The Museum of History and Archeology at Metsamor was opened in 1968.; It is the repository of more than 22,000 items, almost all uncovered at the site.
Overview:; The museum is laid out on three levels.; Our self-tour walks you through the museum in the order tour guides follow.
The ground floor shows the chronological development of the site from the Neolithic through the Middle Ages, and includes artifacts and materials discovered at each layer of the excavation, including examples of the metal working process used at Metsamor.; One section is devoted to the observatory and explains the astronomical significance of the site.
In the entry lobby are two maps, one showing the current excavation site (citadel and central city), the other the extent of the Ancestral Armenian culture in the Armenian plateau during the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Ages.
Take the steps to the ground floor, and turn to your left.
1st Gallery, Ground Floor
;;; 1. The first display is a strata-map, showing the various layers of the excavation, and samples of
;;;;;;; artifacts (pottery) found in each layer.
A. Early Bronze Age:; A feature of this period are black lacquered ceramic, the earliest of its kind discovered in Asia Minor.; The technique for creating the glaze required a sophisticated knowledge of both firing technique and minerals to create the even glaze.
B. Middle Bronze Age: Reddish ceramic with detailed designs showing wheat and spiral designs evolved along with a glazing process over the black pottery.; It is in this period that a hierarchic social structure evolved, along with a preoccupation with elaborate ornamented design.; The pottery and design details resemble those found on Mycenaean ceramics discovered at Santorini and elsewhere, but are older.
C. Late Bronze Age:; The designs and patterns are closer to those found throughout Asia Minor.; You could very well be looking at pottery from Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which incorporated designs like that used at Metsamor.
;;; 2. The second display holds samples of weapons and jewelry from the Early and Middle Bronze Age.
;;; 3. In this display you can see some early examples of chinaware and pottery; from the Late Bronze
;;;;;;; Age.; China is an extremely difficult process to master, and though the pieces you see are not as
;;;;;;; delicate or refined as Ming Dynasty masterpieces, they are amazing engineering samples
;;;;;;; nonetheless, predating the Ming by 3000 years.
;;; 4. Jewelry display.
;;; 5. Jewelry display.
;6. In the large display opposite cases 2-5, there is a large display showing pottery jugs and vases, and other implements found in the excavation.; Most are from the Late bronze to early iron age. The jugs and pottery held wine, wheat, seeds and oil, and include serving and storage vessels.
7. In the same display hangs an Incense burner with lion head hanging in the center of the display. It has a bronze chain and bells, and was used in the temple (Late Bronze Age).; The lion head is an often-used feature in royal and worship designs, and there were lions and tigers that inhabited this area at that time.; There are still a few leopards inhabiting Armenian wilderness areas, but the lion was the preferred symbol.
The term Metsamor is a more recent name.; The inhabitants of the city did not use a writing system as we do.; They used a pictograph system of drawings that represented ideas and events, but did not spell out names as we do.; We do not know what these people called themselves,; but since Ancestral Armenia was a bridge between Asia and Europe we do know what other cultures at the time called the people living in this area.; The Persians called them the "Ermani", the Babylonians "Arata", the Assyrians "Nairi" .; Later the Indo-European name "Ararat" and "Armeni" become predominant names, though "Hai" was used by the Hittites.; Our guide suggested that though "Hai" and "Armen" were both names for the same people, the word "Hai" is in fact an older name, as etymologists believe it originated in the Ararat and Geghama mountains and migrated with Ancestral Armenians into Anatolia and Asia Minor.
The Observatory Map
;;; 8.; At the end of the first exhibition hall is a display featuring the observatory uncovered at
;;;;;;; Metsamor (4th-3rd millennium BC) and it use in the study of the cosmos.
The development of astronomical study at Metsamor grew from a need by the inhabitants to orient themselves in space and time.; They had a specific need to understand where the spirit went in the afterlife, to understand the conception of time, and to fix themselves in space.; This is a far cry from earlier people’s who stared at the heavens and simply wondered at it all:; this was a sacred study, so to speak, to actually fix the culture in the heavens, and to predict its influence on their destiny.
