Hijacking the Heritage of the Armenian Highlands

Posted on January. 13. 2022

Part I

The moment the idea is admitted into society,
that property is not as sacred as the law of God,
and that there is not a force of law and public justice
to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
John Adams

Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian

  A very dear and a highly educated friend of mine, who heads the multicultural department of a university, sent me an email very recently. She wanted me to view a TV series about a certain archeological find in Turkey. She wrote,   “I’m emailing you as I’ve been watching a new series on Netflix you might enjoy. It’s called  “THE GIFT” is filmed in Turkey around and at Göbekli Tepe which has fascinated me since its discovery”.

When I found out that my friend has not been aware of the fact that these discoveries are located on the Armenian Plateau or on the Armenian Highlands (of Western Armenia), I responded to her this way: ” I agree with you totally, the archeological discoveries are fascinating in Anatolia and Armenian Highlands. A few years ago, for an article I read a book titled Anatolia: Cauldron of Cultures.c.1995, one of Time Life Books edited by Roberta Conlan (The University Library might have it)”.

    I further elaborated that “Along the Euphrates River on the Armenian Highlands, there are a half a dozen of archeological excavation sites. One of the sites is called Nevali Cori. It is supposed to be the temple of the first  organized religion of the world. Out of political reasons, the book fails to mention that these sites are located in Western Armenia (Armenian Highlands), the historical homeland of the Armenians”.

Incidentally, only once “Armenia” is mentioned parenthetically on  page number 159 of the book (Anatolia: Cauldron of Cultures) that Homer admired his birthplace Anatolia:  Among other reasons, because of facts and myths like the great flood, “In the far east, amid the mountain ranges of Armenia, towers Mount Ararat, reputed resting place of Noah’s Ark after the Flood”. That is all that is mentioned of Armenia or Armenians in a book on different cultures which have inhabited Anatolia and the Armenian Highlands (in present-day Turkey) for the millennia.

      Unfortunately, not only Turkey, but even Western European writers, especially of the USA ones, tend to exclude any mention of Armenian presence in their ancestral homeland lest they provoke the ire of the Turkish government, which would actively chastise or even boycott those who acknowledge the indigenous Armenians of the present-day Turkey.

    Despite the modern world is full of high caliber scholars, in this article, I would like to present for a forum how Turkey is hijacking all that ancient glory of the proto-Armenian people as being “Turkish Heritage”, and to offer some suggestions as to what Armenians can do about ascertaining and reclaiming their stolen heritage. The contention that the educated world knows about this intellectual piracy by Turkey is questionable. Turkey spends millions and millions of dollars on their “Turkification” policy than any other country in the world while Armenia’s head is kept in the sand.

  Even after a quick perusal of the printed literature, the Internet, and the media, you’d find that Turkey has decided to call all of these outstanding discoveries to be of the “Turkish Heritage” –article after article! The Internet abounds with information about the so-called Turkish heritage archeological discoveries and sites.

       Furthermore, to promote that Turkish heritage idea, Turkey has established in 2000 The Turkish Cultural Foundation to promote and preserve Turkish culture and heritage worldwide and has offices in Boston, Istanbul, Sonoma, and Washington, D.C. It mainly serves as propaganda machine with multiple goals to solidify Turkey’s legitimacy of being the sole natives of Anatolia with all of their ancient heritage by denying the Armenians’, Greeks’, and Assyrians’ existence on their land.

   Here is an example of an article, which is claiming the archeological discoveries of ancient sites to be “Turkish Heritage”: “Turkish Heritage Site ‘Catalhoyuk’ Tells 9000-Year-Old Story”.  This is the tip of the iceberg of the proliferation of persuasive communication to advance the Turkification policy of the government. Since Mustafa Kamal’s campaign of “Turkey for the Turks,” the government has decided to erase any trace of the indigenous life ever have existed on the Armenian Highlands.

       You are absolutely right; this is a highway robbery of the ancient heritage of the indigenous Armenians. The Turks conquered a small section of Western Anatolia in the 11th century A.D., while these archeological sites date millennia B.C. They are the Armenian nation’s precious ancient cultural heritage, the inheritance of the artifacts and traditions handed down from generation to generation. For the Ottoman Empire, occupation of a conquered country meant total possession of the land’s above and underground resources. For centuries, the Ottoman officials would not allow archeologists  to excavate any site lest the finds would relate to any indigenous people.

The most important archeological site in present-day Turkey is Gobakly Tepe (Portasar in Armenian) near Urfa and the second important one is Chatal Hoyuk near Konya. Unlike the people of Chatal Hoyuk who lived in a beehive type of mud housing structures, the people of Gobakly Tepe lived in settlements around their temple-like center and probably were still hunter-gatherers. This indicates that the need for religion or rituals started long before humankind became farmers out of fear of the elements in their environment.

       To usurp the exciting ancient part of the Armenian nation, I would call it “Hijacking the Heritage of the Armenian Highlands” in broad daylight. According to the Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary, “Hijacking” is defined as “4 to steal idea to take somebody else’s idea and use it, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the person from whom it was taken (informal)”. This is the most accurate description of what the government of Turkey has been doing with the vast ancient heritage of the Armenian Highlands, established through all the millenniums of time of inhabiting their ancestral homeland, which is in present-day Turkey, until the Genocide of 1915-1923 (perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks).

      The excavations in present-day Turkey seem to be focused on two major periods: Starting from the Neolithic (Stone Age) period to the Urartian Kingdom reign era. Both of these periods have produced exciting discoveries about proto-Armenian ancestors’ past, how they lived as nomads and transhumance, how they moved from nomadic to settled life, whether they followed a religion or not, and other exciting information about their life styles and urban dwellings.

   Along the middle of the Euphrates River on the Armenian Highlands alone, there are a number of  important excavation sites. Following the  course of the river, from north to south, Hallan Cemi, Chayonue, Nevali Cori, Tille Hoyuk, Nemrud Dagh, and Samsat Hoyuk, to cite a few, are located one after another.  Across the southeastern Turkey, a network of dams and irrigation canals were being built in the 1990s along the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers as part of a government project to advance agriculture in this region. Due to the wanton construction of the Ataturk Reservoir on the Euphrates River, for example, hundreds of the unexcavated or partially explored sites were given the watery grave to the dismay of many international archeologists and historians.

    In southeastern part of the Armenian Highlands (present-day Turkey), there are some important sites as well, such as Ashikli Hoyuk, Gobakly Tepe (Portasar in Armenian), and Chatal Hoyuk (forked mound), which has drawn the international community’s attention for having a unique housing design that had no streets or foot paths. 

          Interestingly enough, the houses were built in Chatal Hoyuk right up against one another like town houses and the people who lived in them traveled over the town’s rooftops and entered their homes through holes in the roofs by climbing down a ladder.  Communal ovens were built on the rooftops of the homes of Chatal Hoyuk (for Khorovadz!) and archeologists assume that group activities were taken place there as well.

          In the Portasar  (Mountain Naval in Armenian and Gobakly Tepe in Turkish), archeologists have determined that ancient people did not live at the site. They would come from the surrounding areas for collective worship, rituals or feasts. Perhaps it is because at that time the people were not totally nomadic, but transhumance. Unlike herders who have a permanent home, typically in valleys, transhumances are semi-nomadic type of pastoralist or nomadic, a seasonal movement of livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In the mountain regions, it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and lower valleys in winter.

            The Gobakly Tepe so-called temple, a pre-pottery Neolitich A period (9500 B.C.-8500 B.C.) complex of Portasar (in Armenian) is excavated by the German archeologist Dr. Klaus Schmidt. The site is claimed to be about 12 thousand years old, which is five and a half (5.5) thousand years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia and seven (7) thousand years older than the Stonehenge in England. During a span of 25 years, Schmidt have unearthed giant stone monoliths, covered in intricate carvings of mostly animals, some weighing as much as 20 tons. What a challenge for Stone-Age people to carry the two kilometer away from the quarry and to carve them with stone tools, and then have them erected as imposing tee-shaped pillars. It is a feat of engineering to boggle the mind.

