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Armenia – The Oldest Country in the World!

Armenia was the 1st country to ever officially adopt Christianity as its national religion. It did so in 301, a time when Christianity was gaining momentum throughout the Roman Empire, but was still a very persecuted religion.

In fact, that was during the peak of the Diocletianic Persecution, also known as the Great Persecution, when Christians were being tortured and murdered on a daily basis. So, Armenia certainly stood out by declaring Christianity as their official religion at that time.

The roots of Christianity in Armenia go even farther back than that, though. The Armenian Church was founded by two of Christ’s apostles, Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, around 50 BC, and they were preaching throughout the country in the decades before that. The majority of the country still practices Christianity. It really is the oldest Christian country in the world. Mount Ararat in Judeo-Christian tradition is associated with the “Mountains of Ararat” where, according to the book of Genesis, Noah’s ark came to rest. Mount Ararat is the symbol of the Armenian nation.

The ancient kingdom of Van (Ararat or Urartu or Biainili), was formed in the 9th century BC in the basin of Lake Van of the Armenian Highland, including the territory of modern-day Yerevan. King Arame was the founder of the state which was one of the most developed states of its age.

However, the territory of Yerevan-Erebuni was settled in the fourth millennium B.C., fortified settlements from the Bronze Age include Shengavit, Tsitsernakaberd, Teishebaini, Arin Berd, Karmir Berd and Berdadzor.

In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

History of the Armenian nation:

The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

The Armenian highland is the place were agroculture, domestication and metallurgy started. The Hurrians – Urartians – Armenians are the deveoper of this, and their Caucasian language became the root language in Caucasian, Semitic and Indo-European languages. We are talking about haplogroups G2a, J2 and R1b. These haplogroups spread all over Eurasia from their urheimat in the Armenian higland (corresponding to the mountainous plateau between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus mountains) together with knowledge about agroculture, domestication and metallurgy.

The Iron Age Urartian state was the successor of the Late Bronze Age Hurrian state of Mitanni, and the Urartian language spoken by the ruling class is the successor of the Hurrian language. The Urartian state was in turn succeeded in the area in the 6th century BC by the Orontid Armenian kingdom. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

Shubria  or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was part of the Urartu confederation. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name Armenia.

It was a Proto-Armenian kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.

After the Proto-Armenian (Hurrian) king Shattuara of Mitanni was defeated by Adad-nirari I of Assyria in the early 13th century BC, he became ruler of a reduced vassal state known as Shubria or Subartu. The name Subartu for the region is attested much earlier, from the time of the earliest Mesopotamian records (mid 3rd millennium BC).

The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer. Subartu in the earliest texts seem to have been farming mountain dwellers, frequently raided for slaves.

Together with Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other Indo-European populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Kingdom of Ararat rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants (according to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia) later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the early Armenians.

A Proto-Armenian population was present in the area already during Urartian rule. Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni are considered to form (part of) an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources. The earliest is from an inscription which mentions Armânum together with Ibla (Ebla) as territories conquered by Naram-Sin of Akkad in ca. 2250 BC identified with an Akkadian colony.

Aleppo appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani to the Akkadians. Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC.

Another mention by pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”.

The Birth of Civilization

The Sumerians were farmers from the north down to southern Iraq. The Hurrians had a reputation in metallurgy. The Sumerians borrowed their copper terminology from the Hurrian vocabulary. Copper was traded south to Mesopotamia from the Armenian highland.

Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta is a legendary Sumerian account, of preserved, early post-Sumerian copies, composed in the Neo-Sumerian period (ca. 21st century BC). It is one of a series of accounts describing the conflicts between Enmerkar, king of Unug-Kulaba (Uruk), and the unnamed king of Aratta (probably somewhere in modern Iran or Armenia). It is also notable for its possible parallels to the Tower of Babel narrative of Genesis. Inanna has a central role in the myth of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.  A major theme in the narrative is the rivalry between the rulers of Aratta and Uruk for the heart of Inanna. Aratta is home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. Ultimately, this rivalry results in natural resources coming to Uruk and the invention of writing.

Inanna’s name derives from Queen of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-anna). The Cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin) and sky (Sumerian: an). Inanna must originally have been related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.

Urkesh or Urkish is a tell, or settlement mound, located in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria. It was founded during the fourth millennium BC possibly by the Hurrians on a site which appears to have been inhabited previously for a few centuries. The genealogy and identity of Urkesh’s rulers is largely unknown, but the following names have been identified as being those of the city-state’s kings. The first three known kings (only two of whom are known by name) bore the Hurrian title endan.

ENSI (spelled PA.TE.SI in Sumerian cuneiform, hence occasionally transliterated as patesi; possibly derived from <en si-k>, “lord of the plowland”; borrowed into Akkadian as iššakkum) is a Sumerian title designating the ruler or prince of a city state. Originally it may have designated an independent ruler, but in later periods the title presupposed subordinance to a lugal (King/Emperor).

Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform KUR URUMi-ta-an-ni, also Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni) or Hanigalbat (Assyrian Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) was an Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and south-east Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC.

This kingdom was known as the Marya-nnu (Maria), Nahrin or Mita-nni (Mitra and king Mita) to the Egyptians, Hurri to the Hittites and Hanigalbat to the Assyrians. All three names were equivalent and interchangeable. Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”, or “Hurrians”. The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat (Han-i-gal-bat). Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat. Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim.

Aleppo has scarcely been touched by archaeologists, since the modern city occupies its ancient site. The site has been occupied from around 5000 BC, as excavations in Tallet Alsauda show. The city appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus. The first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, when Aleppo was the capital of an independent kingdom closely related to Ebla, known as Armi to Ebla and Armani to the Akkadians. Giovanni Pettinato describes Armi as Ebla’s alter ego. Naram-Sin of Akkad destroyed both Ebla and Armani in the 23rd century BC.

Tell Halaf is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. It was the first find of a Neolithic culture, subsequently dubbed the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs. The site is located near the city of Ra’s al-‘Ayn in the fertile valley of the Khabur River (Nahr al-Khabur), close to the modern border with Turkey.

Since the 1930s, numerous archaeological excavations and surveys have been carried out in the Khabur Valley, indicating that the region has been occupied since the Lower Palaeolithic period. Important sites that have been excavated include Tell Halaf, Tell Brak, Tell Leilan, Tell Mashnaqa, Tell Mozan and Tell Barri. The region has given its name to a distinctive painted ware found in northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the early 2nd millennium BCE, called Khabur ware. The region of the Khabur River is also associated with the rise of the kingdom of the Mitanni that flourished c.1500-1300 BC.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture begins after the 8.2 kiloyear event which was a sudden decrease in global temperatures starting ca. 6200 BC and which lasted for about two to four centuries.

Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture and surrounding areas, which is assigned to the period of ca. 4000 – 2200 BC, and had close relation with the middle Bronze Age culture called Trialeti culture (ca. 3000 – 1500 BC). Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.

In around ca. 6000–4200 B.C the Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes. Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasys on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).

The Birth of Agriculture

According to one theory, it was a sudden change in climate, the Younger Dryas event (ca. 10800 to 9500 BC), that inspired the development of agriculture. The Younger Dryas was a 1,000-year-long interruption in the higher temperatures prevailing since the Last Glacial Maximum, which produced a sudden drought in the Levant. This would have endangered the wild cereals, which could no longer compete with dryland scrub, but upon which the population had become dependent to sustain a relatively large sedentary population. By artificially clearing scrub and planting seeds obtained from elsewhere, they began to practice agriculture. However, this theory of the origin of agriculture is controversial in the scientific community.

Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) is an early Neolithic sanctuary located at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa (formerly Urfa / Edessa). It includes massive stones carved about 11,000 years old, arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. Some propose that Gobekli Tepe is proof that religion sparked civilization, and not agriculture.

The Natufian culture was an Epipaleolithic culture that existed from 13,000 to 9,800 years ago in the Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was unusual in that it was sedentary, or semi-sedentary, before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufian communities are possibly the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. There is some evidence for the deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at the Tell Abu Hureyra site, the site for earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. Generally, though, Natufians made use of wild cereals. Animals hunted included gazelles.

The Natufian developed in the same region as the earlier Kebaran complex, and is generally seen as a successor which developed from at least elements within that earlier culture. There were also other cultures in the region, such as the Mushabian culture of the Negev and Sinai, which are sometimes distinguished from the Kebaran, and sometimes also seen as having played a role in the development of the Natufian. The habitations of the Natufian are semi-subterranean, often with a dry-stone foundation. The superstructure was probably made of brushwood. No traces of mudbrick have been found, which became common in the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA).

Zarzian culture is an archaeological culture of late Paleolithic and Mesolithic in Iraq, Iran, Central Asia. The period of the culture is estimated about 18,000-8,000 years BC. It was preceded by the Baradostian culture in the same region and was related to the Imereti culture of the Caucasus. The culture was named and recognised of the cave of Zarzi in Iraqi Kurdistan. Here was found plenty of microliths (up to 20% finds). Their forms are short and asymmetric trapezoids, and triangles with hollows.

The Zarzian of the Zagros region of Iran is contemporary with the Natufian but different from it. The only dates for the entire Zarzian come from Palegawra Cave, and date to 17,300-17,000BP, but it is clear that it is broadly contemporary with the Levantine Kebaran, with which it shares features. It seems to have evolved from the Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian.

There are only a few Zarzian sites and the area appears to have been quite sparsely populated during the Epipalaeolithic. The Zarzian culture is found associated with remains of the domesticated dog and with the introduction of the bow and arrow. It seems to have extended north into the Kobistan region and into Eastern Iran as a forerunner of the Hissar and related cultures. Faunal remains from the Zarzian indicate that the temporary form of structures indicate a hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy, focused on onager, red deer and caprines. The Zarzian culture seems to have participated in the early stages of what Kent Flannery has called the broad spectrum revolution.

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