JEWS IN ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL ARMENIA: FIRST CENTURY BCE - FOURTEENTH CENTURY CE
Oxford University Press, 2022, 200 p.
It was once common consensus that there was no significant Jewish community in ancient and medieval Armenia. The discovery and excavation (1997-2002) of a Jewish cemetery of the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries in southern Armenia substantially changed this picture. In this volume, Stone and Topchyan assemble evidence about the Jews of Armenia from earliest times to the fourteenth century. Based on research of the Greco-Roman period, the authors are able to draw new conclusions about the transfer of Jews--including the High Priest Hyrcanus--from the north of Palestine and other countries to Armenia by King Tigran the Great in the first century BCE. The fact that descendants of King Herod ruled in Armenia in Roman times and that some noble Armenian families may have had Jewish origin is discussed. The much-debated identification of the “Mountains of Ararat“ of Noah‘s Ark fame as well as ancient biblical and other references to Ararat and the Caucasus are re-assessed, and new evidence is adduced that challenges the scientific consensus. The role of Jews during the Seljuk, Mongol, and later times is also presented, from surviving sources in Armenian, Arabic, Hebrew, and others. The volume also includes studies of medieval Jewish sources on Armenia and the Armenians and of communication between Armenia and the Holy Land. Documents from the Cairo Geniza, newly uncovered inscriptions, medieval itineraria, and diplomatica also throw light on Armenia in the context of the Turkic Khazar kingdom, which converted to Judaism in the latter part of the first century CE. It responds both to new archeological discoveries in Armenia and to the growing interest in the history of the region that extends north from the Euphrates and into the Caucasus.