          Of the 20 enclosures, only eight have been excavated. Although the size of the complex is smaller than that of the Stonehenge, scientists consider it a crucial find for the people who built these structures did not have the knowledge of making pottery and did not engage in farming, metallurgy or writing. Nevertheless, we cannot deny them the attributes of immense planning and cooperation in building such monumental history-changing structures. Now, the left brain question: will we ever find out the secretes of Portasar? Only when we get another Dr. Schmidt to continue with the excavations of this Armenian “Sphinx”!

          Also, there is an important Urartian archeological work is being done at Toprak Kale near Lake Van. All these findings attest to the fact that the birthplace of civilization is the Armenian Highlands. We cannot afford to stand by and let Turkey steal Armenia’s ancient heritage when in the 21st century the pen may prove to be sharper than the sword, which would obviate the necessity of using combat drones to rectify the problem.

          Let us not forget that there are also many archeological sites in Eastern Armenia (The Republic of Armenia) to ignite the imagination of modern humankind for their unique finds, such as the oldest leather shoe (5,500 years old), an old skirt (5,900 years old), the oldest wine-producing facility (6,000 years old), and the skeleton of an Amazon warrior woman (3,000 years old), to mention just a few exciting finds.

          In the Republic of Armenia, there is ample evidence of Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age cultures in lands historically and presently inhabited by Armenian people, dating to about 4,000 B.C. Archaeological surveys in 2010 and in 2011 at the Areni-1 cave complex have resulted in the discovery of the world’s earliest known leather shoe, skirt, and wine-making facility mentioned above. Stone tool discovery in Eastern Armenia gives insight into human innovation 325,000 years ago. However, the lion’s share of the Armenian ancient heritage lies in Western Armenia in the present-day Turkey.

          Turkey must be held guilty of “cultural appropriation,” which refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that does not respect their original meaning, give credit to their source, or to destroy them contributes to oppression. Cultural appropriating is, therefore, a cultural heritage crime. And so, the international community must enact laws for giving the credit to the rightful owners of the cultural heritage found in the land of the indigenous people, such as the people of the Armenians Highlands.

Part II

          “The heritage of the past is the seed that
 brings forth the harvest of the future”.
Wendell Phillips

Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian

Despite the Turks lost vast territories of the Ottoman Empire after WWI, they ended up securing a huge chunk of it for themselves mainly from the homelands of three indigenous peoples, such as Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. Currently, 97 percent of the occupied territory lies in Asiatic Turkey and only three percenbt is located on the European side of the Bosporus.  This vast land almost measures about 400 miles from north to south, and it extends over 1,000 miles east to west. Over half of present-day Turkey comprises the Armenian Highlands, a country of staggering numbers of actual and potential archeological sites nowhere else found in the world.

To explore this archeological paradise, Turkey is enlisting the German, English, and American archaeologists to excavate the antiquities, without allowing them to make any reference to Armenia or Armenians. As a result, Turkey ends up packaging and promoting the findings as belonging to Turkish Heritage. The present excavations along the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers are all in Western Armenia.

In fact, Gobakly Tepe, not Chatal Hoyuk, should be the center of the dawn of civilization for creating such a structure of extremely tall limestone pillars carved with stone-age technology. The German Archeologist Dr. Klaus Schmidt identified more than 20 circular stone enclosures. The largest was 20m across, a circle of stone with two elaborately carved antromorphic pillars of 5.5m tall at its centre. While the Pyramids were built with metal implements, Portasar was accomplished with stone tools.

    The Armenian nation needs to fight back; otherwise, within a few decades Western Armenia will become a footnote in the minds and books of the world if Armenians fail to reclaim their cultural heritages.  Ideas have changed the world; ideas can also advance Armenia’s interests and causes. So, here are some avenues to combat the usurpation of the Armenian heritage as belonging to Turkey, which is a rather new comer to Anatolia and Armenian Highlands through conquest:

I. Armenia must make sure that whenever a site is accepted to be included in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the correct name of the country should be mentioned. That is to say, instead of stating Turkey, it should be listed as found in Western Armenia, or on the Armenian Highlands in present-day Turkey (i.e., before its conquest by the Turks). For example, we cannot say Ziggurats are part of Iraqi people’s heritage, but rather they belong to the Sumerians of past centuries, but are now found in present-day Iraq.

