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Arts of Armenia: Metalwork and Engravings
The Armenian plateau, rich in ores, was one of the first places to practice metallurgy and was ahead of neighboring regions in the use of copper and iron.

Throughout history Armenians have been master metalworkers and jewelers. There is a near continuous tradition of metal objects from the first millennium B.C. to the present. Armenian metal craft can be divided conveniently, if arbitrarily, into three categories: 1) silver and bronze coins; 2) gold and silver works of art; and 3) bronze and other non-precious metal objects.

Under the Orontid (Ervandian, fourth to second century B.C.) and Artaxiad (Artashesian, second to first century B.C.) Armenian dynasties, the minting of coins provided the art of engraving a natural outlet.

During the first ten Christian centuries, however, Armenians did not strike coins. It is only under Cilician Armenian dynasties of the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries that the numismatic tradition of the Artaxiads is renewed.

by Khachatur Musheghian

The extraordinary phenomenon of marking pieces of precious metal for use as money was a Greek invention of the seventh century before our era, first in the cities of Asia Minor and then on the islands and mainland of Greece itself.

This greatly improved the development of international trade. In Armenia metal money only appeared much later.

Until the fourth century B.C., commerce was carried out in the form of barter or by payment in gold and silver ingots according to weight. Only after this date was Armenian trade facilitated through the acceptance of coined money as a form of payment.

Archaeological excavations carried out in the Erebuni (Erevan) fortress [1] have led to the discovery of Greek silver coins of the sixth-fifth centuries B.C. minted at Miletus (two specimens), as well as silver coins dating from the same period minted in Athens (several examples), others were discovered in the Sisian (Zangezur) region.

The use of metal coins with weight and purity guaranteed by the state began to appear in Armenian circles just before and under Alexander the Great (died 323 B.C.) and his successors.

Numerous coins bearing the effigies of Alexander and those who followed him have been discovered.

The presence of this money proves that there were economic links between Armenia and the neighboring countries of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. During this period, the Greek drachma, a silver coin of 4.36 grams, was the most commonly circulated money of international trade.

The Greek monetary unit was used as principle value in international exchanges. Armenian markets traded with gold coins called "Alexander the Macedonian," which weighed 8.60 grams and were stamped with the effigy of Athena and a Victory.

In Armenia this coin was called a "sater," from the Greek word "stater." A gold stater could be exchanged for twenty silver drachmas or five tetradrachmas (tetra meaning four).

Gold coins were seldom used in exchange, leaving silver coins as the medium for trade.

After the dispersion of the immense empire created by Alexander of Macedonia, coupled with an increasing demand for money in local markets in the third century B.C., the first coins were minted by the Armenian rulers of Sophene (Dzopk").

International trading links were made through the established connections of the realm of Sophene located in the southwest of the Armenian plateau.

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Writer: Dickran Kouymjian
Editor: Eugenia Melkonyan
 Date Added: Saturday August 26, 2006 07:25:39 

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