Silk Road: L'chashen Excavation

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Silk Road 4: L'chashen. The L'chashen People. Burial Practices. Artifacts

L'chashen

L'chashen village is located in the northern end of the Geghama Mountains and has on its E end the excavation site of L'chashen, one of the most important archeological sites uncovered in Armenia. The ancient necropolis was discovered in 1950 when Lake Sevan's water dropped due to hydroelectric production and covers a surface of 800 x 100 meters. At the southern edge of the necropolis there is a cyclopic fortress and an ancient settlement.

The L'chashen People

L'chashen was founded at the end of the 4th millennium BCE. In the 3rd millennium it was converted into a fortress. Excavations show that its straight streets were lined by round and rectangular structures. Artifacts found suggest the population was occupied with farming, ranching, wood-making, basket weaving, metallurgy and ceramics.

Though it is associated with the Kura-Arax Culture in the region, the artifacts found at the site's tombs point to a meaning unique to L'chashen, especially the ideas of the ritual in burial ceremonies.

Burial Practices

Eight hundred graves were discovered during the excavation with the largest number made from stone. The tombs included a unique representation of the Bronze Age culture, especially the placement of carts tethered to horse and bull skeletons, and an extraordinarily rich inventory of items.

Both 2-wheel chariots and 4-wheel carts were found, made from local oak and elm and carved with cosmic or mythological symbols. From this it is suggested that elite were buried in carts or chariots, their bodies placed in a position as if ready for the trip to the afterlife. These carts are among the best found from the ancient world.

The burial of horses alongside the interred was another important discovery, showing early domestication and the perceived need for the steed in the after life.

Artifacts

The burials included bronze bull statues, a golden frog plus 25 different objects of gold that were made in the 2nd millennium BCE, probably from gold mined at Zod (SE Gegharkunik marz). Also important are multi-colored, dotted ceramic ware, showing an advancement from earlier black polished ceramic ware. Interesting are wooden artifacts: household items such as spoons, ladles, cups, buckets and tables, which allow us to imagine the way the L’chashen people lived..

Also found were cuneiform inscriptions of Argishti I, king of Urartu, where the “Ishtikuni cities” are inscribed, occupied by his army. Locals say that L'Chashen might be the Ishtikuni mentioned in the inscription.

L'chashen artifacts are on display at the State Hermitage (St. Petersburg) and the State History Museum in Yerevan.