The Armenian Highland shows traces of settlement from the Neolithic era. The Shulaveri-Shomu culture of the central Transcaucasus region is the earliest known prehistoric culture in the area, carbon-dated to roughly 6000 - 4000 BC. Another early culture in the area is the Kura-Araxes culture, assigned to the period of ca. 4000 - 2200 BC, succeeded by the Trialeti culture (ca. 2200 - 1500 BC).
The first excavations in Armenia, undertaken by Russian savants in 1876, brought to light a burial-ground near Dilijan in which were prehistoric graves. Jacques de Morgan in 1887‑89 unearthed 576 graves around Alaverdi and Akhatala, on the Tiflis-Alexandropol railway line. Later on, 300 more were discovered by V. Belck near Elisavetpol (Gandzak), and yet others were excavated by Lalayan (second in importance only to de Morgan's) and Ivanovski. In Turkish Armenia only one tumulus, that of Shamiramalti, near the fort of Van, has been studied so far. But many ancient arms and implements have been discovered, in various places on the plainsº and slopes, in the Valleys of Lori, on the shores of the Lakes of Sevan and Van, in the salt mines of Koghb (Kulp) and along the Aradzani and upper Tigris Rivers. The oldest Neolithic relics so far found in Soviet Armenia are large stone axes, with grooves which show that the handles were attached by lashings. In Armavir, Vagharshapat and elsewhere, Neolithic weapons, knives, axes, hammers, mortars for grinding grains, saw, makhats (large needles for coarse sewing), awls, made of stone, obsidian or bone, and pottery, some of it with geometrical ornamentation, have been found, as well as traces of human habitations, cremations or other mortuary disposals, fossils of domestic animals, such as sheep, goats and dogs, and remains of wheat and barley.
One human skeleton found on the bank of the river Zanku, with a flint implement beside it, is believed to be that of a man of the Palaeolithic Age. Other excavations of small circular hillocks — at Shresh, near Etchmiadzin and at Eylar, near Erevan — underneath which are graves, usually covered with a slab, have yielded many Neolithic relics. Nearby were cinder beds with objects of stone, funeral urns (proofs of the practice of cremation) and piles of human bones.
Revue archeologique issued a report by M. de Morgan, on his excavations, and says:
"I have carefully explored the prehistoric necropoli of the mountains of Russian Armenia especially those situated in the forests of the Lelwar, near the well known copper mines in the countries of Akthala, Allahverdi, Tehamlouq, Privolnick, etc. By examining with care the neighborhood of the copper iron made its first appearance in these regions but my excavations proved bronze industry, I have discovered only tombs with iron weapons"
In megalithic fields on higher levels are found constructions in huge blocks, composed of a number of concentric walls of decreasing heights. Those at Kosh and Aghavnatun, which are the best preserved, might have served either as forts or enclosures of a sanctuary. The wall near Daylakla on a small tributary of the River Arax, is of the same type, though inside were circular or oddly-shaped rooms, walled with smaller stones, which might have been dwelling places roofed with large slabs.
Almost all the excavated graves belong to Metallic eras later than the Neolithic, probably to the later years of the Bronze Age. They are all of similar construction, a sort of box, with four large slabs as partitions and two more as covers, placed together without mortar — a kind of dolmen.
In some tombs the dead are in large jars, usually sitting or squatting, though in some cases two connected jars were used, the limbs being in one, the rest of the skeleton in the other. Objects found with the dead comprised ornaments, tools, broken pottery and weapons such as daggers, swords, lances, axes, bows and arrows. Of 76 daggers found in one cemetery, seven were of iron, the remainder of bronze. A few club-heads of stone were found, one dented ring, which was probably used in boxing, and smaller rings believed to have been parts of a lasso, used either in hunting or domestication of animals.
The Iron Age appeared in Western Asia after the twelfth century B.C. The contents of the tombs of that era in Armenia are of two classes, some representing a geometric style of art, the others a new naturalistic trend. The bronze belts, displaying human and animal figures, are the first naturalistic experiments. Some resemblance between this style and "Hellenistic" art has been traced, setting the date of such specimens forward to the period of the kingdom of Urartu, beginning in the ninth century B.C. The bronze shields of King Rusa II of Urartu (680‑645 B.C.) and of King Rusa III (605‑585 B.C.), are excellent samples of this naturalistic style.