Where did the Urartians come from? Before their rise as an Empire in the 9th century BC, they were a powerful tribe which belonged to a federation led by the Nairi.
Often called the first kingdom or empire in Armenia's history, the Urartians are actually one of a long line of powerful entities that cultivated the Armenian Plateau and created the borders called "Greater" or "Historic" Armenia. Before Urartu were the Nairi, before the Nairi the Metsamor Kingdom, and before that untold numbers of now anonymous kingdoms and states that sprung from the Indo-European race born on the Armenian Plateau, spreading their language, ethnic identity and the secrets of bronze, iron and astronomy to both Asia and Europe.
As a part of the land and people interchangeably called "The Nairi", Urartians were recognized as early as 2000 BC on Assyrian cuneiform as coming from the "land between the rivers", a land known to hold about 60 tribes and 100 cities. Until their rise, Urartians were subservient to a tribe also called the Nairi, which were in turn one tribe among many, but they held a predominant position during the 2nd millennium BC, and became the namesake for the entire region.
From what we know of the tribes in Nairi , indigenous customs and traditions were similar to those found in Mesopotamia, and some were of Semitic or Ugaritic origin. This suggests that Ancestral Armenians are descendants of other, older cultures in the region. However, recent discoveries and studies have turned the tables on history, showing that the cultures that developed the "Cradle of Civilization" are now pre-dated by Ancestral Armenians in Armenia's Cradle by at least 2000 years.
By the time Urartu rose in prominence it was already influenced by Indo-Europeans which originated in the Armenian Plateau, and held both genetic and cultural links with the tribes of Nairi as well as those that would later subsume it's place during the formation of the Yervanduni and Armenian Achaemenid Kingdoms.
To better understand the Urartian Empire, we go back a few thousand years to the beginnings of Kingdoms and city-states on the Armenian Plateau, and to the Nairi, an often neglected period of Armenia's ancient history, which is now believed to have been the first true empire in Armenia's history.