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Noratus 3: Cemetery Walking Tour. Cradle Stones

Noratus Cemetery Walking Tour

This walking tour starts with tour stops on this panel and continues through panel 6. Stops (Stop 1, Stop 2, Stop 3, etc.) include inscriptions at each stop (A, B, C, etc.). You will also find Stop numbers next to stones inside the cemetery.

Noratus Cemetery's “Cradle stones”

Gravestones in Armenia are traced to the 1st-2nd centuries and were initially rectangular flat stones laying on the ground. In the early Medieval period (5th-7th cc) they became upright with pointed tops bearing inscriptions (Dvin, Vagharshapat, Aparan, etc.). In following centuries pedestals were added along with more prominent angles to the pointed tops.

At the same time, “cradle stones” developed, as you will find at Noratus. These low stones resemble Armenian baby cradles, and have rounded or pointed tops running the length of the stone. Flat stones mainly depicted human shapes; cradle stones can include richer cravings for the interned—their occupation, hobbies, station in life. It is easy to detect the person's life role: farmers are shown with plows, musicians with musical instruments, lords or gentry at the hunt, etc. Smaller stones were primarily for children.

The Tour

Stop 1: Geghama Stone. A large “cradle stone” with exquisite carvings celebrating a certain Khachatur who brought water to the village in the 17th century. On top of the large stone you can detect the outline of water pipes with joints and on the south side geometric patterns. Underneath there are four khachkar bas relief carvings each with a central cross flanked by two smaller crosses representing the traditional Tree of Life.

On the north face of the stone the carving is more dramatic, depicting a regal man sitting on a horse, which bridle is held by a servant. Above the servant the faint carving shows an angel in flight facing the horseman. To the left a most interesting design was carved, a wine jar and a round tonir (a sunken jar used to bake lavash and grill food), with skewers of khorovatz (Armenian BBQ). Above, faintly, spins one of Armenia's most ancient and sacred symbols, a spiral design inside a circle representing a spinning sun, the sign of eternity. Furthest to the left you can make out the shape of a sitting musician playing a string instrument (Saz). The celebratory nature of the scenes is said to show the gratitude the village paid to this most important person, who quenched their thirsts. The two-line inscription on the northern face reads, “Let this Holy Cross intercede for Khachatur. 1655”

Stop 2: Gravestone for a farmer. This small “cradle” stone, laying not 30 meters south of the massive Gegham Stone, is another example of the wonderful illustrations you will find on gravestones in the cemetery. The south face of the stone depicts a farmer (name unknown) at his plow; look closely and you can detect outlines of two oxen pulling the plow with the man following.

Original text edited by the International Council on Monuments and Sites-Armenia and the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences.