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    Polish-Armenian team discovers 3,200-year-old ‘golden tomb’ in Metsamor

    The tomb of two people, probably a couple – a man and a woman – in which the remains of three gold necklaces were discovered, was examined in Metsamor, Armenia, by a Polish-Armenian team of archaeologists. It dates from the time when Ramses II ruled Egypt.

    Metsamor is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Armenia located a few dozen kilometres west of Yerevan.

    It was a box grave. This means that two skeletons were found in chambers sunk into the ground and framed by large stones. The researchers also came across the remains of a wooden burial bed.

    Archaeologists described that the bones were well preserved. Both skeletons had slightly contracted legs. Preliminary estimates suggest that the couple died between the ages of 30 and 40.

    “The deaths of these people are a mystery to us, we don’t know the cause, but everything indicates that they died at the same time because there are no traces of the tomb being reopened,”

    the head of the research, Prof Krzysztof Jakubiak of the UW Department of Archaeology, told PAP (Polish Press Agency). 

    It is a joint project of the Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology of the UW and the Department of Antiquities and Protection of National Heritage of Armenia. From the Armenian side, the project is headed by Prof Ashot Piliposyan.

    Richly furnished tombstone from ancient time

    Prof Jakubiak believes that this is a unique find, as the tomb has not been robbed and is very richly furnished.

    The tomb dates from the end of the Late Bronze Age (1300-1200 BC). It was around this time that Egypt was ruled by the famous pharaoh Ramses II the Great. Inside the tomb, archaeologists found more than a hundred gold beads and pendants. Some of them bear some resemblance to Celtic crosses. There were also dozens of carnelian pendants.

    “Probably all these elements made up the three necklaces,”

    Prof Jakubiak believes.

    The grave also contained several complete ceramic vessels and a unique faience bottle. However, it is not of local manufacture. It was brought from the Syrian-Mesopotamian borderland, the researchers determined.

    Prof Jakubiak said that about 100 graves have so far been examined in the huge necropolis, which is probably about 100 hectares in size, but only a few of them were not plundered.

    According to the researchers, the graves in this cemetery were in the form of barrows – stone boxes were covered with a large amount of earth. However, hardly a trace of the mounds has survived to our times.

    Archaeologists do not know who lived in Metsamor at that time – in the second half of the 2nd millennium. The people who inhabited the extensive, fortified settlement there were not literate, so they left no texts behind. This makes it difficult for researchers to identify them.

    “It was, however, a large settlement. Even the fortifications made of huge stone blocks, encircling the so-called citadel, located on a hill, have been preserved to our times. At the end of the 2nd millennium BC, no settlement in the region could be compared in terms of rank and size,”

    Prof Jakubiak believes.

    Metsamor is a protected archaeological site with archaeological reserve status. Excavations within its boundaries have been carried out since 1965.

    In its heyday from the 4th to the 2nd millennium BC, the settlement covered more than 10 hectares and was surrounded by cyclopean walls. During the Early Iron Age from the 11th to 9th centuries, Metsamor expanded to almost 100 hectares. The central part in the form of a fortress was surrounded by temple complexes with seven shrines. At the time, it was one of the Rakhine Valley’s most important cultural and political centres. The site was continuously settled until the 17th century.

    From the 8th century BC, Metsamor was part of the kingdom of Urarat – the biblical kingdom of Ararat. King Argishti I carried out the conquest. It was during his reign that the borders of the state expanded into Transcaucasia, precisely the region of present-day Yerevan. Destruction from this period was discovered by Polish archaeologists in previous years.

    The last research season took place in September and October 2022. The Poles have been conducting excavations in Metsamor since 2013 under an agreement with the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia and the Armenian Ministry of Culture. 

    Read the article in Polish here.

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