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.