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The advent of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1250 B.C.E.) on the Tsaghkahovit Plain in central Armenia witnessed the establishment of a series of hilltop fortresses following a 900-year hiatus in regional occupation. These new settlements testify to the emergence of a South Caucasian political tradition founded on the regularization of radical inequality, centralizing practices of economic redistribution, and new institutions of rule. However, the discovery of three shrines and associated assemblages at Gegharot, one of the primary fortress sites, also suggests that divinatory practices were critical to the emergent principles of regional sovereignty. In this article, we present the evidence for esoteric rituals—particularly osteomancy, lithomancy, and aleuromancy—within the shrines at Gegharot, situating them within the available comparanda from the Caucasus and adjacent Near East. We further examine how divination—a technique for mitigating risks posed by unsettled presents and uncertain futures—provided a key source of power vital to sovereignty.

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Divination and Sovereignty: The Late Bronze Age Shrines at Gegharot, Armenia

By Adam T. Smith and Jeffrey F. Leon

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 4 (October 2014), pp. 549–563

DOI: 10.3764/aja.118.4.0549

© 2014 Archaeological Institute of America