The remains of Rock-Art have been found in over 120 countries. These are the images carved or pecked into a rock face using stone tools. Human-like (anthropomorphic), animal and bird (zoomorphic) images are common, as are circles, spirals, dots, lines, and other geometric and abstract forms. They have great cognitive value and tell us myths of origins, stories of past societies, traditions, emotions, beliefs, defeats and victories of our ancestors.

The Republic of Armenia (RA), which comprises one tenth of the territory of the Armenian Highland, has a plenitude of rock-carvings. Five large Rock-Art areas are well known and nearly 20 thousand carved rock-pieces have been discovered so far. 12000 of these are located in the vicinity of the Geghama and Vardenis Mountain Ranges (2500-3200 m above sea level) and more than 6000 in the Syunik Mountains (3000-3400 m) in the south of RA. Another 2000 have been found on the slopes of Aragats (1100-3000 m), the highest peak of RA (4094 m) and on the slopes of Navasar, near the second peak of RA -- Kaputjugh (3904 m). There are also hundreds of rock-carvings in the Qarvachar Region of Artsakh.

A great number of rock-carvings has been found in Western Armenian provinces in modern Turkey and in the Kobustan area of Azerbaijan. All of the carvings located in Azerbaijan and eastern Turkey are similar in subject, style and technique to those in RA, and similar to those presented here (Photos) which are all from the Geghama Mountains.

Almost all aspects of human life are reflected in Rock-Art. Most images depict men in scenes of hunting and fighting, cultivating land, competing and dancing. Different animals, especially goats, deer and panthers, as well as the mythological creatures – “vishaps” (dragon-like steles) are pictured. Some rock-images reflect the adoration of maternity, the ancestors, heroes, spirits, fertility and time. Geographic elements are also featured: rivers, lakes, springs etc., followed by astronomical bodies and phenomena: the Sun, the Moon, stars, stellar constellations and starry sky, bolide, comet, and lightning. There are many images of carriages and various structures, maps, water-grids, starry sky, as well as carved compasses, solar and lunar calendars.

Like rock art monuments elsewhere in the world, the petroglyphs of Armenia, by their great number, styles and diverse content, occupy a unique place in our cultural heritage from the ancient world.


DATING

One of the fundamental problems of cultural anthropology and prehistoric studies is the dating of ancient monuments and artifacts. In case of engraved rock-images, it becomes almost unsolvable, because of the impossibility of applying well-known methods of natural science (radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, pigment, spectral, palaeomagnetic, pollen, ultrasonic, collagen analyses etc.). Precise dating of each rock-carving is extremely difficult. The achievements of contemporary Rock-Art investigations have not managed to develop a precise dating of rock-carvings yet. It is admitted that our ancestors' rock carving activity has lasted from 5th up to the 1st Millennia BC, due to the facts of historical-cultural comparison, i.e. with other archaeological monuments. Until now, our scientists have used comparative biological, geological, archaeological and traceological methods and complex studies for age determination in general. Those valuations are based on the analysis of content, style and technique that give too approximate results. For instance, a rock-carving may be dated from the 5th up to the 2nd Millennia BC. The best dating has an accuracy of 1000 years.

To solve this problem we attach importance to complex materialogical, traceological, ethnographical, mythological, and cosmological studies, and in general, a variety of combined approaches. Taking into account all known methods of Rock-Art dating and the range of application, we mostly focus on astronomical dating methods. The essence of these methods is the analysis of rock-images with astronomical content to determine the age. We have suggested two methods for this purpose.

The first method

Some of rock-carvings in Armenia, in Gegharkounik Marz, represent stellar constellations. They are discovered on the hillsides of mountain ranges around Lake Sevan, at Vardenis Pass, near an ancient caravan road with cyclopean fortresses, and very likely have had ritual and orientational significance. The stars are shown by means of dots and circles, corresponding to their brightness. It is well known that all bright stars have proper motions. Because of very slow movement, their displacement in the sky cannot be noticed by man during his lifetime, but it is big enough to change noticeably during millennia. Thus, the configurations of constellations differ from today's view, but they still remain recognizable. The essence of this method is in the comparison of the engraved configuration of a certain constellation with its present view and the assumption that the image was executed with sufficient precision, i.e. it is similar to the view of that constellation at the time of engraving. Reconstructing by means of retrospective mathematical calculations the view of the constellation (mutual position of stars) in past, and comparing it with the view in the rock-carving, we may arrive at the precise time it was carved, i.e. the absolute age of stellar maps.

The description of constellations comes from the Alexandrian poet Arattes II, and it is written upon Eudoxes’ work  (4th ce. BC). Arattes speaks about deep and unknown antiquity of the origins of constellations. Still, at the beginning of the 20th ce. a number of European archaeologists and historians of astronomy (Walter Maunder, William Olcott, Camille Flammarion, Swartz, Berry), independently from the Armenian material, came to the conclusion that people who invented the earliest forms of constellations, lived in the valley of Euphrates and around Ararat Mountain. They also believed that the first Zodiac constellations were formed and named by people who lived in the 30th - 33rd cc. BC between the Caspian and Aegean Seas, on the latitudes 36-42°. The European authors' analytical conclusions are corroborated by material discovered during the last 35 years - engraved star-groups, calendars, maps, astronomical centres (Metsamor, Vardenis, Sevsar, Qarahounge, Astghaberd, Koghes, Agarak, archaeological findings, inscriptions etc.).

 

The second method

An ancient astronomical complex of Sevsar Mountain in the Vardenis Range allows for its dating. There are 15 pictured rock-pieces within an area of 50 by 20 m. Observations allow us to conclude that the big round image represents a bolide, and the adjoining pictures are constellations. Thus, we may assume that this is a stellar map, which shows a sector of the sky from which the bolide descended. Supposing that the three lines on the right point in the direction of the bolide’s flight, we shall see Azhdahak Mountain standing there, with a little (28 by 36 m and 4 m deep) crater behind. Calculations prove that such a crater might have been formed by the impact of a meteorite of 80-300 kg and a velocity of 20 to 10 km/sec. When the meteorite (or its fragments) and the traces of its impact are found in the crater, the time of the collision may be scientifically defined. This will afford the opportunity to more precisely define the absolute age of the Sevsar astronomical complex, dating back supposedly to 2nd - 1st Millennia BC.


TECHNIQUE

The petroglyphs are carved out on dark-shiny and sunburned surfaces of andesite-basalt rocks by stone-cutters, substituted later on by metal. The rocks are extremely hard, their colour, which was originally of a lighter shade, darkened by oxidation through the ages and also by a thin, shiny film called Wüstenlak, which forms on the rocks.

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