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Garni 9: The Summer Palace. Argishti I Cuneiform Stone

The Summer Palace

Adjacent to the church are the foundations for the Summer Palace. Approximately 15 x 40 meters in size, the two-story building lay against the precipice of the canyon. Called “a house of coolness” in Armenian chronicles, the building had long porticoes on its sides and was constructed to capture cool breezes coming off the Garni Canyon. The palace used natural “air conditioning”, consisting of hanging wet drapes in the open porticoes so that the updraft would cool the inner rooms, as well as using an early form of air conditioning perfected by the Romans, consisting of hauling large blocks of ice from mountain tops and forcing air over them to cool rooms.

The palace consisted of the main building and outer buildings to its northeast. What remains of the complex is the excavated basement, apparently used for household purposes, including a winery. A series of eight pylons divided the large basement into two naves. Pilasters on the outer walls supported arches that joined with the pylons to form a barrel vault ceiling. It is assumed the main hall lay above, the northern end taken up by residential quarters. Like the bath house the palace was built of irregular blocks set with lime.

The building had a wooden roof, resting on inner wooden pillars resting on stone bases. There may have been wooden capitals as well, though none have been found. In this, Garni Palace resembles other palaces in the region, particularly the columned hall at Bagineti near Mtskheta, Georgia.

Fragments found at the site show that the façade faced the main square. Fragments of dark red frescos in the upper chambers show how richly ornamented the residential and throne rooms were.

Argishti I Cuneiform Stone

Directly in front of you a large stone rises from the ground, one of the most important around during excavations in 1954, and is an 8th century BC Urartian cuneiform inscription attributed to King Argishti I. The cuneiform relates the conquest of the Garni area and the capture (enslavement) of its inhabitants:

1. By the greatness of Khaldi
2. Argisthi says:
3. "(I) occupied the land of Giarniani (?)
4. in the land (?) of (king) Siluni (?),
5. from the highlands of (my) enemies
6. when I returned
7. (I) brought by force men and women.

Argishti I was the sixth known king of the Urartian Empire, who reigned from 785-763 BC. A son and successor of King Menua, he continued the series of conquests initiated by his predecessors. Victorious against Assyria, he conquered Syria and made Urartu the most powerful state in the post-Hittite Near East. Argishti also expanded his kingdom north to Lake Sevan conquering much of Diauehi and the Ararat Valley. Argishti had built the Erebuni Fortress (Yerevan) in 782 BC, and the fortress of Argishtikhinili (Armavir), in 776 BC.

The text was edited by ICOMOS/Armenia NGO.