Armenians - Settlements

Traditional Armenian villages generally consisted of two or three hundred households or, in the mountainous regions, twenty to thirty farms. Although separate, the households were interdependent. When village families could not produce enough to meet their own subsistence needs they engaged in barter. Individual houses were often arranged around a central courtyard or were grouped together around a communal space in which fruit trees were usually grown. The flat roofs of contiguous houses provided a space where neighbors and relatives might gather socially (although in some regions subterranean houses might have domed or cone-shaped roofs with a central opening called yerdik'). Most often, the individual houses each consisted of a stable and two rooms: one for the reception of guests and one for general living. Part or all of the structure was often subterranean, a building feature derived from defense tactics. External walls were built of either mud bricks or the indigenous tuf (tufa, a kind of volcanic rock). Kitchens and bathrooms (outhouses) were usually located in external structures. There was usually a special oven, called a t'onir, in the center of the earthen floor of the reception room. The t'onir is a round hole dug in the ground, which can be used for baking Armenian flat bread ( lavash ) and for heating the home in winter. In some households, the fire in the t'onir was never extinguished and was said to symbolize the family. The t'onir is still common to Armenian village households today.

Living arrangements, accommodations, and architectural styles differed from village to village and were altogether different in the towns of Alexandropol (later Leninakan, now Gumri) and Erevan, where people participated much less in their neighbors' daily lives. In the towns, family units were smaller and men were primarily artisans, merchants, and traders by profession. Residents of the villages might come to the towns to visit the bazaar, where most business was conducted. Traditionally, in addition to the Armenian populations of Alexandropol and Erevan, there have been large Armenian populations in the cities of Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia) and Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan). Generally these Armenians were also artisans, merchants, and businessmen.

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