The means of orienting oneself are the beginning steps of social group development, and are usually very simple.; For the people at Metsamor, it was typical to orient themselves, their culture, and their place in time and space by East and South.
A.; In the picture on the wall, you will see both a schematic of the observatory, and a series of illustrations showing how they charted the stars and created the first known calendar of time, a division of the year into twelve segments.
B. The small lines on the wheel illustration show 3 observation points on the actual wheel inscription uncovered at the observatory.; Near these points were found star symbols (representations of Aries, Leo and Taurus), and a compass.
C. Explorations of the first observatory site show that by ca. 3000 BC it was possible to observe the brightest star in the Northern sky, Sirius.; Sirius lies in the constellation Canis Major, and is very close to earth, only about 8.6 light years away.
2nd Gallery, Ground Floor
;;; 9. The displays in this gallery focus on the Early Iron Age, when the culture at Metsamor advanced
;;;;;;; to a high level.; The first display shows both implements used to smelt refined; metals, and
;;;;;;; examples of finished products.; Jewelry made of tin and Silver are included.; The inhabitants of
;;;;;;; Metsamor were able to extract gold from other ores, and there is even evidence they fabricated
;;;;;;; synthetic gold from other substances.
;;; 10. The next display focuses on the Urartian period of development, and you will notice in the
;;;;;;; farthest case several stone carvings that emulate the male genitalia (is that clinical enough for
;;;;;;; ya?).; The Urartians believed that infertile women who worshipped and touched (one can only
;;;;;;; wonder how) these phallus idols would become fruitful and multiply.
;;; 11. There is a very black stone, called kisher, ("night" stone, also obsidian) in the display which was
;;;;;;; used for its medical properties.
The second floor is divided into two sections.; The first displays materials in trades common at Metsamor: stone, jewelry, textiles and leather, carpet weaving, ceramics, plus the glazed bluish-green decorative tiles that ornamented the palace and temple halls. The second section is devoted to the temple excavation and religious worship.; Included are idols, phallus sculptures, fire hearths, pintader seals for stamping scared bread loaves and amulets.
;;;; 12. Ringing the stairwell and along the walls of the upstairs gallery are large wine and oil pots, jugs and vases, all found from the Early to Middle Bronze Age (5000-3000 BC).; Note the design of the snakes and mountain rams on the surfaces.; The snakes were considered life-giving creatures, and were worshipped as gods.; The rams were at first thought to be god images, but are now known to also represent the constellation Aries in the horoscope, a power associated with the home, the hearth, and sustenance.
;The Greek constellation and word for Aries did not arise until the 2nd millennium BC.; If you have; read the history of Armenia so far, remember the importance of the first two letters "AR".; Etymologists believe the word Aries is not in fact Greek, but actually came from this area.
;;; 13. If you turn left as you enter the gallery from the stairwell, you will see a large bronze object in the center of the wall.; This is an enlargement of one of the prize possessions of the museum, a Babylonian frog weight carved from agate and onyx. On the surface of the frog, in Babylonian cuneiform is written; "I, Burna Burarishi, am a son of King Buran Burarishi". The weight of the original (in the basement vault) is 8 grams, 62 decigrams. It was used as jewelry, a measurement tool and a standard of weight.;; Found in one of the royal tombs around the neck of a woman, it is the only example of its kind in the world.
;;; 14. Before you reach the back wall of the gallery, notice a portable fire hearth, divided into thirds.
;;;;;;; The fire hearths were at first thought to be portable stoves, and the History Museum in
;;;;;;; Yerevan still ascribes them to that purpose.; It is now thought that they were also temple
;;;;;;; worship hearths, where rare myrrh, frankincense and other incense were burned in worship to
;;;;;;; the local deities.; Some of the; incense discovered at Metsamor has its origins in India and
;;;;;;; China, verifying early use of the Northern trade routes between Asia and Asia Minor.
