Many ongoing discussions of how we might (how we must) live on a damaged planet with an uncertain future hinge on imagination. In particular, social scientists across disciplines are concerned with the problem of imagining lifeworlds of more than human kin, at timescales beyond our individual lifetimes. These challenges, of dreaming an ever-widening world and also caring about and for it, seem hypermodern; and yet, they were urgent and immediate to people living and working in Armenian cities, towns, and mountain valleys centuries ago, in the high middle ages (13th-15th centuries AD). Interdisciplinary archaeological research into the big and small politics of Armenians during this period reveals a profound concern for personal relationships with eternity, even (and especially) beyond the period of the Mongol conquest, described by Kirakos Ganjakec’i as ‘the end of time.’ This talk considers medieval Armenian world-making at multiple scales, from the intimacy of embodied selves to the expansive cultural world we now call the Silk Road. In particular, it will reflect on the ways that the commemoration of the self and the memory of landscape were tangled together, and how these might help us think otherwise about seemingly-separate worlds of nature and culture, past and future.
Photo: A view of Vayots Dzor from within the monastery of Hermon. Photo by K. Franklin.