Armenian Heritage

The first confirmed signs of life in the territories inhabited by Armenians dates as back as 325,000 years. Archeologists found stone tools of that era near the village of Nor Geghi in the Kotayk Province of Armenia. This is particularly fascinating because these territories havealways been inhabited only by Armenians.

The first time the modern name of the country – Armenia was mentioned in the 3rd millennia B.C. by Akkadians. At that time Armenia already had an advanced craftsmanship of leather goods and winemaking. Archaeologist discovered a leather shoe dating back to 3,500 B. C. which is also the oldest shoe ever found. The winemaking facility discovered in the Areni-1 cave is 6000 years old. Until today Armenians use the same recipe and the same sorts of grapes that grow on the same slopes to make the tastiest wine in the world that barriers the same name. Among other notable finds is a 6000-year-old straw skirt.

During its long and rich voyage through history Armenia was able to leave a remarkable amount of heritage that is here to be learned and adored by the whole world. That heritage had an enormous influence on the development of modern medicine, science and technology, as well as global literature, art and culture.

For Armenians the greatest heritage, of course, is the Armenian traditions. It is a whole system of meaningful festivities and guidelines for a whole nation that is living in the same region for a very long time. They have formed during centuries and helped to shape the Armenian nation. The traditions have largely stayed the same. Some changes in names ormeaningshave occurred due to the adoption of Christianity as state religion or other major events in the history, but otherwise they share their traditions with their ancestors. These traditions unite Armenians from all over the world. Some of the most important traditions are connected with family. Armenians value their family greatly and the traditions keep their families strong and everlasting. There are alsoa couple of fun traditions. Vardavar, for example (In Armenian: Վարդավառ) is the tradition of spilling water on one another. This tradition is taken from paganism, but the meaning has stayed the same. Being associated with Astghik – the goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility, this tradition bears the meaning of asking for a fertile year, that is why it is celebrated before the harvest begins.

The cuisine is a very important part of Armenian heritage. Historically all the important decisions in Armenia are made around the table. There are several Armenian traditional dishes that are made for a special occasion or in a special way for that occasion. For example, there is a different way of cooking fish for Easter. Some of the main dishes and foods inherited by Armenians are Dolma, Armenian barbeque, Khashlama, Harisa, KhashArmenian Kibbeh, Lavash, Jengyal Bread, etc. These foods are made exactly the same way for centuries using the same methods and the same ingredients. That is what makes them so exclusive to Armenian cuisine and therefore an undeniable part of the big family of Armenian Heritage. The ingredients used in the meals typically are those that are available in Armenia. You can try these unique dishes in Armenian restaurants in Armenia and elsewhere is the world. Also you can cook them for yourself.

Armenians are proud to have one of the most recognizable music of all cultures. When you hear the Duduk, the Armenian Dhol (drums), the Kamancha of Sayat-Nova and the heartwarming music of Armenian Sharakans (the music used in the liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church) you know that this is Armenian music. One of the most identifiable Armenian music instrument – Duduk is made of apricot tree. The Duduk and its music is listed in UNESCO as cultural heritage of humanity. Armenian music is very diverse. It can be very quiet and sad, making even the strongest men cry, yet it can brighten up your day and fill you with energy and joy. Apart from the nation itself, there are several glorious sognwriters and singers who shaped the Armenian music through centuries. Aram Khachaturyan, Ara Gevorgyan, Arthur Meschyan and many others have played a significant role in creating those masterpieces that are adored by an entire nation and well beyond its cultural limits.

Armenians have special dances for every cultural and religious ritual inherited from their ancestors. Each dance has a unique meaning, a precise number of dancers and nicely chosen moves, each having a separate meaning. Thus an Armenian dance becomes a story, a message that is told to the viewer. There are uncountable number of traditional dances. Several of the most famous Armenian dances are Kochari, Shalakho, Yarkhushta, Berd and many many more. Kochari is also considered a victory dance. In 1945 during the capitulation of Germany the Armenian 89th Riffle Division danced the famous Kochari in front of Reichstag building. Apart from the traditional and religious dances Armenians created also Suserov Par (Sable Dance) from Gayane ballet written by Aram Khachatryan.

Armenians are one of the few nations of Indo-European language family whose alphabet is not based on Latin letters. In 405 Mesrop Mashtots revived all 36 Armenian letters that have been lost after adopting Christianity in 301. His work is so complete that it is used until today with only one minor adjustment of adding the last 3 letters in 12th century. The Armenian language has gone through several transformations during the millennia of existence. There are 3 major stages. The first is Grabar (Armenian: Գրաբար). The language syntax differsfrom the modern to some extent and it sounds slightly different. Armenian Church Liturgy and a lot of literature is written in Grabar. Second stage is called Middle Armenian. It is much more wildly used today as several important historians and thinkers like Gregory of Narek (Armenian: Գրիգոր Նարեկացի) worked in middle Armenian. Middle Armenian was in use during 11-16 centuries. From 17th century Armenian language underwent through its last transformation. The modern version of the language is called New Armenian or Ashkharhabar (Armenian: Աշխարհաբար). The founder of Ashkharhabar is one of the greatest Armenian poets and illuminators – Khachatur Abovyan. He finalized the last transformation of Armenian language. New Armenian has two branches – Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian. Western Armenian is widespread among the Armenian Diaspora, it is a mixture of Armenian dialects of Constantinople and Trapizon. The Eastern Armenian is used among Armenians living in Armenia and those Armenian communities around the world that were created after the collapse of the USSR. The Armenian language is best described by listeners as “Music to Ears”. Armenians created a tremendous amount of literature that has inspired many notable people and motivated many more to learn the language. A lot of pieces of Armenian literature were translated into foreign languages and were recognized as the best in the world.

