ON ANCIENT ASTRONOMY IN ARMENIA

Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory,
Armenia

      The Armenian highland is one of the ancient cradles of civilisation. Many investigators of the history of astronomy , having no facts to hand, mainly by logical approach came to the conclusion that the ancient inhabitants of Armenia not only knew, but also took part in the formation of ancient astronomy (Maunder, 1906, Olcott, 1914) .
      Thus Olcott (1914) wrote: "Astronomical facts correspond with historical and archaeological investigations and prove that people who have invented the ancient figures of constellations probably lived in the valley of the Euphrates , as well as in the region near the mountain Ararat"
      Maunder (1906), investigating the question of the origin of the constellations, wrote:
      "People, who divided the sky into constellations, most probably lived between 36 and 42 degrees of the northern latitude, so neither Egypt nor Babylon could be the motherland of creation of constellations. Calculating in what place the centre of this empty region coincides with the North Pole, we got the figure 2800 BC, which is probably the date during which the naming of the constellations were completed. It was observed that such animals as the elephant, camel, hippopotamus, crocodile and tiger were not amongst the figures representing the constellations, therefore we, can assert India, Arabia and Egypt could not have been the place where the idea of firmament originated.
       We can exclude Greece, Italy and Spain on the basis of the fact that the figure of tiger is present in the figures of constellations
       Thus purely by logical thinking we can assert that the motherland of celestial figures must be Minor Asia and Armenia, that is to say a region limited by the Black, the Mediterranean, the Caspian and the Aegean Seas..."
        The above statements had to be confirmed
        The discoveries made during the last decades in Armenia. have enriched our knowledge of the ancient civilisation and ancient astronomy in this region
        On Armenian territory , a belt calendar and geocentric model of the universe were discovered from the Bronze Era, dating back to the XI century BC (rumanian, Mnazakanian, 1965) Furthermore, rock carvings of astro- nomical representations of the Sagittarius, lion and Scorpio constellations, along with symbols of the Sun and the Moon, were discovered on fragments

Figure 1 Image of Earth with the antipodes foand on rocks  

of rocks older than 3000 years. The diameters of the pictures are different from each other. indicating the relative brightness of the stars. On one fragment the Sun, Moon. and five planets. as seen with the naked eye are pictured, and on another two fragments there are circles with short and 29 long rays. The rays carved on the rocks probably depict the period of repetition of the Lunar phases.
       A carved circle found on one of the rocks created a great deal of interest. This circle is divided into orthogonal lines, in which (on opposing sides) are also carved human figures.. These symbols represent the Earth and antipodes
      (Figure1). Such symbolism is used in modern astronomy Tumanian, Petrosian, 1970)

THE ANCIENT "OBSERVATORY" OF MEZAMOR

       The important discovery, which enriched our knowledge of ancient astronomy in Armenia, /were the complex of platforms for astronomical observations on the Small Hill of Mezamor, which may be called an ancient "observatory". Investigations on that Hill show that the ancient inhabitants of the Armenian Highlands have left us not only pictures of celestial bodies. but a very ancient complex of platforms for observing the sky.
      On the bank of the river Mezamor, some 30km West of Yerevan, a metal-producing centre was found, dating back to the third millennium BC .The life here dated from V millennium BC till to XVIII century AD.

Figure 2. The first platform with stellar symbols on the east side.

      Here on the Small Hill of Mezamor in 1966 the platforms for astronomical observations were discovered, which form a peculiar complex -an ancient "observatory" ( Parsamian and Mkrtchian, 1969, Parsamian , 1985, 1988).
     Of the platforms, three are particularly well preserved.
     The first is triangular in shape, with its smallest angle facing the South. The bisector of that angle coincides with the North-South direction ( to an accuracy 2 degrees). On the rock surfaces a number of symbols are carved. These symbols and images are sometimes also repeated on the other rocks as well.
      On the east side of the first platform there are four identical stellar symbols surrounded by a trapezium measuring 55x40 cm. Of these four symbols, three are particularly well preserved. This trapezium is drawn narrower in the south-east; a choice of geometry which is not accidental, as will be revealed later..
      One might assume that the centre of the platform might be a good place to place the symbols. However. the positioning of the trapezium and the symbols may be the key to its secrets. The fact that the trapezium with the star symbols is carved on the eastern side suggests the idea that it is connected with the rising of some star or the Sun. The Sun however can be excluded .as it used to have its own unique symbol in ancient times. The question now is which heavenly body was the trapezium pointing to?
      Let's continue mentally the altitude of the trapezium till the horizon and see, with the rising of what heavenly bodies this direction is connected. We measured the azimuth of the trapezium with a compass and made some calculations. Let A- be the azimuth of the carved altitude of the trapezium dividing it into two equal parts {the line of the altitude is preserved but it is drawn roughly, so an error of measurements of the azimuth of the trapezium gave the value A = 298, The value of declination was found to be -21, the value of hour angle t-71 . From these data it is not difficult to establish what bright stars had the above mentioned declination and when. According to 5000 year star catalogue (Hawkins and Rosental, 1967) table 1 gives the name of four brightest stars, their brightness, as well as the epochs when declination was equal to -21 there are four candidates: Sirius, Rigel, Antares, B C.Ma.Most probably Sirius was observed and worshipped by the ancient inhabitants of Mezamor and the information they left is about this star.
           Table 2 below gives the results of calculations for the rising of Sirius in Mezamor at summer Solstice; we indicate the epoch for three different values of azimuth (A = 298 being the most probable value) .
           The table 2 shows how strongly the epoch changes with a change in declination of two degrees.

