Whereas human exercise has been ongoing within the foggy and hilly valleys of the south Caucasus for 1000’s of years, the western archaeological neighborhood has solely these days gotten entry to them.
Within the final 4 a long time, the smallest republic within the former Soviet Union has attracted extraordinary curiosity from lecturers and vacationers alike due to discoveries made there, together with the oldest shoe on this planet and the oldest winemaking facility, in addition to traces of an Urartian metropolis with lots of of wine-holding vessels buried within the floor. None, nevertheless, are as fairly as tantalizing because the 4.5-hectare archaeological website whose identify is as contested as its mysterious origins.
The situation of Zorats Karer, often known as Karahundj in native parlance, is within the southernmost area of Armenia and has seen numerous human settlements all through the millennia, from prehistoric to medieval civilizations.
It contains of an historical tomb and a gaggle of roughly 200 monumental stone monoliths which might be shut by. Eighty of those monoliths function attribute, well-polished holes drilled in the direction of their higher edges.
To the dismay of native consultants, a preemptive research that in contrast Zorats Karer’s astronomical implications to these of England’s iconic Stonehenge monument in recent times has drawn consideration from internationally to the monoliths.
Many touristic shops responded to the comparability by branding Zorats Karer colloquially because the ‘Armenian Stonehenge’ and the ensuing debate between the scientific neighborhood and standard tradition has been a fierce one.
The primary scholarly account of Zorats Karer came about in 1935 by ethnographer Stepan Lisitsian, who alleged that it as soon as functioned as a station for holding animals. Later, within the Fifties, Marus Hasratyan found a set of eleventh to Ninth-century BCE burial chambers.
However the first investigation which garnered worldwide consideration to the complicated was that of Soviet archaeologist Onnik Khnkikyan, who claimed in 1984 that the 223 megalithic stones within the complicated might have been used, not for animal husbandry, however as a substitute for prehistoric stargazing.
He believed the holes on the stones, that are two inches in diameter and run as much as twenty inches deep, might have been used as early telescopes for looking into the space or on the sky.
Intrigued by the astronomical implications, the following collection of investigations have been performed by an astrophysicist named Elma Parsamian from the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, one of many principal astronomy facilities of the USSR.
She and her colleagues noticed the place of the holes based on an astronomical calendar and established that a number of of them aligned with the dawn and sundown on the day of the summer season solstice.
She can also be liable for suggesting the identify Karahundj for the location, after a village 40km away by the identical identify. Earlier than her investigations, locals referred to the location as Ghoshun Sprint, which meant ‘Military of Stones’ in Turkic.
The folks fable suggests the stones have been erected in historical instances to commemorate troopers killed in warfare. After the Nineteen Thirties, locals transitioned to the Armenian translation, Zorats Karer. However Karahundj, Parsamian mentioned, supplied a extra fascinating identify as a result of Kar, means stone, and hundj, a peculiar suffix which has no that means in Armenian, sounds remarkably much like the British ‘henge’.
In recent times, this identify has obtained excessive criticism from students and in scientific texts, the identify Zorats Karer is used almost completely.
A number of years later, a radiophysicist named Paris Herouni carried out a collection of beginner research branching off from Parsamian’s, utilizing telescopic strategies and the precession legal guidelines of Earth. He argued that the location truly dates again to round 5500 BCE., predating its British counterpart by over 4 thousand years.
He strongly pioneered for a direct comparability to Stonehenge and even went as far as to etymologically hint the identify Stonehenge to the phrase Karahundj, claiming it actually had Armenian origins. He was additionally in correspondence with the main scholar of the Stonehenge observatory concept, Gerald Hawkins, who authorised of his work. His claims have been fast to catch on, and different students who strongly contest his discovering have discovered them troublesome to dispel.
The issue with the “Armenian Stonehenge” label, notes archaeo-astronomer Clive Ruggles in Historic Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Delusion, is that analyses that establish Stonehenge as an historical observatory have right this moment largely been dispelled. Consequently, he says, the analysis drawing comparisons between the 2 websites is “lower than useful.”
In keeping with Professor Pavel Avetisyan, an archaeologist on the Nationwide Academy of Sciences in Armenia, there isn’t any scientific dispute concerning the monument. “Specialists have a transparent understanding of the realm,” he says, “and imagine that it’s a multi-layered [multi-use] monument, which requires long-term excavation and research.”
In 2000, he helped lead a crew of German researchers from the College of Munich in investigating the location. Of their findings, they, too, criticized the observatory speculation, writing, “… [A]n actual investigation of the place yields different outcomes. [Zora Karer], situated on a rocky promontory, was primarily a necropolis from the Center Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Monumental stone tombs of those durations could be discovered inside the space.” Avetisyan’s crew dates the monument to no older than 2000 BCE, after Stonehenge, and likewise instructed the chance that the place served as a refuge throughout instances of warfare within the Hellenistic interval.
“The view that the monument is an historical observatory or that its identify is Karahundj is elementary charlatanism, and nothing else. All of that,” says Avetisian, “has nothing to do with science.”
Sadly for Avetisyan, there aren’t many English-language supplies accessible to assist Westerners refute falsehoods about Zorats Karer. Richard Ney, an American who relocated to Armenia in 1992, established the Armenian Monuments Consciousness Venture, and in 1997 he wrote the location’s preliminary English-language useful resource. He has noticed greater than 20 years of forwards and backwards.
He believes Karahundj is “caught between two completely different branches of science with opposing views on the best way to derive truth. Each are credible,” he says, “and I really feel each could be appropriate, however won’t ever admit it.”
The monument itself is attractive and located in a area of Armenia that’s blessed with pure magnificence, making it an alluring tour for a lot of vacationers annually, regardless of all the controversy and no matter you find yourself calling it.
Younger urbanites and neo-Pagans from Yerevan, who’re identified to have a good time sure solstices there, have even began to point out curiosity in it right this moment. In lots of respects, Zorats Karer is proof of how elusive archaeology is, and a part of its attraction might at all times be the thriller.