The Legacy of Armenia: Trade, Metallurgy, and Forging of Precious Metals of the Ancient World
Since ancient times, demand for metals has been a big part of commercial exchange between countries separated by great distance. The Armenian Highland is situated between the Anatolian and Iranian plateau, and has played a significant role in ancient times in metal casting and processing.
A view of the mountains in the Armenian plateau at the Turkey-Iran border. In the center background is Mount Ararat. ( CC BY 3.0 )
In the second to first millennium BC, the exchange of metals was characterized by very specific features: Iran was exporting lazurite; Armenia, copper, tin, gold, silver, iron; Middle Asia, turquoise; Sinai, copper and onyx; and Egypt was known for the export of lead, silver, and glass.
Since the fifth to fourth millennium BC, the Armenian Plateau territory has processed and exported almost all types of minerals. Among them are: copper, tin, gold, silver, iron, lead, zinc, magnesium, antimony, arsenic, quartz, salt, and more. This is evidenced by findings from different corners of the region. Those findings are also evidence that our ancestors knew how to use minerals and how establish trade relations, including the exchange of valuable minerals.
Armenian Highlands, Historical Atlas ( Public Domain )
The Role of Metals
The earliest evidence of use of metals in Armenian Highland can be found in ancient records of Hittites (second millennium BC).
Tin was the rarest metal in ancient world. Tin has been the cause of some long term invasions as far reaching as the British Isles and Iberian Mountains. In ancient Armenia tin was discovered in several places, such as Aghdznik, Syunik.
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Having rich minerals, Armenia played an important role in ancient world in relation to processing and exporting metals. Initially, Armenia exported tin, copper, gold, and large amounts of iron into Egypt, India, Greece and Scythia.
Mountain of Iron and Lead
Armenian historians Faustus the Byzantine, Moses Khorenatsi, and Lazarus Pharpensis have written about various minerals processed in the region. According to Faustus, the Byzantine part of Armenian Taurus and part of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC to 387 AD, the region of Turuberan, was called “the mountain of iron and lead” by the ancients.
According to ancient Greek writers Homer, Hesiod, Euripides and others, “copper, silver and iron were first invented in Armenian Highland and then exported to other countries.”
World renowned archaeologists such as Henri Frankfort, Jacques de Morgan, Leonard Woollay and others, studying Aegean islands, Asia Minor, and metallurgical samples of North Eastern regions of Northern Persia, came to the conclusion that the Armenian Highland was one of the cradles of metallurgy, and for the first time in history iron was casted in Armenian Highland in the second millennium BC.
In Lchashen, in the basin of Sevan, iron casting furnaces were found dating back to the second millennium BC.
Sevanavank Monastery on the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan, Armenia. Iron casting furnaces dating back to the second millennium BC have been found regionally. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
According to the British scientist Gordon Child and Indian archaeologist Kashinath Narayan Dikshit, the first discoverers of iron foundries were Armenian highlanders, and the “epicenter of the Iron Age revolution was the mountains of Armenia”.
All abovementioned scientists emphasized that Armenia constantly supplied metals to Assyria and Babylonia, Egypt, India and Media. The necessary prerequisite for the development of ancient civilizations was a supply from a country with necessary minerals or metal products.
Ores and Goods from Armenia
The Assyro-Babylonian ancient protocols regarding Armenian metals are dated to the 13th century BC.
In Assyrian King's Salmanassar I and Tukulti-Ninurta I protocols, there is evidence regarding "mountains' heaviest tax," and "mountains of wealth," which were exported from Armenia to Assyria every year.
Tiglath-Pileser I chronicled evidence that Assyrians were considering copper, bronze, gold, silver, as well as magnesium ore to be the best resources of Armenian Plateau. Those materials were produced by Malatya residents.
Part of a rock relief depicting Tiglath-Pileser I (c. 1114 -1079 BC). ( Public Domain )
According to the Tukulti-Ninurta II chronicles, processing and export of gold, silver, lead and iron had already been widespread in the ninth century BC. They were taken to Assyria either as castings or in form of pots, sculptures or statues.
King Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria, (ninth century BC) during one of his invasions of Tigranakert region, is said to have taken "67 kg silver, 67 kg of gold, 3 tons of lead and 6 tons of bronze, 9 tons of iron, 1000 bronze receptacle, 2000 bronze cup, wheelchairs made of ivory and gold." From the metal-rich Mountains of Sasun, great amounts of silver, gold, lead and iron were delivered to the king.