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[ (.) / Introduction.]

 

Karmir-Blur, or the Red Hill, is situated on the north-western outskirts of Yerevan, on the left bank of the Razdan River. The first important find was made on this site in 1936, when a fragment of a stone slab from a wall was discovered on the top of the hill. The fragment retained remnants of a cuneiform inscription mentioning the name of Rusa, son of Argishti, King of Urartu, who reigned in the 7th century B.C.

 

Systematic excavations on the Karmir-Blur site started in 1939, and have been continued to this day. They are carried out by a joint long-term archaeological expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR and the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad.

 

The excavations revealed a single vast building occupying, together with the courtyard, an area of about 4 hectares. Its walls, made of large mud bricks measuring 52 cm by 35  cm and 14 cm thick, were of varying thickness, from 6 to 10 rows of bricks. They rested upon a foundation of roughly hewn basalt blocks. The ground floor contained about 150 rooms.

 

The surviving remains of the building show that it had once been an important administrative and economic centre of Urartu, the seat of a governor, and had a garrison stationed in it. The centre was maintained for the purposes of storage, and preparation for further use, of the agricultural produce collected from the population of the surrounding provinces as tribute.

 

The functions of the different rooms have been established. Among them were granaries, wine-cellars, a shop for making sesame oil, a brewery, store-rooms for earthenware vessels, iron tools and other objects, and an armoury.

 

Archaeological finds show that farming, gardening and cattle-breeding were well developed in Urartu. This is clear from the discovery of large stocks of grain (wheat, barley, and millet), remnants of different kinds of fruit (plums, quinces, pomegranates, grapes), and numerous bones and skeletons of domestic animals (cows, bulls, sheep, goats and horses) which perished in the fire during an enemy assault ending in the fall of the citadel.

 

As all economic centres of the Ancient Orient, Karmir-Blur had an archive of clay tablets with cuneiform texts. These were documents of account, letters from the kings of Urartu to the governor with royal commands concerning such matters as the re-allotment of land, the return to the owner of a runaway slave-woman, the collection of tribute, and other details of administration. Each document bore the impression of the royal seal.

 

Urartian records contain no references to the Karmir-Blur citadel. This fact found an explanation in 1946, when an important find was made in one of the store-rooms in the northern part of the fortress. The find was a fragment from a bronze door bolt with a ring, on which was inscribed a short text. It ran thus: Of King Rusa, son of Argishti, the armoury (house of weapons B.P.) of the town of Teishebaini. This inscription, which confirms the dating of the citadel to the 7th century B.C., gives the ancient name of the town, called so in honour of Teisheba, the god of war and of the storm, one of the triad of supreme deities of the Urartian pantheon. A bronze figurine of this god was discovered at Karmir-Blur in 1941.

 

The name Teishebaini also occurs in the first part of a register of leather and wool account, carelessly jotted down on a clay tablet found during the

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excavations (in this document, the sign which stands for the name of the god is written incorrectly).

 

But it was not until 1961-62 that the name of the town was ascertained beyond doubt. Several large blocks of stone from the platform supporting a temple wall were found in the southern part of the citadel. Eight of the blocks were covered with cuneiform writing. The text tells us how Rusa, son of Argishti, erected a temple known as susi, and a majestic gate, at the town of Teishebaini in the land of Aza. The temple and the gate were dedicated to the god Haldi. Once, the text goes on to say, it had been a deserted place, and Rusa, on ascending the throne, caused the temple to which the inscription refers to be constructed.

 

It may now be regarded as an established fact that the citadel on the hill of Karmir-Blur was built in the early years of Rusas reign and named Teishebaini. It was situated in the land of Aza, as were the towns of Argishtihinili, Urartian centres which existed in the 8th century B.C.

 

Other blocks inscribed in cuneiform have come down to us, but they do not make up a complete text. The writing on one of them tells us that a sacrifice of sacred weapons was offered to the god Haldi when the foundation of the fortress was being laid. And in fact excavations at Teishebaini yielded a large number of different kinds of weapons of war. Some of the things were ornamented with fine pictures, and bore short dedicatory inscriptions of Menua, Argishti I, Sarduri II and Rusa I, kings of Urartu who ruled in the 8th century B.C.

