Opening of a permanent exhibition following
restoration of the Caucasus Rooms
On 7 December 2006, an exhibition in the Caucasus Rooms of the State Hermitage re-opened following restoration work. The exhibition displays monuments of the art and culture of the ancient state of Urartu, which existed during the 9th - 7th centuries B.C. on territory adjacent to lakes Van, Urmia and Sevan.
This room is dedicated to the memory of Academician Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky, an outstanding orientalist, Egyptologist, archeologist, and creator of Russian Urartu studies, as well as scholarly staff member of the State Hermitage beginning in 1931 and director of the museum from 1964 to 1990. Thanks to his archeological excavations of Urartu fortresses in Armenia and publications on the material found there, systematic scientific investigation of the culture and art of the Urartu kingdom replaced the previous interpretations of arbitrary finds. From 1939 until 1971, Boris Piotrovsky led a joint archeological expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR and of the State Hermitage which studied the ancient city of Teishebaini, whose ruins were discovered under a hill at Karmir-blur on the western outskirts of Yerevan. A large part of the monuments exhibited in the Urartu room found their way to the Hermitage as a result of these digs.
In the course of the expedition's work, a citadel was investigated, as were several residential houses of a settlement situated at the foot of Karmir-blura. Teishebaini was founded by one of the last Urartu kings, Rusa II, in the 7th century B.C. and was a major administrative and economic center of Urartu in Transcaucasia. On the ground floor of the citadel were found more than 100 rooms used for household purposes, for example, storage rooms for wine. The state rooms of the upper floors collapsed during a fire which occurred during the storming of the fortress. Evidently it was destroyed during a sudden attack. The collapsed upper part buried the contents of the storerooms, including a huge quantity of bronze objects - mainly armor and weapons. As incised inscriptions on them from Urartu kings of the 8th century made clear, they were older than the fortress itself. The inscriptions tell us that the kings dedicated these objects to the god of the Urartu pantheon Khaldi. It is likely that after construction of a new citadel temple gifts from other cities were brought there.
Apart from objects of armament (shields, helmets, arrowheads and quivers), the room displays superp bronze chalices also bearing royal inscriptions, as well as decorations and ceramic objects from Teishebaini. It is worth paying particular attention to the bronze figurines of fantastic creatures (throne decorations) presented in the central display case. These come from the ancient city of Rusakhinili (modern-day Toprak-kale), which was located in the central part of the Urartu kingdom not far from its capital, Tushpy. These statuettes entered the Hermitage collection at the end of the 19th century and are masterpieces of the collection of monuments of Urartu art.