|| Grid Reference:
40° 8' 34" N, 44° 6' 59" E
The site is located in Armenia, and Not Turkey.
(Independent since 1991)
Metsamor is a working excavation and museum on the site of an
complex with a large metallurgical and astronomical centre (occupied ca.
7,000 BC - 17th c. CE). The site occupies a volcanic hill and surrounding
The citadel on top of the
volcanic hill is about 10.5 hectares in size, but the entire city is
believed to have covered 200 hectares at its greatest extent, housing up to
50,000 people. Excavations have shown
strata of occupancy going back to the Neolithic period (7,000-5,000 BC), but
the most outstanding features of the site were constructed during the early,
middle and late Bronze Ages (5,000-2,000 BC). Inscriptions found within the
excavation go back as far as the Neolithic period, and a sophisticated
pictograph form of writing was developed as early as 2000-1800 BC. The
“Metsamor Inscriptions” have a likeness to later scripts.
site - How to get there)
Metsamor: 'Medzamor' -
('Black swamp' or 'Black quicksand')
Excavations began at Metsamor in 1965 and are still in
progress, led by Professor Emma Khanzatian. The most recent excavation work
occurred in the summer of 1996, along the inner cyclopic wall. Excavations
have shown strata of occupancy going back to the Neolithic period
(7,000-5,000 BC), but the most outstanding features of the site were
constructed during the early, middle and late Bronze Ages (5000-2,000 BC).
Inscriptions found within the excavation go back as far as the Neolithic
period , and a sophisticated pictograph form of writing was developed as
early as 2000-1800 BC.
The excavation has uncovered a large metal industry, including a foundry
with 2 kinds of blast furnaces (brick and in-ground). Metal processing at
Metsamor was among the most sophisticated of its kind at that time: the
foundry extracted and processed high-grade gold, copper, several types of
bronze, manganese, zinc, strychnine, mercury and iron. Metsamor’s processed
metal was coveted by all nearby cultures, and found its way to Egypt,
Central Asia and China. The iron smelting process was not advanced in
Metsamor, probably due to the vast quantities of pure bronze alloys at hand,
and Metsamor primarily mined and sold iron ore to neighbouring cultures
which took better advantage of its properties.
- The foundry dates from the Early Bronze Age (ca. 4,000 BC) though recent
digs in the area uncovered signs of metal processing as early as 5,000 BC.
The complex of smelting furnaces and moulds date from the mid
Bronze to Early Iron Age (3,000-2,000 BC). The complex becomes more
astounding the more you walk through it. Several huge underground caves
were uncovered that are thought to have been storehouses for base metal, as
well as a granaries for winter months. Stretching just below and around the
Upper Citadel, the foundries processed Copper, Bronze, Iron, Mercury,
Manganese, Strychnine, Zinc and gold. The first iron in the ancient world
was probably forged here, though it was not considered as important as
bronze, giving the jump on development to the Babylonians.
(Metallurgy in Prehistory)
- The discovery of thousands of people buried in simple graves and
large burial mounds revealed a history of Metsamor’s burial rituals and a concern for hiding wealthy tombs. Like the
Pharaohs buried in the Valley of the Kings, Metsamor’s rulers tried to
thwart grave robbers by hiding the locations of royal tombs. Fortunately
the grave robbers at Metsamor were not as lucky as those in Egypt, and the
Mausoleums revealed intact and richly adorned burial vaults, giving us an
excellent glimpse into the traditions for preparing the body for the
Among the artefacts uncovered in the royal tombs were evidences of great
wealth; Gold, silver and bronze jewellery and adornments were found over and
next to the body, which was placed in a sitting foetal position in a large
stone sarcophagus (early Metsamor) or lying in a casket (late Metsamor).
The bodies were laid out with their feet oriented towards the East, so they
could greet the sun and follow it to the afterlife in the West. Included in
the vaults were the skeletal remains of horses, cattle, domesticated dogs
and humans, presumed to be servants or slaves to the deceased. The
sacrifice of slaves and animals was a common feature of burial rituals
during the Bronze and Early Iron Age, as they were considered necessary to
assist their master in the next life. In addition to jewellery, pottery and
tools, excavators discovered pots filled with grape and pear piths, grains,
wine and oil. The fruit piths are a prominent part of the food offerings,
and considered a necessary part of the funeral rites.
