It should be no surprise to anyone who knows something of Armenia's
history that astronomy is such an important part of the national
character. Sun symbols, signs of the zodiac, and ancient
calendars predominated in the region while the rest of the world
was just coming alive, culturally speaking. Egypt and
China were still untamed wilderness areas when the first cosmic
symbols began appearing on the side of the Geghama Mountain
Range around 7000 BC.
(ca 5000 BC), one of the oldest observatories in the world can
be found. It sits on the southern edge of the excavated
city, a promontory of red volcanic rocks that juts out like
the mast of a great ship into the heavens. Between 2800
and 2500 BCE at least three observatory platforms were carved
from the rocks. The Metsamor observatory is an open book of
ancient astronomy and sacred geometry. For the average
visitor the carvings are indecipherable messages. With
Elma Parsamian, the first to unlock the secrets of the Metsamor
observatory as a guide, the world of the first astronomers comes
Metsamorians were a trade culture," Parsamian explains.
"For trade, you have to have astronomy, to know how to navigate."
The numerous inscriptions found at Metsamor puzzled excavators,
as indecipherable as they were elaborate. Hundreds of
small circular bowls were carved on the rock surfaces, connected
by thin troughs or indented lines. But one stood
out. It is an odd shaped design that was a mystery to
the excavators of the site, until Professor Parsamian discovered
it was a key component to the large observatory complex.
By taking a modern compass and placing it on the carving, Parsamian
found that it pointed due North, South and East. It was
one of the first compasses used in Ancient times.
carving on the platforms shows four stars inside a trapezium.
The imaginary end point of a line dissecting the trapezium matches
the location of star which gave rise to Egyptian, Babylonian
and ancient Armenian religious worship.
locations of the Jupiter moons over several nights and you're
repeating an experiment Galileo did in 1610. Chart a star
over several years and you repeat an experiment the Metsamorians
did almost 5000 years ago. By using the trapezium carving
and a 5000 year stellar calendar, Parsamian discovered that
the primary star which matched the coordinates of its end point
was the star Sirius, the brightest star in our galaxy.
is most probably the star worshipped by the ancient inhabitants
of Metsamor," Parsamian explains. "Between 2800-2600 BCE
Sirius could have been observed from Metsamor in the rising
rays of the sun. It is possible that, like the ancient
Egyptians, the inhabitants of Metsamor related the first appearance
of Sirius with the opening of the year."
to plot the same event from Metsamor will have to wait a while.
Sirius now appears in the winter sky, while the inhabitants
of Metsamor observed it in the summer. (Because of the
earth's rotation within the rotation of the Milky Way galaxy,
stars change their positions over time. In another 4000
years or so Sirius will again appear as it is plotted on the
Metsamor stellar map).
Metsamorians also left behind a calendar divided into twelve
months, and made allowances for the leap year. Like the
Egyptian calendar which had 365 days, every four years the Metsamorians
had to shift Sirius' rising from one day of the month to the
is so much I found in 1966," Parsamian adds, "and so much we
do not know. We believe they worshipped the star Sirius,
but how? I like to imagine there was a procession of people
holding lights. These carved holes throughout the complex
may have been filled with oil and lit. Just imagine what
it must have looked like with all those little fires going all
over the steps of the observatory. Like a little constellation
down on earth."
has a special regard for Metsamor, since it was she who uncovered
many of the mysteries of the inscriptions on the observatory,
answers which explained other finds uncovered at the excavation
site. "When you walk over this ancient place, you
can use your imagination to complete the picture. I love
to visit Metsamor since I feel I am returning to the ancients."