Sarkis Hatspanian, Artsakh

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Two years ago today, Artsakh war veteran, political commentator and activist, Sarkis Hatspanian, passed away in Lyon, France. He was only 55. He was born and grew up in Turkey before relocating to Armenia from France in 1990. He took part in the subsequent Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Artsakh.

Born in Adiyaman, southeastern Turkey and former Cilicia, he had left for France in 1980 to avoid persecution of the military dictatorship in Turkey, and then had moved to Armenia to join the Karabakh war in 1990. He participated in the liberation of the Karvajar (Kelbashar) region joining Armenia to Karabagh.

A photo of him with an elderly woman became a symbol of the war. This photo had two stories, one very real, the other a complete lie. The real story was as reported by a French journalist who accompanied the Armenian forces during the campaign, depicting Sarkis with an 80 year old Azeri woman, Shaikha Hanum.

She was left behind, along with other elderly Azeri women and children in the Karvajar district, when all the able-bodied Azeris had fled ahead of the advancing Armenian forces. Her son was a police commander in the district. Sarkis was in charge of taking care of the Azeri civilians, and eventually providing safe passage to Gandzag (Kirovabad).

On the same day that this story and photo was published in France, a fake story was posted in the Turkish daily, Milliyet, using the same photo, depicting Sarkis as an Azeri soldier, rescuing his Azeri grandmother from the Armenian enemy…

After the war, he became politically active and a fierce critic of the bribery and corruption of the oligarchs in the government and in the church, expressing his views very eloquently and articulately during frequent TV appearances.


Meghri and the 17th century Surp Hovhannes Church

Meghri (Armenian: Մեղրի), is a town and the center of the urban community of Meghri, in Syunik Province at the south of Armenia, near the border with Iran. The area of present-day Meghri has been settled since the Bronze Age. Many archaeological sites are found in the vicinity of the town dating back to the 7th and 6th centuries BC, during the period of Urartu kingdom.

Historically, it has been part of Arevik canton of ancient Syunik province of the Kingdom of Armenia. With the establishment of Tatev monastery in the 8th century, the region of modern-day Meghri witnessed a rapid social and economic development.

In 906, the settlement of Karchavan was founded by king Smbat I Bagratuni of the Bagratuni dynasty. In 987, the town -known as Meghri- was included within the newly-founded Armenian Kingdom of Syunik.

In 1105, the region of Meghri was occupied by the Seljuks. The town was completely destroyed in 1126 and 1157 by the invading Seljuk forces. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, Syunik along with the rest of the historic territories of Armenia suffered from the Seljuk, Mongol, Aq Qoyunlu and Kara Koyunlu invasions, respectively.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Meghri became part of the Erivan Beglarbegi within the Safavid Persia. At the beginning of the 18th century, the region was involved in the liberation campaign of the Armenians of Syunik led by David Bek, against Safavid Persia and the invading Ottoman Turks.

David Bek, an Armenian military commander and one of the most prominent military figures of the Armenian liberation movement of the 18th century, started his battles in 1722 with the help of thousands of local Armenian patriots who liberated Syunik.

After the fall of the Safavids in 1722, Davit Bek established himself as leader of the defenses of the local Armenians of Syunik and Kapan during the Ottoman Turkish invasion and the attacks of the local Muslim tribes.

Davit was successful in preventing the various Muslim tribes from making proper territorial gains. In 1727, in order to put a halt to the Ottoman approach in the area, king Tahmasp II appointed Davit as the governor of the area, and gave him the right to administer the area as a vassal Armenian principality under Iranian control.

In 1726-28, the local Armenians under the leadership of Davit Bek went to war with Turkish armies at Halidsor and had showed great military competence and valor by defeating them easily. Davit Bek, however, died 1728.

After Davit Bek’s death in 1728, command of the area passed to Mkhitar Sparapet (Sparapet meaning “general”, “constable” or rather “supreme commander of the armed forces”), who served as chief aide to Bek and later his successor after his death.

Mkhitar Sparapet(?-1730) was an 18th-century Armenian national hero and participant in the struggle for preserving the Armenian heritage in the Zangezur region of Transcaucasia.

He was instrumental in David Bek’s victories over the forces of Safavid Iran and the Ottoman Empire in Armenia’s Zangezur region. Their main headquarters were at the fortress of Halidzor which also served as the administrative center for Syunik.

