Maritime Museum in Yerevan

The second big project of “AYAS” Nautical Research Club is creation of the permanently operating Maritime Museum in Yerevan. Our club members has built a replica of the medieval Armenian naval vessel – the legendary sailing ship “CILICIA” – and carried out the expedition on her around the Europe along the historical routes of the Cilician seafarers.

And for the first time in the history of navigation the ship completed a round trip – a loop around the Europe!

The Museum creation is stipulated by the necessity to display and to preserve not only the ship by itself, but the rich marine history of Armenia as well. The sailing ship “Cilicia” and travel on it are not an accidental splash of drives or emotions, but the logical extension of our marine history and traditions, which reached us from the mist of the centuries. The project by itself has an essential scientific and historical basis.

The museum should be opened as soon, as possible, while the crew members, who carried out this project and who are enthusiastic to advance further, can benefit with their flashbacks. In the Museum we plan to present the history of shipbuilding and navigation of historical Armenia, compiled information on the ancient Armenian ships, navigation gears, marine maps, the routes of the Armenian seafarers, the archeological findings and the summary on our underwater researches, the information on the Armenian admirals, navigators, seamen, researchers and shipbuilders, and the other historical documents and photos. Certainly, the key exhibit of the Museum would be the sailing ship “Cilicia”.

In the Museum we plan to arrange also the boatyard, where any curious amateur will get a chance to create the models of vessels and the full-scale replicas of the historical boats.

During 26-year work of “Ayas” club we succeeded to compile a big library and considerable volume of information on the history of navigation and shipbuilding in Armenia, for instance:

The most ancient written evidences on shipbuilding on the territory of the historical Armenia relate to 2000 B.C., and those are Sumerians, Hittites and Assyrians texts.

The most ancient model of a boat, which is made from obsidian and found by the archeologists in Armenia, by experts’ common opinion relates to the preceramic neolith.

There are numerous stone anchors found in Armenia – at times the only preserved ship elements, as well the stone and ceramic sinkers for fishing nets.

In 1940s from the bottom of Sevan Lake was hoisted 4-meter long dugout (logboat), which dates back to the beginning of 2000 B.C.

In 1960s dugout (logboat) fragments have been found at excavations of a tomb in Dzhudzhevan settlement dated by the 9th century B.C.

At excavation of the city of Vardenis in one of the tombs has been found the clay model of a boat, dated back by 6th century B.C., which has the ideal contours, even by contemporary criteria. By its appearance and proportions it was a composite ship already.

There were enough big vessels on Van Lake with the length up to 30 meters.

The chronicler Tovma Artsruni (10th century A.D.), describing the construction of the temple on the Akhtamar Island on Van Lake, mentioned that the stone blocks were delivered to the island by the vessels. Same time Armenian King Gagik Artsruni constructed on the lake the artificial harbour for “many vessels” and fenced it with the wall, erected from the “depths of waters of lake” and equipped with the gate.

The numerous images of vessels in the Armenian medieval manuscripts provide us with the information on ships variety. The miniatures and the bas-reliefs are the main source of the visual information on the types of vessels, as well of their armament and equipment.

In Cilician Armenia the code of laws by Mkhitar Gosh (1184) has been ranked as the state code, the article #105 of which proclaimed refusal of the coastal right – the rights to appropriate any wrecked ship and all its property.

Back in 1695 in Amsterdam was published the first printed card of world hemispheres in Armenian, and the two Armenian astrolabes were made. As of today, there are 5 Armenian astrolabes known. Two of them are bilingual and inscribed in Arabic and Armenian; the first astrolabe, dated by the 9th century A.D., is perfectly preserved, the other one, dated by 10th century A.D., unfortunately is a fragment with the map of the starry sky. The both astrolabes are kept now in the Oxford Museum of History of Science. The third astrolabe, dated by 15th century A.D., is preserved in a private collection in the Near East, the fourth one of the 17th century A.D. has a pretty good condition and is kept in a private collection (the location of which is not known yet), and the fifth astrolabe in excellent condition is being displayed in the State Museum of History of Armenia in Yerevan.

Karen Balayan

The President of “Ayas” Club

The Captain of “Cilicia” sailing ship

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Museum Project