;;; 15. In the right display case on the back wall are temple worship artifacts uncovered at Metsamor;; (Early to Late Bronze Age).; Among these are several small carved stones, including one with the design of a swastika on one side and another with the head of a dog carved on the back side (the example at left is carved with a human deity).; The swastika carving is one of the oldest sacred symbols in the world, and cave drawings in the Geghama Mountains dating back to the Neolithic times (7000 BC) include them.; It is unfortunate the Nazis corrupted their meaning in our times, as the swastika is a strong link between the Indo-Europeans and the indigenous cultures of ancient times.; In Armenia examples of swastikas include swirling arms to both the right and left.; Not a crooked cross, as some people call them, they are actually one of the first drawings of movement, showing a swirling power burning in the heavens.; The swastika was the primary symbol assigned to the gods for several thousand years.
;16.; Included in the temple display is an illustration of the temple interior from the late Bronze Age.; The worship of the bull was included in the deities, but it had a strong and negative position in the Metsamor pantheon:; it was also used for placing curses.; It is not until later, during the Urartian period, that it became a symbol of strength and fortitude.
;;; 17. Behind; the central back wall, standing by the stairwell, is a large stone idol (11th-9th BC).; Yup, it’s a phallus.
;;; 18. The other half of the gallery is devoted to tools and implements used in the various trades in Metsamor.; The last display hold examples of the types of stones and minerals mined and used at the foundry.
The lower level holds the most valuable archeological finds in the museum: a funerary crypt from the Urartu period and a collection of gold, silver, semi-precious stones, amber and paste jewelry, as well as other examples discovered at burial sites in the excavation.
;;; 19. Just at the bottom of the stairs is a replication of an Urartu burial site.; It positions the artifacts
;;;;;;; and skeletons exactly as they were found during excavation.; The skeleton lying on its side is a
;;;;;;; wealthy slaveholder, the heads along the side his slaves.; The most important part of the body
;;;;;;; was understood to be the head, and Urartian burial rites included cutting the heads from the
;;;;;;; bodies of slaves when their master died, preserving their "identity" so the deceased master could
;;;;;;; recognize them when he went to the other world.
The Gold Rooms
There are several cases in two rooms in the gold vault.; The craftsmanship and detail of the work was intricate and sometimes minuscule: take care to examine the pieces, and then imagine people creating such fine work more than 4000 years ago.
1st case: Gold jewelry pieces discovered in mausoleums, featuring a gold necklace with intricate design, 3rd-2nd millennium BC.
2nd case: Hollow cylinder made from sardonic stone (a red-veined onyx), 4th millennium BC.
3rd case: actual frog weight carved from agate and onyx, 4th-3rd millennium BC.
4th case: jewelry made from gold and carnelian (a semi-precious quartz gem).; Gold medallions imbedded with cruciform design, 2nd millennium BC.
5th case: royal seal made from carnelian, gold clasps, 3rd millennium BC.
6th case: gold jewelry, including hairpin and medallion, 3rd-2nd millennium BC. ;
1st case: amber necklaces, 4th-3rd millennium BC.
2nd case: "matsuk" animal heads with eyes made from lapis lazuli, 4th millennium BC.; Lapis Lazuli was considered more valuable than gold in the ancient world, and was prized for its medicinal and cosmetic, as well as artistic value.
3rd case: amber jewelry and small agate stone called "achki ulunk" (eye beads), 4th-3rd millennium BC.; These are considered to be protective eyes warding off evil, and are still popular amulets worn around the necks of newborns in Armenia.
4th case: two belt decoration pieces in the shape of lions, made from bronze with silver overlay.; Swastika detail on the hindquarters of the lions.; The overlay process was probably created in the Armenian plateau, as this is one of the earliest examples found in Asia minor (3rd millennium BC)
IF you’re very lucky, the guides may allow you into the storeroom, where 20,000 additional artifacts are kept.; One of the most rare and beautiful of them is kept there.; It is a reddish brown ceramic lamp with seven fluted openings on the top: the openings represent the sun, moon and the five known constellations at that time.