Part I{ of III

Piecing Together the First Zodiac

How did it All Begin

Our general perceptions vary widely regarding the history of the transmission of information from one peoples to another or from one time to another. Any real debate on how collective & composite intellectual endeavors have evolved is usually an exercise in futility and most likely involves a large degree of hubris. Let’s attempt to clarify and broaden a few attitudes about some of these perceptions which we individually may take for granted. There may never be any agreement on a historical source for the inception of the first truly astrological minds; maybe we should be looking for another kind of source. 

Prehistoric Astrology (Science Starts with the Primitives)

There are many examples in pre-history of the various facets of astrology, as a ‘study of the stars’ in one form or another. Mammoth bone artifacts have been discovered, from roughly 25,000 years ago, with markings which track the Moon through its phases and its positions on the horizon. The famous painted “Caves of Lascaux”, dated to around 15,000BCE, have been suggested, by some researchers, to be the earliest connection to the astrological constellations. Just as these primitive cultures may not have understood what we meant by uttering ”astrology” to them, we would most likely not be able to grasp the utterances that implied their true intentions for mapping and studying the night skies. Was it solely to develop a calendar for knowing when to migrate or plant a crop? Or could they have been aware of this inner connection to the planets and their cycles, in ways we only ascribe to more organized spiritual cultures.

Gobekli Tepe

Another archeological find, one that you have probably heard about, is the 12,000 year old neolithic site at a Gobekli Tepe, which also features iconography that seem to represent much of the present-day astrological symbology. On the border of Syria and Anatolia, Gobekli is the largest complex of its kind anywhere. The discoveries in these pock-marked hills represent the most ancient echoes of civilization in the human origin story. Sections of the site are purposefully aligned North and South for observational purposes with the central pillar mound encircled by 12 sculpted pillars. What this discovery could actually mean for the history of astrology has barely even entered the dialogue, yet Göbekli Tepe is now regarded by some as an archaeological discovery of great importance, rivaling the Pyramids at Giza, since it could profoundly change our collective understanding of a crucial stage in the development of society and force a rewrite of human history. A few years ago, Stanford University professor Ian Hodder said, “Göbekli Tepe changes everything.” I think it will for astrology as well.

“There is compelling evidence to suggest that the original sky divisions into constellations and into a 12-part Zodiac originated in the Armenian Highland.” ~RvO

The Enigma of Armenia

The majority of the astrological and astronomical communities still consider Mesopotamia, from the period around 2100-1500BCE, to be the birthplace of actual ‘mathematical astronomy’ and the genesis culture of first legitimate zodiacal and astrological schemes upon which the Hellenistic Greeks finalized ‘the zodiac’ and gave the world ‘astrology’ as we know it. I feel with some certainty that this is not entirely true for a variety of reasons. One of the tangible arguments is the excavation and decipherment of the early Bronze Age sites of the Trans-Caucasus region of Armenia, which are forcing us to take a more critical look at the timeline of ‘astrological’ development.

Studies of rock art in the territory of modern Armenia show that the ancient peoples of the region were very interested in heavenly bodies and celestial phenomena over a long span of time. The Earth, the Sun, the Moon, planets, comets, Milky Way, stars, constellations are all reflected in the pictures drawn on rocks in mountains around Lake Sevan and elsewhere in Armenia. German astronomer and science historian William T. Olcott, as early as 1914 wrote regarding the areas around the Gegham Mountains, ‘…the signs of Zodiac contain such animals that lived many thousand years ago in the territory of Armenia and around.’ So over a century ago, it had been noted that a form of symbolic division of the sky represented by a divided circle and a variety of animal images, ‘a zodiac’, was present in Armenia. Olcott also said: “Astronomical facts correspond with historical and archaeological investigations and prove that people who have invented the ancient figures of constellations probably lived in the valley of the Euphrates, as well as in the region near the mountain Ararat (Armenia)… the only place where all the animals depicted in the Zodiac were located together, was prehistoric Armenia.

For those who may not remember their Judeo-Christian mythological history, the ‘Mountains of Ararat’, in the Armenian Highlands is the location where Noah’s Ark came to rest with God’s collection of (zodialogical) animals and the ‘last’ human family, after the biblical flood in order to begin civilization anew. For those who have studied the esoteric mythology of the story of Noah and the Ark, you may or may not ascribe to the symbolic interpretations of the story. The structure and design of the vessel which Yaweh instructed Noah to build for holding the animals and the ‘last humans’ is an astrological container and story device. It is also implied and expounded on in other works, that all of the star wisdom and cultural knowledge of ‘pre-diluvian culture’ was passed on and preserved through Noah in order to re-awaken civilization.