In 1730, Mkhitar was murdered by Armenian villagers of Khndzoresk, who had implored him to have his own fortifications destroyed during his conflicts rather than their village.

His head was presented to the Ottoman Pasha at Tabriz, who found this act of treachery detestable and had the murderers decapitated. The tomb of Mkhitar Sparapet is located in a gorge not far from Nerkin Khndzoresk and Old Khndzoresk.

In 1813, Meghri became part of the Russian Empire as a result of the Russo-Persian War of 1804–13 and the signing of the Treaty of Gulistan. It was included within the Karabakh province until 1868 when it became part of the newly-formed Zangezursky Uyezd of Elisabethpol Governorate.

In 1810, young British army officer William Monteith visited the region as part of his service with the British embassy to Persia. His 1856 memoirs paint a vivid picture of the Meghri valley which he describes as a romantic glen that he rates as one of the most beautiful in Persia, or indeed in any country.

Meghri was founded as “Karchavan” in 906 by king Smbat I of Armenia, during the period of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. Later, it was known as Meghri, meaning “honey town” in the Armenian language.

Meghri is almost entirely populated by Armenians who belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Church of the Holy Mother of God of Meghri of the large neighborhood opened in 1673, is the main church of the town. It is under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Syunik based in Goris.

The 17th century Surp Hovhannes church located in the small neighborhood is also active and famous for its wall paintings. The abandoned church of Surp Sarkis located at the north of Meghri, is also dating back to the 17the century.

Inspired by the beauty and uniqueness of Meghri’s St Hovhannes church, recently restored through Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, the Bars Media created this stunning video!


Amaru Muru and Midas Monument

Image may contain: possible text that says 'In the HAYU MARCA region of Peru there is a doorway called ARAMU MURU. The native people believe it is the GATE OF THE GODS. HAYU MARCO in Spanish means HAY'S FRAMEWORK. ARAMU Spanish means ARAM'S WALL. Coincidence? FACEBOOK ANCIENT ARMENOIDS जာ Ancient crown ofLORD SIPAN from Peru Traditional Armenian hat'

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Amaru Muru , known as the stellar door or “Hayu Marca” which means the city of spirits a sacred mystical and enigmatic place, is an abandoned stone place in Peru, near Lake Titicaca, known as a “Gate of the Gods”.

It is a huge, mysterious, door like structure located in the mountainous Hayu Marca of southern Peru near Titicaca Lake, revered as the City of the Gods. On the main front it has laterals in the form of columns that were apparently Formed by crystals as energy stabilizers.

It remained after Incan civilization. The doorway itself looks like a big T letter, carved into the rock wall. An adult person could fit into the doorway. The place is a popular tourist destination for paranormal pilgrimage.

There are two places, paramount from the historical point of view, bearing the same name – Yazılıkaya («inscribed rock») – in the area of Turkey. The monument, which is described here, also has two other names – Midas Kenti (Midas City) and Midas Anıtı (Midas Monument), that distinguish it from the Hittite sanctuary of Yazılıkaya, located in the vicinity of Hattusa, in central Anatolia.

Phrygian Yazılıkaya is located in the area of the Phrygian Valley, in Eskişehir Province, on a plateau that also bears the name Yazılıkaya, at an altitude of over 1,300 meters above sea level. The site dominates the plain, rising about 70 meters above the surrounding terrain. It covers an area ​​650 meters long, and 320 meters wide.

The earliest traces of human settlement discovered near Yazılıkaya originate from the early Bronze Age. However, there is no evidence of the continuity of the settlement, and the most important monuments of Yazılıkaya are dated to the period from the 8th to the 6th century BC.

At that time Yazilikaya was the second most important place of the development of Phrygian civilization, besides their capital city – Gordion. It was guarded by four fortresses standing on the nearby hills – Akpara, Pişmiş, Gökgöz, and Kocabaş. Their ruins are still visible.

It remains unknown when the Phrygians left the area of Yazılıkaya. Structures and inscriptions found nearby indicate to an occupation of these areas in the later periods of history – in Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times.

The most important and the most spectacular structure in Yazılıkaya is called the Midas Monument. It is a beautifully decorated façade, carved into the vertical rock, dating back to the 7th or the 6th century BC.

Its appearance resembles an entrance to a temple, but actually only a very shallow niche is carved into the rock. Most probably it used to house a statue of the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”).

She may have a possible forerunner in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations dated to the 6th millennium BC and identified by some as a mother goddess.

She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its national deity. In Greece, Cybele is associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions.

In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her possibly Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the harvest–mother goddess Demeter.

Rhea is a character in Greek mythology, the Titaness daughter of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus, Gaia’s son. She is also the older sister and wife of Cronus. The Romans identified her with Magna Mater (their form of Cybele), and the Goddess Ops.

In early traditions, she is known as “the mother of gods” and therefore is strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, who have similar functions. The classical Greeks saw her as the mother of the Olympian gods and goddesses, but not as an Olympian goddess in her own right.


The Origin of Tandoor

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What is a Tandoor?

The tandoor is used for cooking in Southern, Central, and Western Asia, as well as in the South Caucasus. The English word comes from Hindi / Urdu tandūr, which came from Persian tanūr, which all mean (clay) oven.

According to the Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary, the Persian word ultimately came from the Akkadian word tinūru, which consists of the parts tin “mud” and nuro/nura “fire” and is mentioned as early as in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, c.f. also Avestan tanûra and Middle Persian tanûr. So tandoor originated from Semitic.

Words related and similar to tandoor are used in various languages, for example the Dari Persian words tandūr and tannūr, Armenian t’onir, Georgian tone, Arabic tannūr, Hebrew tanúr, Turkish tandır, Uzbek tandir, Azerbaijani təndir, and Kurdish tenûr.

Tandoori chicken is a chicken dish prepared by roasting chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay or metal oven used in cooking and baking.

The dish originated from the Indian subcontinent and is popular in many other parts of the world. Dishes similar to tandoori chicken may have existed during the Harappan civilization.

According to eminent archeologist and vice-chancellor of Deccan College Professor Vasant Shinde, the earliest evidence for a dish similar to tandoori chicken can be found in Harappan civilization and dates back to 3000 BC.

His team has found ancient ovens at Harappan sites which are similar to the tandoors that are used in the state of Punjab. Physical remains of chicken bones with char marks have also been unearthed.

Sushruta samhita records meat being cooked in an oven (kandu) after marinating it in spices like black mustard (rai) powder and fragrant spices. Harappan oven structures may have operated in a similar manner to the modern tandoors of the Punjab.

The Tonir in the ancient Armenian kingdom was a staple of every household and found commonly in the center of the house, acting as a form of heat delivery and Tandoor cooking method.

The underground tonir, made of clay, is one of the first tools in Armenian cuisine, as an oven and as a thermal treatment tool. Armenians are said to have originated underground tonirs. It is, therefore, no surprise that one of the most renown and popular Armenian culinary contributions Lavash is cooked inside the Tonir.

Lavash is an Armenian flat bread that is made with flour, water and salt. In 2014, the United Nations body UNESCO inscribed Lavash into their list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Other popular Armenian dishes cooked in the Tonir are Ghapama, Khorovats, Harissa (keshkeg), Gata and Khorvu.

In ancient times, the tonir was worshiped by the Armenians as a symbol of the sun in the ground. Armenians made tonirs in resemblance with the setting sun “going into the ground” (the Sun being the main deity).

The Leyla-Tepe culture of ancient Caucasian Albania belongs to the Chalcolithic era. It got its name from the site in the Agdam district of modern day Azerbaijan. Its settlements were distributed on the southern slopes of Central Caucasus, from 4350 until 4000 B.C.

The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, closely associated with subsequent civilizations found on the Armenian Highlands. This is evident with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets, which closely resemble Armenian tonirs.

The Yamnaya culture, also known as the Yamnaya Horizon, Yamna culture, Pit Grave culture or Ochre Grave culture, was a late Copper Age to early Bronze Age archaeological culture of the region between the Southern Bug, Dniester, and Ural rivers (the Pontic steppe), dating to 3300–2600 BC.

Its name derives from its characteristic burial tradition: Ямна (romanization: yamna) is a Ukrainian adjective that means ‘related to pits (yama)’, and these people used to bury their dead in tumuli (kurgans) containing simple pit chambers.

A kurgan is a type of tumulus or mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons and horses.

Originally in use on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, kurgans spread into much of Central Asia and Eastern, Western and Northern Europe during the 3rd millennium BC.

The Russian noun, already attested in Old East Slavic, comes from an unidentified Turkic language, compare Modern Turkish kurğan, which means “fortress”. Popularised by its use in Soviet archaeology, the word is now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology.

The word tumulus is Latin for ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’, which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teuh2- with extended zero grade *tum-, ‘to bulge, swell’ also found in tomb, tumor, tumescent, thumb, thigh, and thousand.

Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with ancient traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia. Archeologists divide kurgan cultures into different sub-cultures, such as Timber Grave, Pit Grave, Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnish and Kuman-Kipchak.

The structures of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BC, and Bronze Age until the 1st millennium BC, display continuity of the archaic forming methods. They were inspired by common ritual-mythological ideas.

The earliest kurgans date to the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus, and researchers associate these with the Indo-Europeans. More recently, some very ancient kurgans have been discovered at Soyuqbulaq in Azerbaijan. These kurgans date to the beginning of the 4th millennium BC, and belong to Leylatepe Culture.

The people of the Yamnaya culture were likely the result of a genetic admixture between the descendants of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers and people related to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus.

The Yamnaya culture is identified with the late Proto-Indo-Europeans, and is the strongest candidate for the urheimat (original homeland) of the Proto-Indo-European language.

Several genetic studies performed since 2015 have given support to the Kurgan theory of Marija Gimbutas regarding the Indo-European Urheimat – that Indo-European languages spread throughout Europe from the Eurasian steppes and that the Yamnaya culture were Proto-Indo-Europeans.

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European homeland suggests that Proto-Indo-European was spoken during the 5th–4th millennia BC in “eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia”.

Recent DNA-research has led to renewed suggestions of a Caucasian homeland for a ‘pre-proto-Indo-European’. It also lends support to the Indo-Hittite hypothesis, according to which both proto-Anatolian and proto-Indo-European split-off from a common mother language no later than the 4th millennium BCE.

The Anatolian languages, including Hittite, split off before 4000 BCE, and migrated into Anatolia at around 2000 BCE. Around 4000 BCE, the proto-Indo-European community split into Greek-Armenian-Indo-Iranians, Celto-Italo-Tocharians, and Balto-Slavo-Germanics.

The Armenian plateau hypothesis gains in plausibility” since the Yamnaya partly descended from a Near Eastern population, which resembles present-day Armenians.

Yet, they also state that “the question of what languages were spoken by the ‘Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers’ and the southern, Armenian-like, ancestral population remains open.”


Armenian Translation of Edda

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Meeting with my friend Hakob Sargsyan, who has translated the Poetic Edda (Den eldre Edda) from Old Norse to Armenian ….  – he will soon be on his way to translate the heroic poems of the Edda and the Prose Edda.

Poetic Edda is the modern attribution for an unnamed collection of Old Norse anonymous poems, which is different from the Edda written by Snorri Sturluson. Several versions exist, all primarily of text from the Icelandic medieval manuscript known as the Codex Regius.

The Codex Regius is arguably the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends. From the early 19th century onwards, it has had a powerful influence on later Scandinavian literatures. Not only by its stories, but also by the visionary force and the dramatic quality of many of the poems.

It has also become an inspiring model for many later innovations in poetic meter, particularly in Nordic languages, offering many varied examples of terse, stress-based metrical schemes that lack any final rhyme by instead using alliterative devices and strongly-concentrated imagery. Poets who have acknowledged their debt to the Codex Regius include Vilhelm Ekelund, August Strindberg, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges, and Karin Boye.

Codex Regius was written during the 13th century, but nothing was known of its whereabouts until 1643, when it came into the possession of Brynjólfur Sveinsson, then Bishop of Skálholt. At the time, versions of the Edda were known in Iceland, but scholars speculated that there once was another Edda, an Elder Edda, which contained the pagan poems that Snorri quotes in his Edda.

When Codex Regius was discovered, it seemed that the speculation had proved, but modern scholarly research has shown that Edda was likely written first and the two were, at most, connected by a common source.

The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri’s Edda (Icelandic: Snorra Edda) or, historically, simply as Edda, is an Old Norse work of literature written in Iceland during the early 13th century.

The work is often assumed to have been written, or at least compiled, by the Icelandic scholar, lawspeaker, and historian Snorri Sturluson c. 1220. It is considered the fullest and most detailed source for modern knowledge of Germanic mythology.

The Prose Edda was originally referred to as simply Edda, but was later titled the Prose Edda in modern collections to distinguish it from the collections titled Poetic Edda that are largely based on Codex Regius, a collection of poetry composed after Edda in 13th century Iceland.

