ishaps are monumental standing stelae decorated with animal reliefs found in the mountains of the South Cauca­sus. Although their existence and importance have been known since the late 19th century, they remain one of the most enigmatic megalithic phenomena of Eurasian prehistory. Especially intriguing are those vishaps representing monumental fish, the "piscis" vishaps. This contribution lays out a method to decode their symbolic meaning inte­grating quantitative analysis, iconographic analysis, and semiotic analysis. Quantitative analysis of the original al­titude of vishaps shows that piscis vishaps enjoyed a privileged connection with higher altitudes, as opposed to other vishaps, such as the "vellus" vishaps, which were also erected at lower altitudes. Iconographic analysis indi­cates that piscis vishaps represent large-size fish naturally living in the rivers and lakes of the lowlands, such as catfish, pikes, or carps. As a result, we observe a specific desire to monumentalize fish known from a lowland envi­ronment at a location far away from its habitat, thus envisioning a precise connection between high-altitude mead­ows and lowland environments. A semiotic analysis of piscis vishaps supports the hypothesis that they are part of a religious cult of water, with a focus on mountain springs. Bronze Age parallels and a structuralist analysis of the symbolic code of vishaps suggest that they reflect a cult based on a dual origin of water, a subterranean and a ce­lestial origin. Specifically, we argue that piscis vishaps represent a local numinous entity connected with the idea of vast, primaeval expanses of subterranean water as the origin of the water of mountain springs, rivers, and lakes, but also of life and wisdom. Conversely, we propose to interpret vellus vishaps as images of bloody sacrifices to a local storm god, based on a cultic offering of blood in exchange for rainfall water.

Les poissons muets. Fish-shaped vishaps and cult of water in prehistoric Armenia.

Marina Storaci;Alessandra Gilibert
2019

Abstract

ishaps are monumental standing stelae decorated with animal reliefs found in the mountains of the South Cauca­sus. Although their existence and importance have been known since the late 19th century, they remain one of the most enigmatic megalithic phenomena of Eurasian prehistory. Especially intriguing are those vishaps representing monumental fish, the "piscis" vishaps. This contribution lays out a method to decode their symbolic meaning inte­grating quantitative analysis, iconographic analysis, and semiotic analysis. Quantitative analysis of the original al­titude of vishaps shows that piscis vishaps enjoyed a privileged connection with higher altitudes, as opposed to other vishaps, such as the "vellus" vishaps, which were also erected at lower altitudes. Iconographic analysis indi­cates that piscis vishaps represent large-size fish naturally living in the rivers and lakes of the lowlands, such as catfish, pikes, or carps. As a result, we observe a specific desire to monumentalize fish known from a lowland envi­ronment at a location far away from its habitat, thus envisioning a precise connection between high-altitude mead­ows and lowland environments. A semiotic analysis of piscis vishaps supports the hypothesis that they are part of a religious cult of water, with a focus on mountain springs. Bronze Age parallels and a structuralist analysis of the symbolic code of vishaps suggest that they reflect a cult based on a dual origin of water, a subterranean and a ce­lestial origin. Specifically, we argue that piscis vishaps represent a local numinous entity connected with the idea of vast, primaeval expanses of subterranean water as the origin of the water of mountain springs, rivers, and lakes, but also of life and wisdom. Conversely, we propose to interpret vellus vishaps as images of bloody sacrifices to a local storm god, based on a cultic offering of blood in exchange for rainfall water.
Vishap between fairy tale and reality
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3725828
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