Nerkin and Verin Naver--Indo-European EMBA Burial Complexes in Armenia


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Nerkin and Verin Naver, meaning lower and upper graves, respectively, are two burial complexes located just outside of Ashtarak, Armenia, a short distance north of the capital city of Yerevan. These complexes date to the end of the Early Bronze Age to the Middle Bronze Age, specifically from around the 25th century BCE to 16th century BCE. The upper graves (Verin Naver) are believed to have been burial sites for the cremated remains of commoners while the lower graves (Nerkin Naver) were likely reserved for the cremated remains of elites. The oldest graves contain some of the first known horse burials.

While it is unclear what culture or cultures buried their dead at these grave sites, quite a bit of evidence points to an Indo-European connection: tombs in the forms of kurgans, full and partial skeletons of (likely sacrificed) horses (as well as other sacrifice animals), artwork depicting horses, dragons, and chariot-wheels. Interestingly, both burial sites are located at the foothills of Mount Aragats ("the throne of Ara"--sun god). According to the earliest Armenian historians (Moses of Koren and Sebeos), this specific region was one of the oldest and most important areas in Armenian history. Also, according to Armenian legends, heroes were buried on a lion's paw. Phalanges from lions, leopards, and wolves were found underneath animal skins on the floors of the tombs.

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