At that time, versions of the Edda were well known in Iceland, but scholars speculated that there once was an Elder Edda which contained the poems which Snorri quotes in his Edda.



History of the Cat

The Norwegian forest cat (or scogkatts in Norwegian) originated between 1500 and 4,000 years ago, as a result of natural selection. Though they almost went extinct during World War II, the ancient cats are making a comeback in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and even France.

Their exact origin is up for debate. One theory is the Vikings brought short-haired from the British archipelago that mixed with long-haired cats brought by the crusaders. Another claims they are a hybrid of Siberian forest cats from Russia and Turkish Angoras.

The Angora (‘Ankara cat’) is a breed of a domestic cat. Turkish Angoras are one of the ancient, natural breeds of cat, having originated in central Turkey, in the Ankara region. The breed has been documented as early as the 17th century and is believed to be the origin of the mutations for both the coloration white and long hair.

Angora cats have long, silky coats and elegant, sinuous bodies. A younger Turkish Angora can often be mistaken for a snow weasel. Though it is known for a shimmery white coat and posh tail, Turkish Angora cats can display a variety of colors.

They come in tabby and tabby-white, along with black with an undercoat of chocolate brown, and lastly smoke varieties, and are in every color other than those that indicate crossbreeding, such as pointed, chocolate and lavender.

Eyes may be blue, green, amber, yellow, or heterochromatic (e.g., one blue and one amber or green). Ears are pointed, large and wide-set. The eyes are almond shaped and the profile forms two straight planes. The plumed tail is often carried upright, perpendicular to the back.

Longhaired cats were imported to Britain and France from Asia Minor, Persia and Russia as early as the late 16th century, though there are indications that they appeared in Europe as early as the 14th century due to the Crusades.

The Angora was recognized as a distinct breed in Europe by the 17th century. Charles Catton in his 1788 book Animals Drawn from Nature and Engraved in Aqua-tinta, gave “Persian cat” and “Angora cat” as alternative names for the same breed.

Angoras and Persians seem connected. Although some cat associations think the Persian cat is a natural breed, in the 19th century Persians and Angoras were identical. The Persian cat was developed from angora mutations by British and American cat fanciers. The Angora was used, almost to the point of extinction, to improve the coat on the Persian.

The Angora of the 20th century was used for improvement in the Persian coat, but the type has always been divergent from the Persian – particularly as the increasingly flat-faced show cat Persian has been developed in the last few decades.

Van cats are a distinctive landrace of the domestic cat found in the Lake Van region of eastern Turkey. The variety has been referred to as “the swimming cat”, and has been observed to swim in Lake Van.

They are relatively large, have a chalky white coat, sometimes with ruddy coloration on the head and hindquarters, and have blue or amber eyes or are odd-eyed (having one eye of each colour).

Cats from eastern mountainous regions of Anatolia developed into longhaired breeds like the Van and the Angora through inbreeding and natural selection. Like all domestic cats, Angoras descended from the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). The Fertile Crescent was a place where cats were first domesticated.

Genetic research has shown that the domestic cat’s ancestor, the African wild cat (Felis lybica lybica), was domesticated, for rodent control, about 9,000 years ago in the Near East when tribes transitioned from hunter-gathering to crop farming and settled life.

The white-spotting in domestic cats appeared at the earliest stage of cat domestication, and is one of the points of evidence of early artificial selection. Van cats have been reported living in the vicinity of the city of Van and the general Lake Van area for centuries; how long is uncertain.

The naturally occurring Van cat type is popularly believed to be the basis of the Turkish Van breed, as standardised and recognised by many cat fancier organizations; it has been internationally selectively bred to consistently produce the ruddy head-and-tail colouring pattern on the white coat.

The cats are notable for their lean, long-legged appearance. They are all-white, or sometimes mostly white with amber markings around the tail and ears. Locals to the Van area identify only the all-white type as Van cats, according to a 1991 BBC documentary, Cats, written and presented by Roger Tabor.

Their most notable genetic characteristic is their almond-shaped eyes that often are mismatched colours. The most valued and valuable members of the type generally have one amber-green eye and one blue eye.

Van cats are claimed as a cultural icon by Armenians, Kurds, and Turks, who have inhabited the region at different periods in history. Some authors associate the cat with the Armenian people, a population of whom have historically lived in the Lake Van area, who have been said to have “revered” the cat.

Turkish folklore has it that a Van cat was aboard Noah’s Ark, and that as the flood waters receded, Allah (God) blessed the cat with a ruddy patch of fur on its head when it left the ark, after which it made its way to the city of Van via Mount Ararat. Many Van cats are all-white, however.

Armenians often consider the breed to be historically Armenian, as the Lake Van area was inhabited by Armenians since antiquity until their local extermination during the genocide of 1915. Prior to 1915, the area had a large Armenian population, and the Armenian homeland is centred on Lake Van, which was important even in ancient Armenian culture.

The Armenian inhabitants of Van have been said to have “loved” Van cats. Among them was post-impressionist and surrealist artist Arshile Gorky, later an immigrant to the United States, who sculpted Van cats in the early 1910s.

Armenian writer Vrtanes Papazian wrote a short novel in which the cat has been used as a symbol of the Armenian liberation movement. Armenian authors Raffi, Axel Bakunts, and Paruyr Sevak have featured Van cats in their works.


Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave in Indonesia

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old


Santa from Iraq (Sumer)

Every year millions of children around the world anxiously wait for the arrival of Santa Claus. Parents tell stories of the man with the white beard, red coat and polished boots who travels the world with his reindeer bearing gifts for all those who were well-behaved. Perhaps one day, parents will also tell the story of the real Santa Claus – a man who dedicated his life to charity and gift-giving.

One of the sources of the popular Christmas icon of Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas of Myra (270 – 343 AD), also known as Nicholas of Bari. Nicholas was born in the village of Patara, later renamed Arsinoe, a flourishing maritime and commercial city on the south-west coast of Lycia on the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor near the modern small town of Gelemiş in Antalya Province.

Nicholas was an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek maritime city of Myra (modern-day Demre, Turkey) during the time of the Roman Empire. He was born to wealthy parents, who died in an epidemis while Nicholas was still young. He used his entire inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Saint Nicholas has become the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus (“Saint Nick”) through Sinterklaas.

The feast of Sinterklaas celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas on 6 December. The feast is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on St. Nicholas’ Eve (5 December) in the Netherlands and on the morning of 6 December, Saint Nicholas Day, in Belgium, Luxembourg and northern France (French Flanders, Lorraine and Artois).

Saturn was a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in Roman mythology. He was described as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. Saturn’s mythological reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labour in a state of innocence.

One of the principal components of the Theogony is the presentation of the “Succession Myth”. It tells how Cronus overthrew Uranus, and how in turn Zeus overthrew Cronus and his fellow Titans, and how Zeus was eventually established as the final and permanent ruler of the cosmos.

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. It held theological importance for some Romans, who saw it as a restoration of the ancient Golden Age, when the world was ruled by Saturn.

The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves as it was seen as a time of liberty for both slaves and freedmen alike.

A common custom was the election of a “King of the Saturnalia”, who would give orders to people, which were to be followed and preside over the merrymaking. The gifts exchanged were usually gag gifts or small figurines made of wax or pottery known as sigillaria. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days”.

Saturnalia may have influenced some of the customs associated with later celebrations in western Europe occurring in midwinter, particularly traditions associated with Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and Epiphany. In particular, the historical western European Christmas custom of electing a “Lord of Misrule” may have its roots in Saturnalia celebrations.

Ekur (É.KUR), also known as Duranki, is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.

In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished. The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur, a Sumerian lament composed around the time of the fall of Ur to the Elamites and the end of the city’s third dynasty (c. 2000 BC).

In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”). The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued.

The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East. Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.


The American Lithographer Adolf Dehn

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Adolf Dehn (22 November 1895 – 19 May 1968) was an American lithographer. Throughout his artistic career, Dehn participated in and helped define some important movements in American art, including Regionalism, Social Realism, and caricature. Two-time recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, he was known for both his technical skills and his high-spirited, droll depictions of human foibles.


The Story of Ethiopian Armenians

There is a small community of Armenians in Ethiopia, primarily in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Armenians had traded with Ethiopia from as early as the first century AD. The Armenian population peaked in shortly before the Italian invasion in 1935 at around 2,800. By the fall of the Ethiopian monarchy in 1974, it was around 2,000, after which the numbers fell precipitously.

One of the first recorded diplomatic missions to Europe from Ethiopia was led by Mateus (Portuguese for Matthew), also known as Matthew the Armenian (died May, 1520). Matthew was an Ethiopian ambassador sent by the Empress Eleni of Ethiopia to king Manuel I of Portugal and to the Pope in Rome, to appeal for aid against Islamic incursions into Ethiopia in the 16th Century.

He was in search of a coalition to help on the increasing threat that Ethiopia faced from the growing Muslim influence in the region, with the counsel of the Portuguese diplomat and explorer Pêro da Covilhã (c. 1460 – after 1526).

Eleni or Helena (died April, 1522) also known as Queen of Zeila was an Empress of Ethiopia by marriage to Zara Yaqob (r. 1434–1468), and served as regent between 1507 and 1516 during the minority of emperor Dawit II.

Zera Yacob (English: “Descendant of Jacob”; 1399 – 26 August 1468) was the Emperor of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty, also known as the House of Solomon, the former ruling Imperial House of the Ethiopian Empire.

The dynasty’s members claim lineal descent from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Tradition asserts that the Queen gave birth to Menelik I after her biblically described visit to Solomon in Jerusalem. Menelik I was the first emperor of Ethiopia and of Hebrew descent. Ruling in the 10th century BC, he established the inaugural Solomonic dynasty.

In 1270, the Zagwe dynasty of Ethiopia, the ruling dynasty of a Medieval kingdom in present-day northern Ethiopia (900 to 1270) was overthrown by Yekuno Amlak, who claimed descent from Solomon and reinitiated the Solomonic era of Ethiopia.

The dynasty would last until 1974, ended by a coup d’état and deposition of the emperor Haile Selassie (through grandmother). Eleni played a significant role in the government of Ethiopia during her lifetime, acting as de facto co-regent or advisor to a number of emperors.

Mateus arrived at Goa in 1512, and traveled to Portugal in 1514, from where he returned with a Portuguese embassy, along with the Portuguese missionary and explorer Francisco Álvares (c. 1465 in Coimbra – 1536~1541, Rome).

In 1515 he traveled to Ethiopia as part of the Portuguese embassy to emperor Lebna Dengel accompanied by returning Ethiopian ambassador Matheus. The embassy arrived only in 1520 to Ethiopia where he joined long sought Portuguese envoy Pêro da Covilhã.

The Portuguese only understood the nature of his mission after they arrived in Ethiopia in 1520, shortly after Mateus’ death, a fact that complicated their mission to the new Ethiopian Emperor.

Besides the obvious religious affiliation, there is also the story of the “Arba Lijoch” children, a group of 40 Armenian orphans who had escaped from the atrocities in Turkey, coming to Ethiopia after the Armenian Genocide.

Arba Lijoch were adopted by Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (1892 – 1975), then Crown Prince Ras Tafari. He was Crown Prince and Regent of the Ethiopian Empire from 1916 to 1928, and then King and Regent from 1928 to 1930, and finally Emperor from 1930 to 1974.

Among the Rastafari movement, whose followers are estimated to number between 700,000 and one million, Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate.

Beginning in Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafari movement perceives Haile Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity. He was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life. He is a defining figure in modern Ethiopian history. He was a member of the Solomonic dynasty who traced his lineage to Emperor Menelik I.

He was born to parents with ethnic links to three of Ethiopia’s Afroasiatic-speaking populations: the Oromo and Amhara, the country’s two largest ethnic groups, as well as the Gurage. He came to power after Iyasu V was deposed, and undertook a nationwide modernization campaign from 1916, when he was made a Ras and Regent (Inderase) for the Empress Regnant, Zewditu, and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire.

Zewditu (born Askala Maryam; 29 April 1876 – 2 April 1930) was Empress of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1930. She was the first female head of an internationally recognized country in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the first empress regnant of the Ethiopian Empire.

Her reign was noted for the reforms of her Regent and designated heir Ras Tafari Makonnen who following her death, in 1930, succeeded her as Emperor Haile Selassie I. After becoming the regent and de facto ruler of Ethiopia in 1916, Selassie began to gradually modernize Ethiopia, beginning with the capital, Addis Ababa.

He started by having Ethiopia admitted to the League of Nations in 1923 and his diplomatic trips in the following years aimed to solidify stable connections outside of Ethiopia. The first of these diplomatic visits was in 1924, when Selassie went on a trip to Europe and the Middle East in the hopes of establishing allies in Europe.

But it was in the heart of the Middle East — in Jerusalem — that Selassie would soon become acquainted with the 40 Armenian orphans who would ultimately become the forerunners in the modernization of mainstream music in Ethiopia.