 

These weapons puzzled the archaeologists, for they were of different date and seemed to suggest the existence in the citadel of two layers belonging to different periods. The text on the stones on which the platform of the temple rested, helped to clarify the reason for this.

 

Fifteen bronze shields with dedicatory inscriptions of Argishti I, Sarduri II and Rusa I were unearthed in different parts of the site at different times. Some of them were decorated with rows of lions and bulls in concentric bands. Among the shields are several which bear the following highly interesting inscription: To the god Haldi, the Lord, this shield was made by Argishti, son of Menua, for the town of Erebuni... The text clearly points ut that the shields discovered at Teishebaini, had originally been manufactured, on the order of Argishti I, for the town of Erebuni, founded about 782 B.C., almost a century before Teishebaini came into existence. The ruins of the citadel of Erebuni are on the hill of Arin-berd, on the south-eastern outskirts of Yerevan. Not only the shields, but other objects as well were brought to Teishebaini from Erebuni. This is evident from a text inscribed on a round bronze stand of a wooden figurine of a god or a king. It says that the statuette was made by Argishti, son of Menua, when the town of Erebuni was built.

 

These inscriptions account for the presence of objects of different date among the Teishebaini finds. These objects, brought over from Erebuni, were part of the sacrifices offered to the god Haldi.

 

Alongside the shields, several bronze helmets were brought to light. The front parts of some of them were decorated with pictures of sacred trees and winged gods (cherubims), and the side and back parts, with war-chariots and horsemen. Similar pictures adorned the bronze quivers, found filled with arrows tipped with bronze or iron arrowheads.

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Archaeological objects from Karmir-Blur give a complete idea of the dress and military equipment of an Urartian warrior. In addition to the shields, helmets and quivers, there were pieces of scale armour composed of bronze or iron plates securely fastened together, iron swords of different size, some of them with bronze handles, and daggers and spearheads, as well as remnants of clothing made of some coarse woollen fabric, with a woven-in ornamental design edging the opening of the coat. The belt, consisting of a strip of thinly hammered sheet bronze, and lined with leather or felt, was an important part of the soldiers outfit. A fragment of a belt of this kind has survived. It is decorated with the figures of the three greatest Urartian deities: Haldi riding a lion, Teisheba mounted upon a bull, and Shivini, resting upon one knee and supporting the solar disc. As for Urartian footwear, it may be reconstructed from some earthenware beakers in the shape of a boot, in which every detail is accurately reproduced, including the seams and the laces.

 

Four wooden statuettes, not destroyed by the fire, were found under a heap of charred branches. Three of them represent bearded gods wearing long robes of red and white. The gods are fully armed: they have miniature bronze quivers filled with arrows, bronze belts and swords, as well as spears with clearly discernible spearheads. The fourth figurine is that of a goddess, with a tiny mirror and a fan instead of weapons.

 

The Teishebaini finds also include details of horses harness, such as forehead plates, blinkers, round buttons, bridles with bone cheek-pieces, and harness bells. Many objects of this kind bear chased inscriptions mentioning the Urartian kings Menua, Argishti I and Sarduri II. The splendid, highly expressive horses head, executed in bronze with great artistic mastery, one of the finest objects found at Karmir-Blur, served as an ornament for the top of a chariot-pole.

 

Bronze was extensively used by the Urartians. Tripod candelabra, legs and details of furniture, jugs, bowls and other household utensils were made of bronze.

 

The store-rooms at Teishebaini also contained gold- and silverware of great artistic value. Some of the most remarkable objects of this kind are a silver lid decorated with concentric strips of gold and with a solid gold handle in the form of a pomegranate; a gold bracelet with lion-head terminals, gold earrings adorned with granulations and with applied wire and filigree work, a silver torque with terminals shaped as figures of lions, three silver discs, probably amulets, with representations on them of the Urartian divinities Haldi and Arubani, and the symbol of the god Shivini. The heads of the gods and of the goddess on the discs are stamped on applied sheets of gold, a working technique found among objects of late Hittite art.