Other funeral objects
discovered were rare amethyst bowls, ornamented wooden caskets with inlaid
covers, glazed ceramic perfume bottles, and ornaments of gold, silver and
semiprecious stones, and paste decorated with traditional mythological
scenes typical of local art traditions. Egyptian, Central Asian and
Babylonian objects were also found at the site, indicating that from
earliest of times Metsamor was on the crossroads of travel routes spanning
the Ararat plain and linking Asia Minor with the North Caucasus and Central
Asia. By the early Iron Age Metsamor was one of the “royal” towns, an
administrative-political and cultural centre in the Ararat Valley.
The cyclopean walls
- The walls date from the 2nd millennium BC, when the site was fortified during the
Era. The stone blocks average 20 tons in weight, and are more than 3 meters
thick in places.
During the Middle Bronze
Period (late 3rd to mid 2nd millennium BC) there was a surge of urban growth
and a development of complex architectural forms which extended the
boundaries of the settlement to the area below the hill. Basically, that
area within the inner cyclopean walls are the older city, and that beyond
represent newer areas. By the 11th c. BC the central city occupied the
lowlands stretching to Lake Akna, and covered 100 hectares (247 acres).
- En route to the temple site,
just below the old citadel, is an incline on the stone hill. Carved into
the hill is an intricate and large (almost 20 meters long) design. The
design resembles a rudimentary map, and the shape of the rock resembles the
Ararat side of Mt. Aragats in miniature. Inscriptions also include several
early Haikassian script symbols (though carved at Metsamor much earlier, ca.
3,000 BC), and forms one of the basis' for establishing the old Armenian
script during the Bronze Age around Metsamor.
temples were uncovered and are now covered by a metal structure, Vandals have
desecrated most of the altars you see. Luckily they are only three of an
entire complex that was preserved by recovering them after the initial dig
in 1967. The temples are unlike any other uncovered in Western Asia and
the Ancient world, indicating a very distinct culture at Metsamor during the
Within the altar spaces are
numerous bowls set into the temple floor and a complex series of clay
holders. Very little is understood about the ritual that occurred here,
though animal sacrifice was a part. The holders probably held rare oil
mixed with myrrh and frankincense, purified wine, wheat and fruit (seeds
were discovered in some of the shallow bowls).
Astronomy - Astrology at Metsamor:
The astronomical observatory
predates all other known observatories in the ancient world. That is,
observatories that geometrically divided the heavens into constellations and
assigned them fixed positions and symbolic design. Until the discovery of
Metsamor it had been widely accepted that the Babylonians were the first
astronomers. The observatory at Metsamor predates the Babylonian kingdom
by 2000 years, and contains the first recorded example of dividing the year
into 12 sections. Using an early form of geometry, the inhabitants of Metsamor were able to create both a calendar and envision the curve of the
It should be no
surprise to anyone who knows something of Armenia's history that
astronomy is such an important part of the national character.
Sun symbols, signs of the zodiac, and ancient calendars
predominated in the region while the rest of the world was just
coming alive, culturally speaking. Egypt and China were still
untamed wilderness areas when the first cosmic symbols began
appearing on the side of the Geghama Mountain Range around 7000
BC. At Metsamor (ca 5000 BC), one of the oldest observatories in
the world can be found. It sits on the southern edge of the
excavated city, a promontory of red volcanic rocks that juts out
like the mast of a great ship into the heavens. Between 2800 and
2500 BCE at least three observatory platforms were carved from
the rocks. The Metsamor observatory is an open book of ancient
astronomy and sacred geometry. For the average visitor the
carvings are indecipherable messages. With Elma Parsamian, the
first to unlock the secrets of the Metsamor observatory as a
guide, the world of the first astronomers comes alive.
The discovery of the astronomical 'observatory'
at Metsamor and the presence of engravings which have been
speculatively called 'zodiac creatures' has given credence to the
assertion that the ancient figures of the constellations were
probably created by ancient peoples living in the Euphrates valley
and near Mount Ararat in eastern Anatolia and Armenia: Rick Ney, the
author of Karahundj, The Armenian Stonehenge, says of it:
discovery at Metsamor, and the stones at Sissian give concrete
credence to Maunder's and Olkott's theories, especially when
coupled with ca. 4,000–3,000 BC stone carvings of zodiac figures
on rocks on the Geghama Mountain Range in Armenia.".