As Selassie toured Jerusalem, he visited the Armenian Quarter and marveled at the St. James Armenian Apostolic Church (Surb Hakobyants Vank.’) There he observed a marching band composed of 40 young Armenian men; he was deeply moved by the band’s musical talent.

Selassie himself was a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and he noted the striking similarities between the two churches, as well as the likeness in written script.

After concluding his tour of the Armenian Church and district, Selassie had a conversation with Patriarch Turyan and learned that these 40 talented young musicians were orphans of the Armenian Genocide. He also learned of the terrible financial strain that came with raising these orphans.

In response, Selassie offered to adopt and bring the marching band back with him to Addis Ababa. They impressed him so much that he obtained permission from the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem to adopt and bring them to Ethiopia, where he then arranged for them to receive musical instruction.

The 40 Armenian orphans arrived to the capital on September 6, 1924, accompanied by Father Hovhannes Simonian, and officially became known as the Arba Lijoch (“forty children” in Amharic, the official language in Ethiopia.)

The Arba Lijoch became the first official orchestra of the nation and formed the royal imperial brass band of Ethiopia. Each of the children were allocated a monthly stipend, provided with housing and trained by their musical director, the conductor and composer Kevork Nalbandian. These 40 orphans who were once deprived of their most earnest childhood memories due to genocide and dispossession had now found their beacon of hope through music.

Nalbandian was an Armenian orphan himself, originally from Aintab (modern-day Gaziantep) in the southeastern region of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. It was Nalbandian who led the Arba Lijoch with his musical compositions and Selassie was so impressed with the band’s compilations, he asked Nalbandian to compose the music for Ethiopia’s national anthem.

In 1926, Nalbandian composed the music for the Ethiopian Imperial National Anthem titled, “Teferi Marsh, Ethiopia Hoy,” which translates to “Ethiopia, be happy” (words by Yoftehé Negusé) which was the Ethiopian National Anthem from 1930 to 1974.

It was performed by the 40 orphans for the first time in public during Haile Selassie’s official crowning as Emperor on November 2, 1930 in Addis Ababa. In fact, Selassie’s initial coronation on November 2, 1930 set a defining tone for the Arba Lijoch and the Armenian community in Ethiopia.

The Arba Lijoch began performing for nearly every imperial event of the state, and later trained Ethiopia’s army and imperial bodyguard bands. While not much is recorded about the personal lives of the 40 orphans, Mesfin Kebede, a native Ethiopian resident of Addis Ababa, possesses some documents that provide a look into the lives of the orphans, including their names, ages and hometowns.

Kebede recounts that the majority of the orphans were originally from various Armenian towns and that most of the orphans came from Vaspurakan (Van), Karin, Zeytun, and Sis. Kebede described the Arba Lijoch as “diligent, abstemious, and honest,” virtues that, according to him, “are qualities of the race to which they belong.”

Nerses Nalbandian was an Ethiopian a musician and educator of Armenian descent. He was born into a family living in Syria who had escaped the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in the early twentieth century. Stateless Armenian, he gained Ethiopian nationality in 1959.

Nalbandian’s family settled in Addis Ababa at the end of 1930’s. There he becomes a musician and a conductor (playing the violin, piano, saxophone). With the agreement of Haile Selassie, he takes over his uncle Kevork Nalbandian after retiring in 1949 as the head of the major musical institutions of the country in Addis Ababa.

In particular, Nalbandyan conducts the orchestra of the Imperial Guard, the Police Orchestra, the Municipal Orchestra of Addis Ababa (where he is a professor in 1946), the orchestra of Hayle-Selassie Theatre (directed by Franz Zelwecker) and the music schools and Nazret Yared.

His influence is essential in the evolution of Ethiopian music from the 1940’s, following the work of his uncle, which he incorporates into traditional instrumental and stylistic basis (pentatonic scale, rhythm) to infuse them with principles of Western classical music and jazz (including the use of brass), modernising without occidentaliser.

Nalbandian’s contributions lay foundation for the creation of the Ethio-jazz in the 1950’s, most of the musicians – Tlahoun Gésésé, Bezunesh Beqele, Alemayehu Eshete, Mahmoud Ahmed, Hirut Beqele, Menelik Wzsnatchew – played or sung in bands of Addis Ababa that Nerses Nalbandian led.

How Armenian Genocide Orphans Sparked A Revolution In Ethiopian Music

In The Company of Emperors: The Story of Ethiopian Armenians