Landlocked Proof?: Scientists say Aghdam holds remains of Tigranakert

An archeological find a few weeks ago may add weight to Armenia’s claim of historical ownership of Nagorno Karabakh.

East of the NKR capital of Stepanakert, in Aghdam, archeologists uncovered remains believed to be part of a kingdom built by Armenian king (1st Century BC) Tigran the Great.

An enclosure that had been part of a citadel, as well as two cemeteries, were unearthed during a dig sponsored by an Armenian NGO out to prove that Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliev was wrong to recently claim that the area had always belonged to the Azeris.

“This proves the so-called disputed areas are native Armenian. We can prove to the international community each stone and monument in the liberated territories is Armenian,” says Hamlet Petrosyan, the Head of the expedition organized by the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography at the RA National Academy of Sciences. The dig was financed by the Yerkir Union of NGOs for Repatriation and Settlement (www.yerkir.org).

Armenian scientists say the area was part of Tigranakert. The site was first surveyed two years ago. The dig started August 3, and all on-site research has been done under fear of landmines – many remain in the area since the Karabakh war.

Chairman of the Union Sevak Artsruni says the disclosure of Artsakh Tigranakert may influence the peace negotiation process. (Though his optimism may be out of line with OSCE Minsk Group reality.)

“The “Yerkir” Union signifies these excavations first of all because of political reasons. This is our response to Aliev’s statement made last year at the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, where he claimed the necessity to find proofs that Armenians unlike Azerbaijanis are alien in Artsakh,” says Artsruni.

According to Artsruni the existence of the Tigranakert ruins could strengthen Armenia’s claims of having lived on the land 21 centuries ago.

The first stage of the excavations revealed a 33-meter long wall of one of the citadel terraces with huge polished stones, swallow-tailed couplings, a 5th to 6th century basilica and thousands of pottery, jewelry and casks.

“The masonry with the swallow-tailed couplings is very important for dating for this construction technique is very typical to Hellenistic epoch, when the monolith blocs of stones joined by big metal couplings, were filled with lead and grouting,” says Doctor of Archeology Lyuba Kirakosyan.

The masonry of the walls can be found also in Artashat and Armavir, but Kirakosyan says, this is the first time the found masonry is made in such a scrutiny and precision.

The preliminary studies of the findings have shown the city of Tigranakert existed without interruption from the very day of its founding in the 1st century BC until the 13th-14th centuries AD.

The group has also studied the monastery complex craved in the rock in the Khachenaget valley.

According to Hamlet Petrosyan, the cave complex of Khachenaget is a church, a porch and a graveyard also carved in the rock. There, early Christian cross compositions and Greek inscriptions have been found.

The archeologist says the Khachenaget complex is known also to Azerbaijanis, who have considered it a complex of early (Caucasian) Albanian period, but the numerous archeological materials are distinctly Armenian.

The study has also discovered a system of water supply.

“The discovery of the city founded by the most famous Armenian King Tigran the Great is the greatest proof the lands have historically been Armenian. The government of Karabakh and the officials consider this a great victory today,” says Artsruni.

The excavations will continue over the next two years, and the recent discovery is expected to be documented in an illustrated book.