Archeologists Uncover Details of Ancient Metsamor’s Sacking

Standing stones at the archeological site of ancient Metsamor


YEREVAN (ArmInfo)—Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw have discovered evidence of the destruction and capture of the ancient city of Metsamor, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the vicinity of Yerevan.

“In the entire area of research we found layers of burning and ash. The city was probably captured by the army of Argishti I, the ruler of Urartu,” said Dr. Krzysztof Jakubiak, head of the project.

Argishti I was the king of Urartu, the biblical Kingdom of Ararat in the Armenian Highlands. During his reign, the boundaries of the state expanded to the Caucasus, the area of today’s Yerevan. Among the evidence of the city’s sacking is a skeleton of an approximately 30-years-old woman, whose head was cut off, and of another person with a split skull.

“We believe that both of them were killed during the attack on the city,” added Dr. Jakubiak. The discovered remains were not buried in the tombs, only randomly scattered among the buildings of the so-called lower town. What drew the attention of researchers was a small amount of findings in the form of historical objects, which may illustrate the scale of the Urartu invasion.

The invaders did not spare the holy shrines. Archaeologists found a small, oval urban sanctuary, which had been looted during the invasion. Inside, on stone platforms, they discovered broken pottery and one vessel preserved in its entirety, made of stone.

Metsamor is a protected archaeological reserve. Excavations within the reserve have been conducted for almost 50 years. Previous studies have shown that during its heyday, from the fourth to the second millenniums B.C., the settlement occupied more than 10 hectares and was surrounded by monumental walls.

In the early days of the Iron Age, from the eleventh to the ninth centuries B.C., Metsamor had grown to nearly 100 acres. The central part of the fortress was surrounded by temple complexes with seven shrines. At that time, it was one of the most important political and cultural centers in the Aras Valley.

From the eighth century B.C., Metsamor became part of the Kingdom of Urartu. Polish archaeologists began excavations in Metsamor in 2013. The project was possible thanks to an agreement signed between the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Archeology and the Institute of Archaeology of the Armenian Academy of Sciences.

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