Tigranakert was presented in Florence, Italy


Tigranakert was presented in All Italian 1st conference on Public archaeology (Archeologia Pubblica. Il primo congresso di archeologia pubblica in Italia. Firenze, 29 – 30 ottobre 2012) organized by University of Florence in Pallazzo Vecchio.The head of Tigranakert Archaeological Mission, professor of Yerevan State University Hamlet L. Petrosyan on Monday 29th of October hold a presentation in Pablic Archaeology all Italian conference in Florence. Bellow there are some quotations from his presentation.

"The Hellenistic city of Tigranakert is located in the internationally unrecognized republic of Nagorno Karabagh, which has proclaimed its independence at the beginning of the 90s of the last century after the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The discovery of Tigranakert is one of the most successful undertakings of the Armenian cultural heritage in terms of inclusion of this heritage into the current cultural processes. Before the archaeological research only legends are known about this city. The initiative to discover the city was a civic initiative to reveal to the Armenian and international scientific and political circles, that “historical excursus” of Azerbaijan about the idea the Armenians came to Nagorno Karabagh only in the 19th century, was a political hoax, via ignoring the presence of Armenians during last two thousand years in Nagorno Karabagh and surroundings, witnessed by many Greek and Roman (Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, Ptolemy, Dio Cassius), Armenian, Arabic, Persian, Georgian historians, several thousands of Armenian inscriptions of the 7th-18th centuries, and so on.

During the first stage of the research I have collected all the bibliographical data about the location. The comparison of this data with the folk legends as well as with travelers’ portrayals made possible to assert that Tigranakert was located on the border of merging of Karabagh mountain range with steppe, on the road from Armenia to ancient Georgian kingdom of Iberia, in the current river of Khachenaget. Based on this research in 2005 an expedition was set for an archaeological research of the area. The mission examined the territory with radius of 10km where Khachenaget gets out into the steppe. As a result of this in the south-eastern slope of Vanqasar mountain, an ancient settlement were verified. The traces were in the form of foundations of a fortification walls 200m in length, dug into the rock, as well as large depositories of Hellenistic pottery. This data was sufficient enough for systematically excavations, as a result of which during 2006-2012 uncovered some parts of almost 60 hectares of a city: the Hellenistic Fortified area with foundations dug into the rock and walls with “swallow-like” ties, the single-domed basilica church of the Central area, Early Christian necropolis, Hellenistic necropolis and Hellenistic Quarter, Early Christian Cave sanctuary complex, and the Canal dug into a rock. We are trying to preserve the landscape look of the monument, which means exclusion of installation of any modern object on the whole territory of the monument, if it could disrupt the landscape perception of the monument.

The next component of this cultural initiative is the publicity efforts that include organization of almost a dozen exhibitions in Karabagh, Armenia and one exhibiton in Switzerland, publications, including in Russian, French, Inglish and Spanish, hope soon in Italian, creation of a website, creation of Facebook page, several dozens of TV and radio interviews, 7 documental movies, organization of cultural events, and finally the establishment of archaeological museum of Tigranakert on the territory of the monument. As a result, today Tigranakert is the most known to the public and most visited monument in Karabagh. In the course of two years the museum had 45 thousand visitors, for comparison Armenia’s largest and the most visited museum - the State Museum of History of Armenia, has approximately 40 thousand visits a year.

Despite on the fact that Nagorno Karabagh is not internationally recognized country and a lot of governments advice their citizens against visiting the region, almost eight thousand five hundred visitors of the museum were diasporas Armenians, while four thousand five hundred were non-Armenians, mostly citizens of Switzerland, USA, Canada and France. Unfortunately Italy has a very modest position in this list with only 150 non-Armenian citizens.

Tigranakert not only facilitates the publicity of the cultural heritage of Nagorno Karabagh, but also reinforces the pride of the local population, connecting them further to the environment, becoming the holly center for the people who live in the region. The examination of the Azerbaijani responses is noteworthy in this context. It can be characterized from silliness to sobriety, from neglect of facts to the process of acceptance and interpretation. The first is efficiency, in 2006 right after the excavations the Azerbaijani media and websites reported about the excavations. This is true today as well, from financial support to duration of excavations, to conclusions of the expedition, although with obvious avoidance to use images that show the monument in full, for example today you will not find a Azerbaijani website that has a photo of the full fortress walls that are widely popular on the Internet. At the beginning there were only jokes, disparagement. Then they were trying to get serious and find political answers in our undertakings. The Azerbaijani academy joins with a special decision about Tigranakert, which has been also placed on the website of the National Security of Azerbaijan. Today the results of the recent excavations of Tigranakert are presented on different websites with dozens of comments among hundreds of images and structural photos. And it is difficult for an Azerbaijani researcher to state that there is no city there, it is impossible to assert that this is not an ancient city, furthermore they write articles today that the city of Tigranakert existed but it was not an Armenian settlement and was located in a different location, etc. Meaning they accept that Armenian archaeologists have discovered a city built during the era of Tigranes the Great which is not Tigranakert. Azerbaijani opponents often mention that foreign researchers and scientists do not cooperate with us because they do not trust our scientific integrity. Azerbaijani colleagues of course realize that the lack of cooperation is pure political, the international organizations that deal with cultural heritage and appropriate state institutions of certain countries avoid this cooperation because Nagorno Karabagh is not internationally recognized state.

UNESCO’s Moscow office has rejected to submit two of my proposals to create a neutral, pure vocational Internet portal with the database of all the monuments located in the liberated territories, specifically in the surrounding areas of Tigranakert, which will contain all monuments, including those of Muslim origins with only one reasoning, the heritage of these territories cannot be accepted for discussion. One can resume, that the political situation deprives the people of Karabagh from the right to live a cultural life, a right that is stated in the Universal human rights convention a component of which is transformation of the cultural heritage into a part of everyday life. The cultural policy in the recent decades is shifting its meaning and direction in the world. The cultural right of a human being and the perception of cultural democracy as a policy are getting wide attention. In this context the largest result of the discovery and research of Tigranakert is the wide publicity that this monument has, it is the stream of thousands of people that come to see the monument disregarding if it is a part of the state policy or how serious arguments pro and con of the scientist. A lot of them care about the return of their cultural heritage. Today Tigranakert is a location where diplomas and medals are granted, competitions are held, concerts and festivals are organized.

The population of the surrounding villages brings their guests to Tigranakert, sends books, images and brochures about Tigranakert to their relatives who live abroad, etc. And isn’t the increase of the role of cultural heritage in shaping of the identity the main goal of a cultural policy? At the beginning the discovery of Tigranakert for me and my friends was an initiative to prove wrong the president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan who stated that Armenians have moved to the territory of Karabgh in the 19th century. Today, after witnessing the regard toward the monument of the thousands of people, the pride, I think it is one of the components of the current cultural development and identity making and attesting in Nagorno Karabagh".

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