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21.3.15

Bones In Bronze Age Armenia Uncover A Strange Story

S. Mathur
 
It sounds like the perfect script for a sci-fi/ fantasy novel. A ruthless ruler under siege in his fortress, trying to keep his crumbling power intact through the divine gift of prophecy. Even as diviners cast the bones, the fortress is overrun and destroyed; the defenders forced to flee, or captured and killed. The whole truth will perhaps never be known but the story archaeologists are uncovering on the Tsaghkahovit Plain in central Armenia is stranger and more exciting than fiction.
Artifacts from the ruined citadel of Gegharot offer tantalizing glimpses of the last days of a Bronze Age culture that lasted from about 1500 to 1150 B.C.E. This period saw the establishment of a centralized polity and a series of hilltop fortresses across the southern Caucasus region after a gap in human habitation of nearly 900 years. These cultures did not leave any written records, and even the name the people called themselves is unknown.
The excavations are carried out by Project ArAGATS, a collaboration between the American-Armenian Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies. The evidence of political divination is discussed in an article published recently in the American Journal of Archaeology by Adam T. Smith and Jeffrey Leon of Cornell University.
Archaeologists have found evidence of divination at three shrines in the citadel. The shrines contain circular altars, holding cattle knucklebones shaped and marked like dice, flat, polished, circular stones in various colors and traces of flour. Other objects found in the shrines include censers and basins for burning plant or other materials; covered containers used to store wheat; drinking vessels; stone steles and anthropomorphic clay idols; grain grinding implements and stamp seals.
Adam Smith believes that these artifacts were used for political divination and that even in the late Bronze Age, knowledge was power: “It was a time of radical inequality and centralized practices of economic redistribution, and the political leaders were scrambling to hold on to their power. Knowing what the future held was critically important.”
In this case, however, such knowledge as the bones provided did not help. The shrines were abandoned in haste and the citadel was destroyed in some final cataclysm, whether due to external invasions or internal uprisings.

"Clapway" (clapway.com), March 17, 2015

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