heroes, soldiers or high-ranked males. These monuments “immortalized” the memory of the deceased and were objects of memorial ceremonies devoted to them.