Did You Know? (16)

By Jirair Tutunjian

The Ottoman archives in Turkey represent what Turkish officials have chosen to declassify. There are millions of documents that have not been declassified. Many documents have been lost or destroyed for various reasons. There can be little doubt that the declassified material have been carefully chosen. There are entire categories of records that are not available to researchers such as Armenian Genocide records.

Seven centuries before Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on the Malabar coast, Armenian merchant Thomas Cana landed on the same southern coast of India in 780, according to historian Mesrob Jacob Seth in “Armenians in India from the Earliest Times to the Present Day”. Thus, the oldest Christian grave in Kolkata is marked 1630 and bears the writing: “Rezabeebeh, wife of the late Charitable Sookias.”

Jane Haddam (baptismal name Orania Papazoglu) of Watertown, Mass. is the author of a detective series featuring Gregor Demarkian, a former FBI agent. Haddam’s “Sweet, Savage Death” was nominated for an “Edgar” as ‘Best First Mystery Novel’. “Edgar”, named after Edgar Allan Poe, is the “Oscar” of mystery books.

In “Cosmopolitan Culture” Bonnies Mennes Kahan says: “Easterners [mostly Armenians] of Byzantium systematically studied Byzantine learning, vied for office, and rose to positions of prominence. Constantinople’s weakness was its attempt to keep them powerless. Instead of rewarding Armenian officers, Byzantine officials suspiciously passed over them.”

In “South from Ephesus” Brian Sewell describes Western Armenia with these words: “The wooded and watered Alps of the far north-east hid churches of magical beauty that keep alive the recollection of Armenia’s great Christian past (long before Constantine’s Creed and Decree), that form an architectural link between Roman and Romanesque that may have been the springboard for the great western cathedrals of Angouleme and Speyer, Hildesheim and Poitiers; they make the much-vaunted churches of Ani, mysterious though they must appear, deserted, poised over the Russian border, seem the decadent offerings of a demented confectioner, and the church on the island of Aghtamar the work of a gingerbread man. I have seen nothing more beautiful, astonishing or wonderful among the works of man or God than Mount Ararat from the north—the sudden shock of a white peak free-floating in the sky, its lower slopes lost in the matching blue of a heat haze, slowly solidifying into the form of a woman’s ribcage, the great nippled breast sagging downhill to the west. I have seen nothing more vile than the public lavatory in Baskale, the highest town in Turkey, spitting distance from Iran.”

In the earliest version of the Armenian alphabet, “ayp” (A) was two vertical lines connected at the base, and a tail. Later a new “ayp”, resembling the tines of a fork, was introduced. Ayp ehoes the Greek alpha and Aramaic aleph. The transformation of alpha/aleph into ayp occurred as a result of the distinct phonetic characteristics of the Armenian language. Ayp is the most frequently used letter in the alphabet. It occurs at the beginning or the middle of words and rarely at the end. It is considered the symbol of God. The words Asdvadz (God) and Ararich (Creator) begin with ayp.

We owe the Indo-European words for black and white to Hittite speaking farmers from the Armenian Highlands. They invented agriculture and spread their words 9,500 years ago. Dr. Russell Gray at the University of Auckland studied 2,449 words from 87 languages and compared them. He eventually built a language tree. He concluded the original language of the natives of the Armenian Highlands was the basis of Indo-European languages which was born around 7,500 BC when villagers speaking a form of Hittite kindled pahhur, or fire, before setting out on pad, or foot, to spread the language.

Many early maps show a fanciful division of the continents—most famously the 1561 map by Heinrich Bunting which represented the Middle East in the shape of a horse gazing west. Jerusalem was on the chest of the white horse while the brain of the horse was in Armenia.

The oldest known Armenian coins were minted in the second half of the 3rd century BC by the Armenian king of Dzopk. Dikran the Great had two coins which depicted him with a crown. No Armenian coins were minted during the Pakraduni dynasty. However, in the 11th century a new coin was minted. Almost all the coins of the Cilician Kingdom were in Armenian, although some had Latin and even Arabic letters.

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