Earlier excavations in the Armenian Highlands have turned up stone tools and the skeletal remains of human beings and animals, such as the hippopotamus, elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, horse, camel, and ox dating to the Pleistocene age, more than 500,000 years ago. The rich variety of volcanic stones, such as obsidian, and metals, such as copper, tin, arsenic and iron, encouraged the early development of tool making, metallurgy, and ceramic pottery.
From 4,000 BC to 1,000 BC, tools and trinkets of copper, bronze and iron were commonly produced in the Armenian Highlands and traded in neighboring lands where those metals were less abundant.
David M. Lang, Armenia: Cradle of Civilization (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1970) 50-1, 58-59.
The Armenian Highlands also had a rich variety of native fruits and cereals. Despite the harsh terrain, the Highlands were one of the earliest regions to make the transition from food gathering to food production in the neolithic era, some 10,000 years ago. Evidence of agriculture and animal breeding appeared there shortly after the earliest known Mesopotamian sites.
Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi & Piazza, “Demic Expansions and Human Evolution,” 642; Colin Renfrew, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins (NY: Cambridge University, 1987) 148; Lang, Armenia, 60.
Grapes, apricots, and diverse strains of wheat and barley, not found in Mesopotamia, appear to have served as a basis of commerce between these regions. Winemaking in Babylon and Egypt, where vines are not native, is evidence of commerce with the Highlands as early as the fourth millennium BC. The biblical account of Noah’s winemaking (Gen. 9:12) may be an echo of the highland’s reputation as a wine and beer making region.
Lang, Armenia, 67.
Centuries later, Xenophon, the Greek historian of the Persian Wars, notes the Armenians’ practice of drinking wine from big bowls through straws, attesting to the continuity of viticulture in the region.
Xenophon, Anabasis, Bk. IV, Ch. V. 25-31.