Armenian Cultural Heritage
The Armenian people have been described throughout the centuries as adaptable, resilient, enterprising, and steadfast. How they managed to survive repeated invasions, destruction, and persecution, while large and more powerful states disappeared and how they were able to make significant contributions to world civilization is a tribute to the Armenian people.
The Armenians are one of the few peoples of antiquity who, together with their language and culture, have survived to the present day. While their existence as a national, political, and cultural entity dates from the first millennium before Christ, recently accumulated evidence offers conclusive proof that the civilizations erected by the immediate predecessors of the Armenians go back to the second and third millennia B.C.
Archaeological excavations in Armenia reveal that the Armenian plateau in Eastern Anatolla has been one of the earliest cradles of civilization going back as far as the Early Stone Age.
Historians write that from the sixth to the second millennia B.C., the Armenian plateau was inhabited by a multiracial, indigenous population which, in addition to elements in common with other peoples, developed a specific culture. Armenians were described as people with dark complexion, prominent nose, high head and flattened occiput. During this formative period, the Armenian people associated themselves with metallurgy, various crafts, and sciences. Armenians hold the distinction of being the first nation to declare Christianity as its state religion.
As with many ancient peoples, the origin of the Armenians contains elements of myth and unresolved scholarly arguments. Many historians give a rather over-simplified account of the origin of the Armenian people. According to the Greek Historian, Herodotus, the Armenians had originally lived in Thrace from where they crossed to Phrygia in Asia Minor and had then gradually moved west of the Euphrates River to what became Armenia. The Historian states that Armenians came from two directions, one group from the west, or Phrygia, and the other from the Southeast, or the Mesopotamian and Zagros region. In other words, according to the ancient Greeks, the Armenians were not the original inhabitants of the region.
Other Historians indicate that from the ninth to the sixth centuries B.C., a large part of historical Armenia, called Ararat by its contemporary neighbors, comprised the Kingdom of Urartu. This Kingdom disintegrated during the middle of the sixth century whereupon the native tribes, including the Armen and the Nayiri groups were unified and became part of the dominant Hayassa group.
Their Indo-European language was imposed on the conquered Urartuans, who spoke a non-Aryan language. Thus did the Armenian Nation take form, its people being the political, ethnic, and cultural successors to the Hurrians, pre-Hittites, Hayassas, Nayiris and Urartuans. This newly formed nation was called "Hai" after the name of the Hayassa tribal federation and the country "Hayastan". The neighboring peoples called the Armenians "Armen" and their country "Armenia" after the Armens.
The Armenian version of the origins of the Armenian people, which was written between the fifth and eight centuries A.D., describes the Armenian people as being descendants of Japeth, a son of Noah. After the Ark had landed on Mt. Ararat, NoahÂ’s family settled first in Armenia and generations later moved south to the land of Babylon. The leader of the Armenians, Haik, a descendant of Japeth, unhappy with the tyranny and evil in Babylon, rebelled and decided to return to the land of the Ark.
The evil Bel, leader of the Babylonians, pursued Haik. In the ensuing war, good conquered evil when Haik killed Bel and created an Armenian Nation. Haik became the first Armenian ruler and his sons continued to lead the Armenians until King Paruir, a descendant of Haik, formed the first Kingdom of Armenia.
The first Armenian settlers came to America as early as the seventeenth century. Thereafter, bands of Armenian workers, merchants and students arrived initially in small numbers toward the end of the nineteenth century. The Massacres of 1894-1896 and the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey in 1915 drove even more immigrants to America.
Today, Armenians can be found in every corner of the globe. Although, the Armenian people are a very small ethnic group, Armenians have made significant contributions in every field of endeavor. Long known as excellent educators, scientists, artisans, musicians, and merchants, Armenians have used their skills to benefit the countries that have given them a home.
A History of the Armenian People, Volume I, Pre-History to 1500 A.D., by George A. Bournoutian