The Armenian-Polish Archaeological Mission in Metsamor was established in June 2013 during the visit of Armenian scholars led by Prof Ashot Piliposyan in Warsaw. This visit resulted in an agreement signed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia “Service for the Protection of Historical Environment and Cultural Museum-Reservations”, and the Center of Ethno-Cultural Observation Studies (Ethnos) from the Armenian side, as well as the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of University of Warsaw (PCMA) and the Institute of Archeology of University of Warsaw from the Polish side. The parties agreed to set up a joint excavation project, after the long and productive meetings the fortress of Metsamor was selected as the target of future fieldwork, the complexity and the archaeological wealth of the site clearly outweighed other candidates.
The site was settled as early as the end of 5th – beginning of 4th millennium B.C. and remained as such, with intervals, until the 17th century A.D. During its heydays, between the 11th -9th century B.C., it occupied nearly 100 hectares and was a major metallurgical centre attested by the remains of its industrial district and the numerous elaborate precious metal finds from the necropolis. Although, at the beginning of the 8th century BC the Urartian king Argishti I laid waste to the city it was partially rebuilt and remained an important industrial centre, however the settlement limits and its population shrank considerably.
Almost fifty years of research has been done since priest Ghevork Alishyan’s initial discovery of the site in the last decade of the 19th century. In his book, titled Airarat, he mentions the remains of cyclopean walls atop mound Mets Blur. The preliminary investigation of the citadel was conducted by Evgeni Baibiduryan in the ‘30s of the last century. However, the first test trenches were only opened in 1959-1960 by Lavrentiy Barseghyan, while the full scale excavation was started five years later, in 1965, under the supervision of Emma Khanzadyan. Till the end of the project, in 2006, the archaeological research mainly focused on the area of the citadel and the cemetery situated east to the settlement. The results were partially published in two monographs: Metsamor 1 (Khanzadyan, Mkrtchyan, Parsamyan 1973) and Metsamor 2 (Khanzadyan 1995), as well as in over thirty papers written in-between 1980-2010. For two seasons, in 2011-2012, the “Service for the Protection of Historical Environment and Cultural Museum-Reservations” NSCO directed by Prof. Ashot Piliposyan resumed the previous excavations.
The first season of the joint Armenian-Polish excavation at Metsamor began in October 2013 under the umbrella of the aforementioned organizations. The archaeological work was conducted under the supervision of Prof. Ashot Piliposyan on the Armenian and Dr. Krzysztof Jakubiak on the Polish side. At the beginning, the archaeological activities concentrated mainly on the inside of the remains of the fortress atop mound Mets Blur and the northern, presumably domestic part of the settlement. At the end of the first season, results from both areas were compared to help in selecting the research focus of future excavations. After careful consideration, the area of the relatively flat platform, situated north from the citadel, was chosen as the target of the upcoming season. In the following years, our team uncovered step-by-step the remains of the huge lower-town that was occupied for thousands of years in antiquity.
In the course of only a few years, under the supervision of our two co-directors, and with the helpful support of the director of Metsamor Museum, Ph.D. Cand. Artavazd Zaqyan, and the Vice Director of the Polish crew, Ph.D. Cand. Mateusz Iskra we built an international team of young, aspiring archaeologists coming with different skill sets and backgrounds from different countries such as Armenia, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, France and Germany. During our fieldwork and workshops we aid their work and development with modern methods and the latest technologies to maximize their future academic potentials.