A report done in 1988, challenged previous thoughts about the origins of the Indo-European language and also called into question the origins of astronomical/astrological symbolism. As further excavations and studies have taken place, it is becoming more widely accepted that both the Indo-European people and the Zodiac did not fall under the domain of the Babylonians at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE; they more likely fall under the domain of the peoples living several thousand years prior in the region of Anatolia and on the Armenian Plateau.

Karahunj – the Aremenian Stonehenge

Located over an area of about 18 acres near the city of Sisan, the ancient site of Zorats Karer, also known as Carahunge, Karahunj, Qarahunj is a site that is often called the ”Armenian Stonehenge”. Dating at the site suggests it was in continuous use from about 7700 to 2200 BCE, with indications that the site is probably older; if you are doing the math, that is about 5500 years of human activity at this one place. It was all but abandoned in the 2nd millennium BCE, which corresponds to the emergence of higher culture in the area further south in Sumeria and Babylon. 

The site was periodically re-occupied on a small scale for a few centuries leading up to the Greek conquests of Central Asia. Rock carvings of symbolic representations of the Leo, Taurus, Capricorn, Sagittarius and Scorpio constellations, along with symbols of the Sun and the Moon and the planets, were discovered on various stone fragments. Unlike many ancient astronomical sites, which remained populated later in history and particularly those which were settled into the modern age, Karahunj is essentially preserved. The fact that the area remains relatively untouched since its prehistoric heyday is a miracle for researchers.

At the moment, many world sites which indicate that sky-watching or celestial observances took place are under extreme scrutiny from skeptical academics. For example the Stonhenge of Britain has been reclassified as a burial mound in a system of networked prehistoric mausoleums. The site at Karahunj has been highly debated by various authorities with the government of Armenia having chosen to issue a decree that Karahunj is an ancient observatory. Paris Herouni, the director of the Radio Physics Measurement Institute and the designer of the first optical radio telescope in the world, believes that the pioneering work at Metsamor not only shatters previous conceptions about when ancestral Armenians developed their own culture but that it also points to another source of civilization itself, on the Armenian Plateau. Herouni organized four research expeditions to the site between 1994 and 1996, each during an equinox or solstice. Extensive research was done on site with carbon-dating, excavations, celestial observations using chronometers, telescopes and other astronomical equipment. Herouni verified previous findings and conclusions about the purpose of the complex, primarily that the stones were indeed an astronomical instrument, and that it is still very accurate.

Medzamor – A Place Historians Should Not Ignore

The observatory at Medzamor (Metsamor) predates the Babylonian civilization itself by several millennia. There is evidence that the site was already settled around 7000BCE – 9000 years ago. The current state of the ‘observatory’ has been dated to around 5500BCE, around 7500 years ago. The significance that has emerged from this particular ancient observatory is that the main rock carving representing the sky is shown as concentric circles and it has been divided into 12 primary parts, and subsequent divisions. As far as we know, this is the first occurrence of a symbolic representation of a twelve portioned sky anywhere in the world. These divisions have been shown to correspond with animal symbols, including a Lion, Scorpion, Bull, also a Goat-Fish & Centaur-like figure. Some researchers have claimed that all of the modern zodiacal images (or symbols of comparative meanings) are present at the site. The area is covered with 1000’s of Bronze Age glyphs, which appear to primarily have celestial significance.

Medzamor (Metsamor) Stone (estimated at 7000 years old)

Interestingly, the Armenian and the Gobekli Tepe areas are approximately 500 miles apart, yet the cultures are separated by thousands of years. The region is a hotbed of archaeological activity, and because of the vast amount of the virtually undisturbed carvings and features which correspond to celestial observation, there is a growing interest in the important early contributions to the development of science and of astrology which may arise from here. I personally feel that even the most conservatively cautious chronicle of astrology should be revised to include what was happening in this region several millennia prior to the Bablyonian rise and to progress our history forward from there. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the original sky divisions into constellations and into a 12 part zodiac originated in the Armenian Highland.