 

Art objects carved out of antlers and in ivory are rather numerous among the finds. There is an ivory figure of a winged lion with a human head, an ivory mask representing a human face, a comb, and cosmetic jars. Some of the carved antlers and carved ivory objects resemble Scythian work, as do the belt buckles in the shape of gryphons or rams heads, the figures of mythical creatures, the plaque with two carnivora facing each other.

 

Metal vessels were in wide use among the population of Teishebaini: plain bronze bowls and bowls of the phiale type.

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Earthenware vessels, mainly with a red polished surface, are found in large numbers. They present a great variety of shapes and are diversely decorated. There are plain vessels for use in everyday life, and highly artistic pottery embellished with applied figures or painted designs. The magnificent one-handled vessel of the askos type, painted with geometric patterns in brown, is one of the most important among the objects of this kind. There is a form that occurs very often and resembles the Greek kernos, a combination of several vessels joined together. Vessels of such a form were probably used for ritual purposes.

 

The Urartians were expert stone-carvers. The materials from Karmir-Blur consist of two small boxes of steatite, with lids swivelled on a pin. On one of them, which has its lower portion fluted like in vessels of the phiale type, there is a picture of a sacred tree flanked by two eagle-headed cherubims. The other, decorated with hunting scenes, is so unusual that its Urartian origin seems doubtful. Numerous steatite seals, conical, concave-sided, cylindrical or of complicated profile, are also examples of Urartian stone-carving.

 

Alongside the seals of local workmanship, many objects of Assyrian glyptic art are found at Karmir-Blur. They are mainly cylindrical seals with scenes of bull-hunting from a chariot, with representations of the gods, or with symbols similar to those occurring on small oval beads. A comparison of Assyrian objects from Teishebaini with the materials obtained during the excavations of the town of Ashur, would seem to promise particularly interesting results.

 

The group of imported objects discovered at Karmir-Blur includes an Egyptian amulet in the form of the lion-headed goddess Sokhmet, some scarabs and scarabaeoids, and the upper part of a faïence vessel in the shape of a female figure, probably of Rhodian workmanship.

 

Many Teishebaini finds illustrate the commercial and cultural connections which existed between the Urartian centre and the Scythian tribes inhabiting the northern regions of the Caucasus and the banks of the Dnieper. These are: horse bridles with bone cheek-pieces, round buttons in bronze for decorating the harness, antler and bronze buckles in the shape of gryphons or rams heads, semi-spherical ribbed beads, triangular bronze arrowheads with a thorn projecting from the side, iron swords and daggers. The presence of these objects at Teishebaini is quite understandable, since it was through the Urartian towns that the relations between the Scythian lands and the countries of the Ancient Orient were maintained.

 

Stone, coloured paste and glass beads form a large and most interesting group of objects. They are found in a great variety of shapes, and a study of them also points to the existence of extensive connections between the Urartian towns and other countries and regions of the ancient world, such as Iran, Asia Minor, the Mediterranean, and Egypt.

 

To sum up, a survey of the objects of material culture and art found during the excavations on the Karmir-Blur site, shows that Urartian craftsmanship reached a high technical level. It also reveals the existence of wide commercial and cultural contacts of Urartu with other countries of Ancient Orient, and with Scythia.

 

The citadel of Teishebaini had a short but eventful life which lasted for about a century. The fortress was demolished in the early part of the 6th

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century B.C. (c. 590 B.C.) by Scythian and Transcaucasian tribes. Taking advantage of the weakening of the central power in the Urartian state (probably a result of the defeat inflicted upon Urartu by the Medes), these tribes destroyed the bulwarks of Urartian power in the Transcaucasian regions.

 

The data obtained in the course of the excavations give a complete picture of a surprise night attack conducted through the side gate in the northwestern part of the fortress: this is clear from the discovery of arrowheads in the thickness of the north-western defence wall, and from the conditions of the temporary dwellings in the courtyard, obviously abandoned at a moments notice, with everything left just as it was when the alarm was given.

 

The fire which broke out during the assault turned Teishebaini into a heap of ruins. And the walls of the citadel, in falling, buried under them a multitude of objects, a great many of which have been recovered by the excavators and are now preserved among the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

 

B. Piotrovsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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