History After the campaigns of Alexander the Great, cities all over the Hellenistic world were named after representatives of ruling dynasties. In Armenia, there were also cities that bore the names of rulers, but this tradition became more widespread during the days of Tigran the Great (95-55 BC). Other than the famous capital of Tigranakert, which was located in Western Armenia and described with reverence by Greek and Roman historians, Strabon, Appian, Plutarch, there were other famous cities throughout ancient Armenia that bore Tigran’s name. The settlement of Tigranakert in Artsakh was one of them.
The City One of the four cities with the same name, Artsakh’s Tigranakert was founded in the first century BC under the order of Tigran the Great, though the first written accounts of the city only came in the 7th century, by Armenian historians Sebeos and Moses of Kaghankatvatsi. According to their descriptions, Tigranakert was located on the shores of the Khachen River, one of Artsakh’s primary rivers, where the Artsakh mountains turn into flatlands and through which the main trade route from Syunik to Georgia stretched. During the 12th to the 14th centuries, this settlement was called Tigranakert, and beginning in the 18th century, its ruins were known to locals as Tgrakert, or Tngranakert.
The Tigranakert Historic-Cultural Reserve was founded in 2008, on a 2136-hectare plot of land. This decision was made by the government of the Mountainous Karabakh Republic in order to preserve the ruins of the historic Armenian city and its rich ancient and medieval cultural heritage.
Excavations In 2005, an expedition from the Armenian Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, led by Dr. Hamlet Petrosyan, conducted excavations in different parts of Tigranakert. As a result of their research, we now know that Tigranakert, like many other classical cities, had a citadel, a central commercial district, huge agricultural suburbs, and a cemetery.
The fortress district was situated on the slopes of Vankasar Mountain, above the streams that provided the city’s main water supply. The citadel stood at the highest point of the district, and further down, near the slope, there was an aqueduct. At the base of the mountain, south of the streams, was the central district, where several remains of buildings, medieval ceramics and pieces of glass were found.
In the southern and eastern parts of the city, there were fruit orchards and farms, which were also irrigated by the tributaries of the Khachen River. The cemetery was probably located south of the centra
The city was entirely built of local white limestone. With its long balconies, Tigranakert stretched until the foot of the mountain. It was surrounded by mighty fortress-like walls and channels carved of rock. It was a magnificent white city, surrounded by lush, green orchards, and a lively urban centre until the 14th century.l district. Relics of early Christian tombs and crosses were found here.
The citadel wall was built with expertly flattened stones and without the use of any adhesive substance, using an advanced dovetailing technique (with triangular niches in the block to the strengthen the wall and hook it into place). The wall leaves an unforgettable impression on tourists and awes experts with its clever use of technique. The stones are so tightly laid that you cannot even stick a needle through the space between them.
It seems that the citadel was not used as a defense post, since excavations show that the area was densel
y populated. The foundations of the southern wall of the citadel district are 450 metres long. Excavations have already been conducted along 320 metres, covering approximately 2500 square metres of the city.
In the city’s central district, excavations have revealed a Christian basilica that dates back to the 5th to 6th centuries, built with high-quality bricks. This basilica is distinguished from similar structures in the South Caucasus by its magnificent size, its exquisitely chiselled walls, and the rich, detailed ornamentation on its altar. A cross-shaped disc with Armenian inscriptions was also discovered here.
Important Archaeological Discoveries Distinct among the excavated artefacts are the ornamented black and grey ceramic pieces that date back from the first century BC to the first century AD, horns, seals and reliefs, clay discs in the basilica with Armenian inscriptions, early medieval glass, and 9thto 11th century glass-plated ceramics.
Two graves were excavated in Tigranakert’s ancient cemetery, and in one of them, pitchers were found with delicate illustrations and metal rings. They were decorated with rocks and gilt beads. Well-preserved silver coins from the mid-first century BC were also discovered.
The Surrounding Area The Lower Khachen River is a unique natural and historic area, where the beautiful landscape has been preserved over four historic ages. It carries the rich legacies of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, early Christianity and the Middle Ages.
The Late Medieval Castle Not far from the excavation site, there is a castle dating back to the late Middle Ages. The rectangular castle, fortified with tall towers, was built when the area was under Persian rule. The Tigranakert Museum of Archaeology opened here in 2010, after the castle was restored. The majority of the findings from the excavations are displayed here. Near the stream, one of the royal court’s buildings has been preserved.
Vankasar Mountain Not far from the ruins of Tigranakert, at 290 metres above sea level stands Vankasar Mountain. The steeple of the 5th century church built at the summit of Vankasar tops the mountain, like it aims to reach even higher. With its towering stance, Vankasar serves as a wonderful observatory, where you can gaze up at the stars with all of western Karabakh, the Southern Caucasus, and even the expanse of the entire mountainous Caucasus region before you. The chapel of Vankasar is a small, cross-shaped church. There are Armenian inscriptions on its walls, and it once housedkhachkars (Armenian cross-stones).
Gyavurkala The settlement of Gyavurkala (“fortress of infidels,” in Turkish) is located north of Tigranakert. It is best known for the ruins of an early Christian church, which has an attached cemetery with sarcophagi. Its early medieval pillars are laid out in the typical Armenian cross-shaped pattern. This church dates back to the 4th to 5th centuries.
Ancient Burial Mounds Tigranakert’s ancient history is mostly visible in the second to first century BC Bronze and Iron Age burial sites. According to historians, these burial mounds are linked to the movement of early Indo-European tribes. The rock carvings dating back to the 7th to 6thcenturies BC also attest to a rich cultural legacy.
Early Christian Cave Complex Three kilometres from Tigranakert, on the right shore of the Khachen River, there is a series of caves consisting of a church carved in the depths of a rock, an entrance hall, and cemeteries. A long path, carved like a staircase into the rock, takes you to this complex.
The walls are decorated with cross compositions and inscriptions written in Armenian and Greek.
The cross compositions depict early Christian culture, with their decorated frames, and ornaments of flowers and birds, which symbolize victory over death, the salvation of the soul and heaven.
The Canal that Flows Through the Rock During excavations, a canal was discovered in the base of the cliffs, which began from the Khachen River, flowed along the base of the early Christian cave complex, and turned towards Tigranakert. The 300-metre-long preserved canal consisted of several tunnels and was directly linked to the city of Tigranakert and its suburbs. Carved crosses, which date back to the 9th to 11th centuries, have been preserved in the walls of the canal.
The Recently Discovered Castle In December 2006, the ruins of a castle were found on the left bank of the Khachen River, atop the mountain near Nor Maragha village. The castle dates back to Late Antiquity (2nd to 3rd centuries AD) or to the Early Middle Ages (4th to 8th centuries AD). Located on the left bank of the Khachen River and very close to Tigranakert, one might assume that this fortified castle was used as a defense post.
The visitors of the museum can gain here traditional souvenirs and various printed production. There is a small café on the territory of the medieval fortress.
Address: 32-nd km of Stepanakert-Askeran-Martakert highway, Akna area, Askeran region, RMK.
Phone: +374 97 294949
17:54 December 06, 2012