Category Archives: ARCHAEOLOGY


Ashot G. Manucharyan

Inside the Armenian medieval church in the Georgian town of Tetritskaro (თეთრიწყარო = White Spring) there is a khachkar (cross stone) with a lapidary inscription.

We assume that the khachkar was moved from the Samshvilde fortress, whose ruins are located 5 km southeast of Tetritskaro town. Shamshvilde was the early capital of the Armenian kingdom of Tashir-Dzoraget.

The lapidary inscription on the khachkar consists of 13 lines. It was created by master Vard in 1051 in memory of himself and his brother Aghbayrik, who was a priest.

At the end of the inscription, prince of princes Smbat of the Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom (972-1118) is mentioned. He was the brother of King David Anhoghin of Tashir-Dzoraget (989/996-1048/50). Prince of princes Smbat was the commander-inchief of the Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom. He died between 1051-1061


Part 3. The Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator (St. Helena Chapel)


Michael E. Stone (Jerusalem), Khachik A. Harutyunyan
One of the oldest and most beautiful buildings of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the Armenian St. Gregory the Illuminator Church (commonly known as the Chapel of St. Helena) located in the eastern part and on the lower level of the Holy Sepulchre Church, just a few steps away from the Armenian small chapel called “The Division of the Garment”. There is a narrow entrance, from which the gradually widening stairs descend to the spacious hall of the church.

There are two altars in the church. The main altar is dedicated to St. Gregory, right of which there is a small altar dedicated to St. John the Baptist. According to the Armenian tradition, the relics of St. John were buried under this small altar, by St. Gregory the Illuminator during his visit to Jerusalem in the early 4th century.

The church is rich in extensive and short Armenian inscriptions, the total number of which, according to our calculations, reaches about six dozen. 13 of them are regular inscriptions in Erkat‘agir (uncial) script, carved on small khachkars in different parts of the church, which were mainly published and are known to scholars. The rest of the inscriptions are mostly made by the simple scratching method, and are marked by their irregular writing. The oldest dated Armenian inscription in this chapel seems to be a graffito scratched in 1451 (see no 1), after which we have discovered another graffito scratched on the outside of the cupola in 1666 by an unknown Ter (= priest) Kirakos (see no 2).

Within the limits of the present article, we selectively present 16 inscriptions of the most complete, leaving the others for the forthcoming collection of the project “The Armenian Inscriptions of the Holy Land and Sinai”. In addition to the presented graffiti, in the second part of this article, we discuss three inscriptions that have already been published in order to make some corrections and additions to them.



Arsen E. Harutyunyan
For studying the medieval history of Yerevan, in addition to the information transmitted in the writings of chroniclers, important original sources are also extant epigraphic inscriptions, which have been preserved for the most part on church walls, cross-stones (khachkars) and gravestones. Medieval Yerevan, which appears in the manuscript memorabilia mainly as a rural area, and since the 15th century as a city, was a populated territory rich in churches in which, among other things, manuscripts were copied.

The study of the epigraphic heritage of Yerevan was carried out by archaeologist, expert in epigraphy Karo Ghafadaryan, who presented 293 epigraphic inscriptions on the pages of his monograph published in 1975. Despite this circumstance, the history of Yerevan by epigraphic evidence has never been the subject of special research. Undoubtedly, commemorative inscriptions are silent witnesses of the medieval history of the city, the construction and reconstruction of its churches, donations, spiritual and cultural life. Based on commemorative inscriptions, it can be stated that the churches of the settlements that were once close to Yerevan, and that have now entered the city plan (Nork, Avan, Noragavit, Kanaker, etc.), as well as the churches of the central part of Yerevan, almost in all medieval periods were active and played an important role. Despite the great destruction caused by the earthquake of 1679, at the end of the 17th century, church construction and cultural life in the city and its environs survived the time of its revival.

It should be noted that medieval Yerevan as a place rich in gardens is repeatedly mentioned especially in the dedicatory inscriptions of the 13th century preserved in the monasteries of Kecharis, Harich, Haghartsin, the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator (Tigran Honentz) in Ani, Katoghike of Yerevan and on the walls of other monasteries and churches. The donors, hoping to receive the liturgy, donated a garden located in Yerevan or a part of the garden to a certain spiritual center, for which a memorial inscription was created. For example, in 1204, a certain Vardmbel acquired a quarter of the garden in Yerevan called Megitoni, and donated it to the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Kecharis Monastery. In response to this, two liturgies were served in his honor. According to another commemorative inscription created during the construction of a lintel for the church of Surb Nshan (Holy Sign) of the same monastery, Paron (lord) Vard donated his own garden in Yerevan, called Chmshka, to the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Kecharis, in response to which friar Petros appointed eight masses – four in honor of Vard and four in honor of Aniar.


Part 2. The Pillars of the Entrance to the Church and the Southern Wall


Michael E. Stone (Jerusalem), Khachik A. Harutyunyan
The southern entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is decorated with 11 marble pillars, which were erected about nine centuries ago, and today they are presented to us almost unharmed. These pillars and the whole entrance are rightly considered to be one of the finest works of architecture of the Crusades period. We have designated the pillars by numbers 1-11 from left to right for easiness. On the outside, there is also one more pillar on the right side of the stairs ascending to Golgotha, which is the twelfth pillar.

On all the mentioned pillars there are inscriptions in different languages (Greek, Arabic, Assyrian, Georgian, Latin) inscribed by pilgrims and visitors, including also a great number of Armenian inscriptions, in which mainly the names of pilgrims are mentioned, and sometimes inscriptions consisting of one or two sentences are discerned.

It should be noted, that in the course of the time various signs, letters, sentences, one incised on the other, countless touches of pilgrims (even today the same phenomenon is noticed) make some inscriptions on the pillars extremely difficult to decipher at present, and some of them have been badly damaged and one or two letters are barely discerned, thus, giving an opportunity to decipher at least the language of the inscription.

There are also Armenian inscriptions on the outside wall (southern) of the church at full length of the stairs, ascending to Golgotha. All those inscriptions, as a rule, are scratched by some sharp instrument; they are not distinguished with proportionality and regularity, although in separate cases also a more serious approach and regularity can be noticed.

In total, we have found more than sixty inscriptions on the mentioned pillars and wall. In this article we present only 22 of them. In some cases, we have tried to date the inscriptions by their paleographical features or due to the identification of the mentioned persons.


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.