II. Like Turkey, Armenia must establish an active, nonpartisan Armenian Cultural Heritage Foundation or Organization with the explicit mission of informing, educating, and inspiring our young generation and other nations about the vast and rich heritage of the Armenian people in their ancestral homeland. If Armenians cannot invent or innovate, they should emulate Turkey. There are at least several archaeological excavations in each part or province of Turkey. How do they do it? They follow four ways: Enlist the participation of international archeologists, obtain funds from external sources, make sure the archaeological finds remain in Turkey, and never ever mention in the scientific reports that the finds were located on the Armenian Highlands.

III. Similar to the Jewish Diaspora publishing organizations in the United States, Armenians should come up with an organization(s) to help writers publish and sell their books to the public and libraries around the world. Over 95 percent of the text books adopted by colleges and universities in the U.S. are by Jewish American writers promoted by the Jewish publishing organizations.

IV. Armenian archeologists, historians, etymologists, philologists, and other scholars, should name the sites in Armenian for all of the archeological sites in the present-day Turkey, like naming Gobakly Tepe as “Portasar” in Armenian.

V. Offer degrees in Armenian history with a concentration in Armenian Heritage. Universities around the world with Armenian Studies Programs should also emphasize the study and the writing of dissertations and their disseminations about the Armenian Heritage discovered on Armenian Highlands. The Armenian heritage is a goldmine for any research er to write about their discoveries and how they have contributed to world civilization and particularly to the Western civilization. After all, scholars are beginning to regard Armenia to be the cradle of Indo-European civilization long before its flowering in lower Mesopotamia.

VI. The Republic of Armenia’s tourist agencies should promote the idea that after visiting the Armenian heritage sites in present-day Turkey, they should make sure to come and see the rest of the Armenian heritage in Eastern Armenia as well. In this way, non-Armenians would get to know that there is also a wealth of archeological sites to visit in the Republic of Armenia. Archeological tourism is burgeoning in the world and Eastern Armenia has a lot to offer to satisfy the hunger to visit exceptional sites.

VII. Armenian political and non-political organizations should offer scholarships for studying and publishing about the Armenian heritage in the present-day Turkey. A scholarly dissertation would advance the knowledge of the existence and excitement of the Armenian heritage in places other than Eastern Armenia.

VIII. And finally, let us not forget that relating the archeological findings in Western Armenia to that in Eastern Armenia, would synergize the tourism industry of the Republic of Armenia. Tourism is the most lucrative industry, especially for a developing country for the same capital investment is used over and over again without being used up.

  Let us not forget Turkification. The Armenian Highlands is purposefully called “Eastern Anatolia” by the Turkish government in order to subject the Armenian homeland to a total obscurity and even oblivion. The entire homeland of the Armenian indigenous people is like a vast basket of mixed eggs. As they hatch, they show the trajectory civilization progress of humankind from the Stone Age times like the Gobakly Tepe monuments to Medieval Times of the glorious days of the Ani, once the capital city of the Armenia kingdom.

   The whole idea is that “doing nothing” until we return to Western Armenia is not an option. We should also take measures to combat the Turkish propaganda of denying Armenia’s rich heritage and culture found in present-day Turkey. Hijacking the Armenian Highland’s heritage is a serious crime just like stealing someone else’s intellectual property or identity, but unfortunately the civilized world is not organized to protect ancient sites and to penalize those who desecrate them wantonly. Azerbaijan went unpunished or un-penalized for desecrating an entire old Armenian cemetery in Nakhitchevan by bulldozing it into a ruble of oblivion.

  The Armenian nation –Armenia, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), and the Diaspora– should get organized to protect their own heritage as actively as possible without depending on other organizations or countries to come to their rescue. The Internet is an open battlefield for the weak as well as for the strong to wage war for establishing the truth.

      Embarking on a campaign to counter Turkey’s denial of Armenian homeland in the confines of present-day Turkey, would keep the memory of the world of the occupation of the Armenian Highlands alive –before it is lost in the mist of time. Additionally, the benefit of reclaiming our heritage centers on the opportunity to instill pride in our new generation, pride of who we are, pride of where we came from, and pride of where we want to be.  Our new generation is our only ardent hope for some day we’d be able to go home –back to Ararat. With a proud memory of the Armenian Highlands, the dream of one day to return there would be possible.

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