LOS ANGELES — – A major conference dedicated to the latest developments and discoveries of Armenian archaeology will take place on Saturday, May 13, 2017, in the main conference room of the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA. Titled “New finds, new insights: advances in Armenian archaeology over the last decade,” the day-long event is the third Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian conference on Armenian Studies, organized by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA.

The conference will feature a distinguished roster of speakers including Boris Gasparyan, Artur Petrosyan, Dr. Arsen Bobokhyan, Dr. Miqayel Badalyan, and Dr. Mkrtich Zardayan. The speakers will be introduced by Prof. Peter Cowe, director of the Research Program for Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography and Narekatsi Chair of Armenian Studies at UCLA. Remarks will be delivered by Prof. Willeke Wendrich, Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, and Joan Silsbee, Chair of African Cultural Archaeology at UCLA.

The conference will also include a signing ceremony, during which a Memorandum of Understanding between UCLA and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography (IAE) of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia will be formalized.

“The focus of this conference is of great importance for Armenology and the Armenian community, as traditionally there has been a serious lack of exposure to archaeology and its impact on our understanding of Armenian history,” Prof. Cowe said and continued, “Most of our research to date has been textually-based. But this needs to be balanced by the contribution of material culture – that is to say, archaeological field work – in order to provide a more rounded and comprehensive view of Armenian life. This need is all the more significant with regard to Armenian prehistory, as archaeology is our main source of knowledge about that vast era.”

Boris Gasparyan, a researcher at IAE, will present his findings about the “Initial occupation of the Armenian Plateau.” Commenting on the subject, Gasparyan said, “The area encompassing the modern Republic of Armenia lies within the Armenian Plateau and is situated at the very core of a dynamic corridor between Africa and Eurasia. As such, Armenia is critical for understanding the initial stages of human settlement and the formation of ancient civilizations in the Near East and beyond.”

Artur Petrosyan, another researcher at IAE, will speak about “Armenia from the late Paleolithic to the first complex societies.” Referring to recent archaeological discoveries in connection with the prehistoric epoch, Petrosyan said, “There has been a large gap in our knowledge of late Pleistocene and early Holocene archaeological sites. But recent excavations in Armenia have brought to light a number of important discoveries. These sites represent the earliest record of a food-production economy in the territory of Armenia, and preserve considerable architecture as well as ceramic and metal artifacts.”

With a presentation titled “Vishap (dragon) stones in the context of the Bronze and Iron Age archaeology of Armenia,” Dr. Arsen Bobokhyan, senior researcher at IAE, will speak about some of Armenia’s most intriguing prehistoric monuments. “Although vishapakars were discovered more than a century ago, their secrets are far from being deciphered,” Dr. Bobokhyan said. “Much like the khachkars (cross stones) of medieval times, vishapakars dot the prehistoric landscapes of the Armenian Plateau. To date, close to 150 examples of these monuments have been discovered.”

Dr. Miqayel Badalyan, Director of the Karmir Blur branch of the Erebuni Museum, will speak about “Recent investigations of Urartian sites in the Republic of Armenia.” Commenting on the topic, Dr. Badalyan said, “The latest results of our excavations provide new data for tackling such important questions as the downfall of the Urartian kingdom, the correlation and sociopolitical and cultural connections between the Urartians and the local people, as well as the emergence of the post-Urartian period.”

The Silk Road will be the focus of Dr. Mkrtich Zardayan, Chair of IAE’s Department of Archaeology of Ancient Armenia. “In recent years, there has emerged an array of fascinating archaeological evidence for the wide interconnection of Armenian cities with their Eastern and Western counterparts,” Dr. Zardayan said. “Such evidence sheds fresh light on the history of the formation and development of the Eurasian communication network and particularly the role of Classical Armenia within the framework of transcontinental trade and cultural exchange.” Dr. Zardayan’s conference paper is titled “Classical Armenia on the Great Silk Road: the archaeology of the economy and cultural integration of the ancient world.”

The May 13 conference, which is open to the public, will start at 10:30 am. Attendees will be provided with refreshments and lunch. Paid parking will be available in Structure 4 (221 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095) and Structure 5 (302 Charles E. Young Drive North, Los Angeles, CA 90095).

The UCLA Research Program for Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography was created through the long-term partnership of Zaruhy Sara Chitjian and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology in 2013. The Chitjian conference series was inaugurated in 2013 with the establishment of the Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian Collection and Archives and the Research Program for Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography at UCLA by Ms. Zaruhy Sara Chitjian, in memory of her parents.

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