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Dragons of Azhdahak - Armenia's Megalithic Marvels

Explore the mysterious history of Armenian Vishaps also known as Dragons or Dragonstones scattered across the breathtaking landscapes of the Geghama Mountains. Nestled at high altitudes near natural and artificial ponds, these monoliths hold a profound connection to the worship of water.

Vishapakar (also known as dragon, dragon-stone, megalithic monument, menhirs) are monoliths found in abundance in the Armenian Highland, situated at high altitudes, near natural and artificial ponds, as well as other water sources in proximity to high-altitude lakes, and are intricately linked to the worship of water.

The dragon-stones of Geghama mountains, located near Dragon Lake! Photo is taken in 1970s and as you can see they are still lying horizontally! Notably, there are four dragon stones; two of them were subsequently transported to Yerevan and are currently showcased in Tigran Mets Park. Photo credits: Vladimir Saroyan's Facebook account.

There are approximately 150 known Vishaps discovered in the Armenian Highland, with 90 of them located in Armenia.

Dragonstones or Vishaps mostly appear in groups at altitudes of about 2300-3200 m above sea level, situated in well-defined concave meadow environments, which significantly reduces their visibility. There are also isolated examples at altitudes ranging from 1200 to 2300 m above sea level. Commonly carved from a single piece of stone, they take the form of cigar-like shapes with fish heads or serpents. Made of basalt, they are 150-550 cm high, and, based on their shape and iconography, they are divided into three types: bull-shaped (with four sides, in the form of a thick slab, featuring the image of a bull's head and hanging limbs on the front side), fish-shaped (round in cross-section, carved to resemble a fish with anatomical details), and a hybrid type combining characteristics of the previous two.

Most of the Vishaps found were lying horizontally, having fallen from their original standing positions.

A photo of Nikolai Marr posing for a photo while standing near a gigantic dragon-stone! Geghama mountains, 1909

The concept of Vishaps was introduced by the Armenian writer Atrpet in 1880, with his work being published in 1926. In 1909, during excavations at Armenia's Pagan Temple of Garni by Nicholas Marr and Yakov Smirnov, local residents shared stories about Vishaps dwelling in the mountains. This prompted a scientific expedition to Geghama mountains to confirm the existence of Vishaps and assess their scientific significance. The findings from the Geghama mountains were published in 1931.

The Dragon guards... 😅

Due to Mount Azhdahak's popularity as a tourist destination, two notable Vishaps are recognized, situated on the shore of the Dragon Lake (Vishapalich). These are among the best-known examples.

Type: Bull-shaped

Stone: Red basalt

Size of the big Vishap: 400×150×65

Size of the small Vishap: 205×76×24

A sketch of the dragonstone from Boris Piotrovsky’s book "Vishaps, Stone Monuments in Armenian Monuments."

Both are located at an altitude of 2700 meters near the high-altitude lake Dragon Lake.

They were installed in a vertical position by the "Vishap" tour agency. During subsequent works, the large Vishap was split into two parts and then carefully rejoined.

This dragonstone from the Geghama Mountains is currently showcased in front of Government Building 3.

This dragonstone was discovered in 1986 in the Geghama Mountains on the way from Geghard to Geghama mountains in a location called Chairasi. The father of Hrach Hayrapetyan, a resident of Goght village, Karabala Hayrapetyan, asked his son to place that stone on his grave after his death. Hayrapetyan dies in 1992, and Hrach, along with two dozen fellow villagers, loads the dragon stone onto a car and brings it to the Goght cemetery in 1993. Priest Ter Petros of Geghard learns that they want to place a dragon stone as a khachkar on the grave and prevents this step by prohibiting the reuse of the historical monument. Father Petros informs the architect Stepan Nalbandyan about it. The latter visits Goght, after which their actions were stopped.

Until 2001, the stone remained in the Goght cemetery. Then, Stepan Nalbandian moved it to Yerevan, to the yard of the National Museum-Institute of Architecture (Government Building 3). It was erected in the same year by the director of the institute, Ashot Grigoryan. Vazgen Poghosyan operated the crane and also prepared the concrete mixture.

Despite constant transfers, the monument is in good condition, although the left part of the headpiece is broken. The monument still stands in front of Government Building 3.




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