(armrockart.nt.am) Our ancestors' rock-carving endeavors have spanned the period between the 7th and 1st Millennia BC, as attested by historical-cultural comparisons. In one of fundamental problems of Rock-Art researches (Petroglyphology), their dating, we attach importance to complex materialogical - traceological, cosmological and mythological studies, and in general, all types of complex approaches. We believe that the classification of available material is a prerequisite for the development of this branch of science. This can be done through nearly 365 parameters and properties, grouped in six categories: monument, rock, surface, furrow, image, clusters.
The most significant elements of mentality and existence of prehistoric man have been reflected in artifacts, which in prehistoric/pre-script times involved Rock-Art as well. As a specific form of expression of emotions and information, rock-carvings represent a medium of communication. And if back then Rock-Art possessed recording, storage and conveying functions, for us now it has aesthetic and cognitive functions. These are the bases that allow us to designate petroglyphs as reliable sources, and, therefore, means of revealing the past.
In considering Rock-Art we put it in historical-archaeological culture context, and try to define and determine the Rock-Art tradition and Rock-Art culture. Attaining this aim is possible only through a classification which takes into account the influence of almost all known natural and human factors, beginning from the formation of rock-fragments through to engraving and up to our days. We believe that due to such theoretical and practical classification we will be able to reveal the meaning, role and function of each rock-carving, each group of rock-images and, finally, of Rock-Art in general.
Rock-Art of Armenia was mentioned for the first time by Movses Khorenatsi, the founder of Armenian historiography (5th ce. AD), followed by Anania Shirakatsi, Armenian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician (7th ce. AD).
Although rock-carvings were discovered as early as in the beginning of the 20th century (Mesrovb Ter-Movsessyan, 1902, Levon Lisitsyan, 1972, Ashkharhbek Kalantar, 1935), real academic work has only been undertaken since the early 1960s. Thus far, it has been primarily Armenian archaeologists (Haroutyun Martirossyan, Sandro Sardaryan, Grigor Karakhanyan and others) who have published four volumes of their studies (with 1320 images of rock-carvings) on the subject in association with the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of Academy of Sciences of Armenia. This area of research is currently coordinated by the Institute of History and by the “Armenian Rock Art Research Academy – Tir”.
The Republic of Armenia (RA), which comprises one tenth of the territory of the Armenian Highland, has a plenitude of rock-carvings. Five large Rock-Art areas are well known and nearly 20 thousand carved rock-pieces have been discovered so far. 12000 of these are located in the vicinity of the Geghama and Vardenis Mountain Ranges (2500-3200 m above sea level) and more than 6000 in the Syunik Mountains (3000-3400 m) in the south of RA. Another 2000 have been found on the slopes of Aragats (1100-3000 m), the highest peak of RA (4094 m) and on the slopes of Navasar, near the second peak of RA -- Kaputjugh (3904 m). There are also hundreds of rock-carvings in the Qarvachar Region of Artsakh.
A great number of rock-carvings has been found in Western Armenian provinces in modern Turkey and in the Kobustan area of Azerbaijan. All of the carvings located in Azerbaijan and eastern Turkey are similar in subject, style and technique to those in RA, and similar to those presented here (Photos) which are all from the Geghama Mountains.
Almost all aspects of human life are reflected in Rock-Art. Most images depict men in scenes of hunting and fighting, cultivating land, competing and dancing. Different animals, especially goats, deer and panthers, as well as the mythological creatures – “vishaps” (dragon-like steles) are pictured. Some rock-images reflect the adoration of maternity, the ancestors, heroes, spirits, fertility and time. Geographic elements are also featured: rivers, lakes, springs etc., followed by astronomical bodies and phenomena: the Sun, the Moon, stars, stellar constellations and starry sky, bolide, comet, and lightning. There are many images of carriages and various structures, maps, water-grids, starry sky, as well as carved compasses, solar and lunar calendars.
Like rock art monuments elsewhere in the world, the petroglyphs of Armenia, by their great number, styles and diverse content, occupy a unique place in our cultural heritage from the ancient world.