On September 21st, Armenia celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union. There were concerts, dance performances, and a general party atmosphere all over the center of Yerevan. In the evening, Republic Square was transformed into one large concert- and show venue, where a full orchestra played while dancers danced, singers sang, and a visual history of Armenia was projected onto the History Museum of Armenia as well as the two government buildings flanking it (the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance). I’ve never seen anything like the light show played on the buildings; these photos don’t do it justice. It was really remarkable.
The History Museum of Armenia
I had spent the evening with a couple of friends, talking, eating fruit and treats, drinking cognac and rose liqueur, and I decided I needed to witness the events in Republic Square. A 20th anniversary only comes around once—and I figured that such a milestone would be perceived a little differently than, say, our 235th anniversary of independence. I started my investigations into the holiday by talking with friends and colleagues, asking what they thought of the anniversary—both in general, and specifically, of the celebrations the government was planning. The celebrations had clearly been in the works for a long time, including not just that day’s activities, but also an entire printed campaign with signs proclaiming “Hayastany Du Es!”, or, you are Armenia!, as well as a music video that played frequently all summer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dULlTcVjNk . Continue reading
I’ve lost track of on which day what happened, but here are some photos from the most recent day of ‘excavation,’ during which we began to take apart (by ‘take apart,’ I mean demolish w/ a sledgehammer) the Soviet-era military bunker. In more interesting archaeology, however, work continues on opening the paved temple courtyard.
Evaluating which rocks need to be removed, as part of the courtyard-clearing process.
The bunker, in the process of being dismantled
The dismantling includes chucking very heavy reinforced-concrete posts over the side of the mountain, into the backdirt.
Today, I got a personal tour of the Hellenistic-period capital city, Armavir. In the Urartian period (early 1st millennium BC), there was a large temple, whose foundation still stands. The city (which some have interpreted more as a sacred religious center than a true ‘city’) was still in use in the Achaemenid period (6th-4th centuries BC), and into the Hellenistic period (3rd-ca. 1st centuries BC). Then there was a gap in occupation until the Middle Ages, at which point many of the well-worked stones from the Urartian temple were redeployed in a different construction. It’s clear where the newer construction starts and where the older, Urartian construction lies next to it. Those folks in the Middle Ages didn’t bother fitting the worked stones together well, leaving an overall impression of rather sloppy construction.
The well-worked black blocks are Urartian; the red stone wall in the center is medieval.
The summit of the hill is very interesting, partly because of the multiple periods of use, which also include the Soviet period, when some sort of military blind was erected on the medieval construction. This year, the excavators are working to take down as much of that military construction as possible, in order to more completely expose the temple foundation. So to do that, the work involves a lot of demolition with pickaxes and an absolutely enormous prybar.
There are also some inscriptions at Armavir that are quite interesting, although they are on a rock at the base of the hill, on the southern face. More on those later.
The raised area to the right (to the left of the worker) is the paved floor.
Update: The medieval wall has been removed! It was a chapel, whose floor likely consisted of some flat paving stones that had been in the courtyard for the Urartian temple. Some of the paving stones have been found, and the wall was removed to facilitate the search for the extent of the courtyard.