Christianity has changed a lot in Armenia. After adopting the new religion in 301 some traditions and customs have experienced mild transformations. Moreover, new traditions were developed that were strictly religious. However, Armenians managed to keep their identity and carry all the heritage to our days. Christianity has led to creating several remarkable branches of Armenian Heritage. One of them is Khachkar (Armenain: Խաչքար, meaning a cross stone). It is a piece of stone, usually Tufa, with a cross carved into it, hence the name – Cross Stone. The Armenian churches have a very distinct look. They are based on a double cross platform, which gives them enough strength to stand for thousands of years, through destructive earthquakes and savage invasions. There are also special vertical cavities in the walls tofurther reinforce them. The interiors of the churches are not sumptuous. The reason being that Armenians believe that people enter the House of God to pray and not be amazed.

Armenia has always paid attention on technological advancement in the country. There is a lot of simple technological tools and know-hows that make Armenians’ lives much easier in a mountainous terrain, known for making a lot of trouble for locals. Some of these tools have been used during wars and helped Armenians, although greatly outnumbered, come out as winners. In USSR Armenia had leading position on technology, that is why the Mergelyan institute in Yerevan had been chosen as the best place to build USSR’s first computer. In 1964 Nairi was born to handle various tasks in different industries. Today Armenia is proud to have several IT, High Tech and Engineering institutions like EIF, TUMO, GTC, VTC and many more that do not have an analogy in the world. Armenia is also one of very few countries that produce high-end smartphones and tablets. Armenian people are widely involved in technological projects that shape our world, like Twitter, Reddit, Yandex, etc. Also there have been many notable inventions by Armenians that left a bold spot in history, like the Automatic Transmission, MRI Machine, ATM and many others, without which we do not imagine our modern life.

Armenians like to build and create. There are many iconic buildings and sights in Armenia and around the world that have been designed or built by Armenians. With a double cross platform, the Armenian churches have very distinct look. This feature along with thick walls and a cement-like mixture inside gives them great strength to defy the destructive power of time and survive to our days. There are many public buildings and churches in Tbilisi, Baku, Istanbul, Paris, Moscow, Tehran and in many other cities that have been built by Armenians. Many other building and sights in Yerevan and elsewhere also have marvelous singularities. The Cascades, Opera House, Republic Square Stone Rug in Yerevan as well as a lot of modern pieces of architecture are the true children of Armenian mind and local believes and traditions. The two-color two-storey buildings in Gyumri, The Twin Towers, Matenadaran, Amberd Fortress, Zvartnots International Airport are just a small sample of Armenian-made masterpieces. The Armenian Diaspora is also actively contributing in creation of lasting buildings and other structures that will, during time, become part of Armenian Heritage.

Armenian art is highly valued all over the world. Armenian national ornaments are used by several major couturiers like Versace as their main symbol. Ornaments are also used on national rugs that are made using the same methods for literally thousands of years. Armenian artists are legendary. People say that once Ivan Aivazovsky painted gold coins on a table in a hotel room. The coins looked so real that during the check out the owner of the hotel without any doubts let Aivazovsky go. The Armenian Wheel of Eternity is a circle with several curved lines going from the center to the circle, giving an impression of an endlessly spinning wheel. To fully understand the Armenian Art Heritage, it is essential to explore the works of painters Yervand Kochar, Martiros Saryan, Minas, Carzou, Toros Roslin, photographer Ara Gyuler, sculptor Emil Kazaz and others. The National Gallery of Armenia is a very good place to find some of the greatest masterworks of Armenian artists.

Armenians are very talented when it comes to handmade. Leather, glass, metals, wood, stones, ceramic and many other materials are used by Armenians to create some of the most unique and high quality handmade jewelry, bijoux, health products, accessories and other useful products.Handmade is very widespread, both on professional and hobby level. The craftsmen generally use Armenian themes, symbols and traditional methods when working, this is why the Armenian handmade is so unique and highly valued. There a many expositions organized throughout the year, where people can get acquainted with the products and buy them. Vernissage open market in Yerevan is a perfect place to explore the Armenian handmade and get a perfect souvenir. A stroll along streets of Yerevan will show you numerous stores where you will be amazed by the craftsmanship of the products and the ever growing variety. Khachqar is another example of Armenian handmade. Throughout the centuries without having any machinery Armenians, due to their ability to carve and shape, could make all the necessary objects for their everyday use. This necessity has turned into a profession. Those professions help shaping the nation and became a national pride.

Armenians are living in the same area for a quite a long time. During this time, they developed many symbols that are unique to this nation’s customs, traditions, religions as well as the environment that they live in. The Mount Ararat, although in Turkey, it is an undeniable part of Armenian symbolism, according to Bible the Noah’s Ark landed on that mountain, starting a new era for mankind. Apricot, one of the most known Armenian symbols grows at the base of the mountain and has a divine taste. Apricot is unique also due to the fact that it is the only fruit, nucleus of which is edible and it also tastes great. The apricot tree has been used for centuries by the masters to create the Duduk, another symbol of Armenia. Duduk is a traditional Armenian music instrument. The music of Duduk will pierce your soul and take you to some of the best memories that you have. Another fruit, the pomegranate, has several similarities with the traditions of Armenian families. One of the main tradition being the protection of the new generation. Just like the Armenian families, pomegranate, too, protects the seeds within its thick skin from the outer harm and when they mature the skin itself gives way to the new generation. Other symbols of Armenia are the Alphabet, the Flag of Armenia, the Coat of Arms, the National Anthem and countless signs that have been used in traditional or religious rituals and have a profound meaning.