I’m studying the inscriptions of the Hellenistic and Roman periods in Armenia, and while most of them have been collected in the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan, there is one in a regional museum in a town called Yeghegnadzor. So a colleague arranged permissions for me, and I was slated to travel there yesterday.
I decided to make an adventure of it and stop at a couple places on my way back to Yerevan, and thus flexibility was key, so I would need to either hire a driver or rent a car. In the end, the price for a driver and car or for my own car was the same (except for gas, which was additional), but I enjoy traveling independently, and I thought it would be an adventure. And I was definitely correct. It’s more usually been the case that my husband drives while I navigate, but yesterday, I had to both navigate and avoid crazy drivers, kamikaze pedestrians, etc.
The road signs in Armenia are improving, but they are not great, and to get to the southern part of the country, you have to figure out how to weave through the southern part of Yerevan in order to emerge on the correct highway. I almost did it correctly: I ended up on a smaller highway that led in the same direction through villages, rather than the 4-lane divided highway that goes toward Artashat from Yerevan. I always knew I was at least headed in the correct direction—when an enormous double-peaked mountain dominates the southern horizon, that’s actually not hard. I kept Mt. Ararat on my right, and I was in business—once I managed to leave Yerevan, that is. Leaving Yerevan was the tricky part; there is an amazing amount of traffic that leaves via a small 2-lane road that takes a sharp turn under a very narrow train bridge, where sometimes oncoming traffic has to wait for the other direction because of the tiny width of the underpass. It looks like you’re taking a short cut through a factory yard, but in fact, you are on one of the main routes south out of the city.
Eventually I made my way to Yeghegnadzor and found the museum after asking three people where to find it (turned out that third person thinks I’m crazy; I had just passed it and was sitting in front of the neighboring building; “Excuse me, can you tell me where the museum is?” Incredulous look. Point.). And at the museum, the docent was incredibly helpful and generous with her time. We took the altar outside, washed it thoroughly, and then I made a “squeeze,” an impression of the words on the stone using wet paper, pounded into the inscription with a boar-bristle brush. I used two different kinds of paper and multiple brushes and eventually succeeded in getting a relatively clear reverse impression of the inscription.
The stone is a portable altar that some have argued was connected to the 15th Roman legion, which was stationed in Armenia during the second century AD. The inscription is in Greek.
Scrubbing the monument in preparation
Waiting for the squeeze to dry
And this is the exciting result