"The Metsamorians were a trade culture," Parsamian explains.
"For trade, you have to have astronomy, to know how to
navigate." The numerous inscriptions found at Metsamor puzzled
excavators, as indecipherable as they were elaborate. Hundreds
of small circular bowls were carved on the rock surfaces,
connected by thin troughs or indented lines. But one stood out.
It is an odd shaped design that was a mystery to the excavators
of the site, until Professor Parsamian discovered it was a key
component to the large observatory complex. By taking a modern
compass and placing it on the
carving, Parsamian found that it pointed due North, South and
East. It was one of the first compasses used in Ancient times.
Another carving on the platforms shows four stars inside a
trapezium. The imaginary end point of a line dissecting the
trapezium matches the location of star which gave rise to
Egyptian, Babylonian and ancient Armenian religious worship.
The observatory rivals the discoveries at the citadel for importance,
substantiating theories on the birthplace of the zodiac and origins of
astronomy in the ancient world. Dated ca. 2,800-2,500 BC, when the zodiac is
figured to have been concluded, the observatory was also the primary
religious site and navigation centre for the Metsamorian culture. Hundreds
of shallow bowls are carved onto the surfaces of three large rocks that rise
above the surrounding river delta. The use of the bowls are unknown, many
are linked by equally shallow "canals" (we're talking real small here, no
more than a few inches in diameter for the bowls). They might have been
filled with oil that was lit at night as part of a ritual celebration (if
so, they would look very much like a 'bowl of the universe' on earth), or
they may have been used to smelt and forge metal in another sort of ritual.
Imagination allows you to decide for yourself.
accompanied by P.Herouni, his collaborators and two students from
Moscow, spent the whole of 24 June, 2001, that is, two days after
the summer solstice, on the spot from about 5 AM until midnight, and
was able to observe and record with his personal video camera the
rising of the Sun and the Moon. He witnessed that three or four of
the holes are directed towards the point of sunrise while an equal
number of other holes are oriented towards the point of sunset on
the day of the summer solstice. The same is true of the points of
the moon rising and setting on the day when the observations took
about the Origin of the Zodiac)
Worship of Sirius
"Sirius is most probably the star
worshipped by the ancient inhabitants of Metsamor," Parsamian
explains. "Between 2800-2600 BCE Sirius could have been observed
from Metsamor in the rising rays of the sun. It is possible
that, like the ancient Egyptians, the inhabitants of Metsamor
related the first appearance of Sirius with the opening of the
Those wanting to plot the same event from Metsamor will have to
wait a while. Sirius now appears in the winter sky, while the
inhabitants of Metsamor observed it in the summer. (Because of
the earth's rotation within the rotation of the Milky Way
galaxy, stars change their positions over time. In another 4000
years or so Sirius will again appear as it is plotted on the
Metsamor stellar map).
The Metsamorians also left behind a calendar divided into twelve
months, and made allowances for the leap year. Like the Egyptian
calendar which had 365 days, every four years the Metsamorians
had to shift Sirius' rising from one day of the month to the
"There is so much I found in 1966," Parsamian adds, "and so much
we do not know. We believe they worshipped the star Sirius, but
how? I like to imagine there was a procession of people holding
lights. These carved holes throughout the complex may have been
filled with oil and lit. Just imagine what it must have looked
like with all those little fires going all over the steps of the
observatory. Like a little constellation down on earth."
Parsamian has a special regard for Metsamor, since it was she
who uncovered many of the mysteries of the inscriptions on the
observatory, answers which explained other finds uncovered at
the excavation site. "When you walk over this ancient place, you
can use your imagination to complete the picture. I love to
visit Metsamor since I feel I am returning to the ancients."
(More about Orion Worship in
The Oracle at Metsamor:
Livvio Stecchini noted the curious fact that
Thebes in Egypt
is geometrically aligned with Mt. Ararat, and the oracle centre called
Greece, both of which are recorded as resting places for the Ark, following
the 'great flood'. He showed that the three sites are equidistant from each
other, forming an equilateral triangle. This idea was later followed
up by Robert Temple, who suggested that the nearby Metsamor was a more
appropriate location as it is more accurately positioned than Ararat. The
discoveries of advanced astronomy and geometry at this site, support the
conclusion that Metsamor was once an important oracle centre.
about Oracle centres)
(Prehistoric Turkish sites)