Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Medieval Jewish Cemetery in Armenia

Two tombstones from the cemetery. The top one is from the grave of "Zvi the righteous, upright and lovely boy." On the bottom is the tombstone from the grave of Esther the daughter of Michael. Part of a verse from Proverbs (31:30) is visible in the photograph, "Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain."

has a long feature by archaeologist David Amit on the finds from the latest expedition to a medieval Jewish cemetery that was discovered in Armenia nearly a decade ago. Unfortunately, the article, entitled "Hebrew Gravestones in the Land of Ararat" is so far available only in Hebrew. The expedition was led by Professor Michael Stone, director of the Armenian Studies program at Hebrew University. The article itself details some of the findings from the various expeditions, and includes translations of a number of interesting tombstone inscriptions. The cemetery is located in Eghegis, in the Vayots Dzor Region, and it dates to the 13th century. The Jewish community that lived in the area appears to have come from Persia. For those who are interested, a full report by Stone and Amit appeared in the Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 57, Issue 1 (2006).

The cemetery first came to the attention of the scholars from Jerusalem when they were contacted by the local Armenian Bishop Abraham Makartchian in 1997. Bishop Makartchian runs a summer camp in Eghegis for orphans who lost their parents during the long war with Azerbaijan. The young and energetic "Bishop in jeans," as Amit calls him, also graciously hosted the archaeologists.

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