Thursday, August 23, 2012

Zorats Karer

Stone circles? Bronze Age Graveyard? Refuge from the Romans?
Zorats Karer or Karahunj/Carahunge is a megalithic structure located in Armenia near the city of Sisian, in the southeast of the nation. What it is is a whole bunch of stones placed in a specific pattern. What the stones are though has produced a number of theories.

It could be the "Armenian Stonehenge". Paris Herouni, a late Armenian researcher, would subscribe to this theory. He dated the structure to somewhere in the range of 5600 BC - 2500 BC. This would make the name "Armenian Stonehenge" quite appropriate. Under his theory the stones were set up to mark a map of the celestial sky, specifically the constellation Cygnus. In 2010, an Oxford University professor reexamined the site and confirmed that, in his opinion, the site definitely marks some celestial phenomena. He confirms that the site is most likely a necropolis (as the other theories claim) but that it is linked to the position of the sun, moon and other heavenly bodies.

But, other excavations, like the one carried out by German archeologists disagree with the age and the purpose of Zorats Karer. The German investigation published their thoughts about 12 years ago. They concluded that the structure was more likely a Middle Bronze Age - Iron Age structure. They concluded that the site was a necropolis, something that Herouin and his ilk would not have denied. The Germans did not attach any special interest to the positioning of the stones and celestial movements. They did however speculate that the area became a safe haven for ancient Armenians looking to flee from Roman and/or Persian invasions.

Hole in one of the stones for the purpose of ...? Who knows.
So, at the very least we have a Necropolis dating from some 2000 - 3000 years ago. At best we have the Armenian Stonehenge. To be honest, without much other evidence there isn't a good way of deciding which theory is best. The German expedition doesn't account for the holes in some of the stones that seem to miraculously line up with positions of the sun. Paris and his followers might be guilty of reading a bit too much into the astronomical connection. In all reality though, these theories need not be mutually exclusive. Think of some of the other structures we've covered from the prehistoric times. Later civilizations have come in and incorporated earlier structures into their own use. It's just possible that the Bronze Age Necropolis was fashioned out of an earlier stone circle culture that created some place of worship that corresponded to Cygnus and other constellations over ancient Armenia. And what's to have stopped later Armenians from using the structure as a refuge from invading armies? Nothing. It could be that everyone is right!


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