State Museum of Armenian History - This museum spans from Stone Age cave dwellers in the Hrazdan Gorge to the astronomy and metallurgy of 3000 BC Metsamor, the Urartu Empire and the gathering of the Hayk tribes into a nation in the 6th century BC. After that centuries fly past at the State Museum of Armenian History (Hanrapetutyan Hraparak; working hours 11am-6pm Tue-Sun) through Hellenic Armenia, the arrival of Christianity and long wars against Persia, the Arab conquest and subsequent flowering at Ani, and then the long centuries under Muslim Turkish and Persian rule. There are medieval khatchkars, costumes, jewellery, coins, and models of buried settlements and lost churches.
Sergei Paradjanov museum - This engaging, eccentric house museum (www.parajanov.com/museum.html; 15/16 Dzoragyugh Poghots; working hours 10.30am-5pm) of an avant-garde film director and artist stands by the Hrazdan Gorge near Surp Sargis. Paradjanov was born in 1924 in Tbilisi but retired to Yerevan after serving prison terms on charges of immorality in the 1970s and 1980s. While some of his international admirers campaigned for his release (with mixed results), his health was affected and he died in 1990. This fine house showcases his colourful, amusing collages and framed found-object sculptures, as well as sketches and designs for his films. There’s real wit and flair to his work, and it’s well worth visiting even if avant-garde 20th century film isn’t normally your thing. There are postcards and videos of his major films for sale.
Museum of Modern Art - Near the corner of Sarian Poghots is the main exhibition centre for contemporary Armenian artists, the Museum of Modern Art (7 Mesrop Mashtots Poghota; working hours 10am-6pm Tue-Sun). It also has an impressive collection of works from the 1970s onwards. The museum is on a narrow lane just off Mashtots. The Artists’ Union (16 Abovyan Poghots), next to the Golden Tulip – Hotel Yerevan, is another major exhibition space.
The Museum of the Middle East - (1 Aram Poghots; working hours 11am-4pm Tue-Sat) houses a small but diverse collection of artefacts from Zoroastrian Persia and early regional civilisations from Luristan and Elam. It’s at the back of the National Art Gallery, and affords a peek at Lenin’s headless statue in a courtyard.
The State Museum of Wood-Carving - (4-2 Paronyan Poghots; working hours noon-6pm Tue-Sun) is actually an interesting collection of some meticulous pieces, both modern and medieval. Near the Museum of Wood-Carving, look out for the Surp Sargis Church, on Israeliyan Poghots off Mashtots, overlooking the Hrazdan. The Sunday liturgy and choir are particularly good.
Erebuni Fortress & Museum - Excavations began at the Erebuni Fortress site in 1959 after a farmer found a stone tablet with writing on it in the dirt. Follow Tigran Mets Poghota south past the train station and turn left onto Erebuni Poghots; the site and museum are at the end of the road. Archaeologists found a large cuneiform slab with the inscriptions of Argishti I, king of Urartu, setting the date the fortress was built at 782 BC. It reads, in part, ‘Argishti, the son of Menua, has built this magnificent fortress as a house for Khaldi, the Lord, to the glory of the Biayni countries and to the horror of enemies’, which says a bit about the nature of Armenian pride. The view from the fortress takes in the city and Karmir Blur (Red Hill), where excavations have revealed similar ancient finds. Frescoes in the reconstructed palace wall are replicas. There are huge storerooms for wheat, along with gigantic pitchers for wine and oil, and tonir (oven pits). There’s also a place for animal sacrifices, and workshops (still buried) for making tools, including arrows for fighting and hunting.
The Erebuni Museum (38 Erebuni Poghots; working hours 11am-5pm Tue-Sat), at the bottom of the hill, has other cuneiform tablets and jewellery excavated from the site in a striking 1960s Soviet building with huge apricot-coloured tufa (volcanic stone) friezes.
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