TABLE 1

STAR

MAGNITUDE

EPOCH

Sirius
-1.58
-2.600

Rigel

0.34

-2.100

Antares

1.22

400

B C.Ma

1.99

 -1000

TABLE 2

AZIMUTH(0)

DECLINATION (0)

LOCAL TIME

EPOCH

300
-22.20
4h39m
-2800

298

-22.55

4h 43m

-2600

296

-19.00

5h 03m

 -1900

           It was shown that in the years between 2800-2600 BC Sirius could have been observed at Solstice in the morning, in the rays of the rising Sun, this being the so-called helical rising of Sirius. It is obvious from the data that Sirius, the brightest star in our hemisphere could have been the object of worship by the inhabitants of Mezamor. It is possible that, like the ancient Egyptians, the inhabitants of Mezamor related the first appearance of Sirius with the opening of the year.

     

Figure 3. The third platform with seven steps.

The occurrence of the symbol for Sirius four times in the trapezium can be explained by the fact that as in the Egyptian calendar, where the year had 365 days, after each 4 years the rising of Sirius was shifted from the first day to the second day of the month, and after another 4 years from the 3rd day to the 4th and so on. If these suppositions are correct, then the findings on the first platform prove that the inhabitants of Armenia were well acquainted with the sky, and could have used the periodical appearance for measuring time.
            The second platform is situated 2.5m above the first one. It is also triangular and in the plane of meridian. The sign of the Sun and other signs are there.
           Of special interest is the third platform. It differs from the other two in having seven steps carved in the rock, which lead in from a North-South direction. These steps are positioned roughly in the plane of the meridian. If the stairs leading to the platform were in the East-West direction, then one might assume that the platform was being used for religious ceremonies. The stairs however were positioned in the North-South direction, which provided an optimum position for carrying out astronomical observations. On the last step leading to the platform, a carved directional indicator (compass) was made which shows North-South-East directions. The presence of the compass suggests that the platform was not positioned exactly on the meridian plane and this compass had to be use to correct the position of the observer. The other carved signs found on the hills and the platforms also lead us to understand that the platforms, as well as serving as astronomical observation platforms, could also be used for religious rituals.
            But for religious rituals on the Main Hill of Mezamor was found Pagan Altar situated in the plane east-west from the first millennium BC

MEGALITHIC MONUMENT ZORAZ KAR

            Among the ancient monuments in Armenia there is a megalithic monument, probably, being connected with astronomy. 250km south-east of Yerevan there is a structure Zoraz Kar dating back to II millennium BC. Vertical megaliths many of which are more than two meters of height form stone rings resembling to ancient stone monuments -henges in Great Britain and Brittany (Parsamian,1985,Khunkikian, 1985, Parsamian and Barsegian, 1987, Geruni, 1999)

.

     Figure 4 A carvea directional indicator (compass) is on the top of the third platform. It indicates north-south-east directions

      The diameter of the main stone ring of Zoraz Kar is more than 30m and it is notable that on some stones found in the eastern part there are well polished round holes, which could have been used for the observation of the Sun in the days of equinox and solstice. The main ring is connected with megaliths in S-E direction by gate of two megaliths the distance between which more than between other stones. The first observations of the sunrise the days of solstice shows that the middle line of gate has direction East-West. On the direction N-E from the gate there is a range of nine megaliths. Sunrise observations on June 22, 1985 shows that at the moment of sunrise Sun appearance on the top of highest megalith from the gate. In the same moment it was possible to see Sun in the holes of two megaliths N 39 and N 44. Numeration was begin from north end of stone avenue which lead to main stone ring in the N-S direction. After short time during sunrise Sun was seen trough first megaliths hole from the gate.
      During the observations of sunrise on 21 September. 1985 before appearance of Sun in the middle of gate we observed Venus.
     We suggested that the place of gate was chosen for observations of periodic events (Parsamian, 1985, Parsamian and Barsegian, 1987).
      In the same region about 40 km from Zoraz Kar there is a village the name of Karahunge which give us some information to meditate.

Figure 5. Zoraz Kar.

Karahunge is a complicate word : "Kara"- means stone, "hunge" may be means bouquet, in Armenian dictionary there is not that word (Parsamian, 1985).
According to hypothesis of Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1990) Indo-European languages were originated on the eastern Anatolia which is historical homeland of Armenians.

 

 

MEDIEVAL OBSERVATIONS OF COMETS AND NOVAE BY 

DATA IN ANCIENT ARMENIAN MANUSCRIPTS

Figure 6 The Sunrise Observation in the summer solstice, 1985

      In the collection of ancient Armenian manuscripts (Matenadaran) In Yerevan .there are many manuscripts with information about observations of astronomical events as: solar and lunar eclipses, comets and novae, bolids and meteorites etc. in medieval Armenia.
     In particularly there are interesting information about observations of supernovae in 1006 , 1054, possible supernova in 716, two novae in 762 , (Astapovich, 1974 , Tumanian, 1964, 1967, Barseghian, Parsamian, 1990 ).
     Till to now 75 information about appearances of 60 comets are found in Armenian medieval sources (Vsekhsvjatskij and Tumanian, 1970, Tumananian, 1968, Barsegian and Epremian, 1989). In particularly Halley's comet were observed from Armenia In 684, 989, 1066, 1222, 1145 and 1531 ( Brutian, 1988, Barseghian, Epremian, 1989, Barseghian, Parsamian, 1998 ).

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A. J. BARSEGUIAN and E. S. PARSAMIAN, 1998, private communication. T. v: GAMKREllDZE and v: Vs. IVANOV V. Mire Nauki, 5, 66. 1990. f! GERUNI, Dokl. NAN of Armenia, v.98, 307, 1998.

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 E. S. PARSAMIAN, Soabsch. Byurakan Observatory, 57, 92, 1985a. 

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