Saturday, October 7, 2017


Zorats Karer (Karahunj), Armenia,
Pinterest, Public domain.

A site in Armenia with many standing stones, Zorats Karer (also called Karahunj or Carahunge) is much debated. Some theories call it an astronomical observatory while many other purposes have also been proposed including defensive, and a cattle market. The site is found at a "latitude of 39 34' and longitude of 46 01' on the mountain plateau having (an) altitude (of) 1770 m. and occupies a territory of about 7 hectare(s) on the left side of the Dar river canyon, the tributary of the river Vorotan (at 2 km). It is located on a rocky promontory near Sisian." (Wikipedia)

Interior of Zorats Karer,,
Public domain.

"The first scholarly account of Zorats Karer took place in 1935 by ethnographer Stepan Lisitsian, who alleged that it once functioned as a station for holding animals. Later, in the 1950s, Marus Hasratyan discovered a set of 11th to 9th BCE burial chambers.  But the first investigation which garnered international attention to the complex was that of Soviet archaeologist Onnik Khnkikyan, who claimed in 1984 that the 223 megalithic stones in the complex may have been used, not for animal husbandry, but instead for prehistoric stargazing. He believed the holes on the stones, which are two inches in diameter and run up to twenty inches deep, may have been used as early telescopes for looking out into the distance or at the sky." (Vann 2017) I am assuming that the association of the stones with pastoralist and their animals would have been based upon some idea such as the stones with holes are hitching posts to tie the animals up to. The prehistoric stargazing is certainly destined to be a much more popular theory at the present time given current enthusiasm and overemphasis on archaeoastronomy.

Zorats Karer (Karahunj),,
Public domain.

"In recent years, to the dismay of local scientists, the monoliths have garnered the interest of the international community after some pre-emptive research emerged drawing comparisons between the astronomical implications of Zorats Karer and that of the famous Stonehenge monument in England. Many touristic outlets responded to the comparison by branding Zorats Karer colloquially as the 'Armenian Stongehenge' and the resulting debate between the scientific community and popular culture has been a fierce one." (Vann 2017)

Close-up view of a drilled stone,,
Public domain.

The problem in the archaeoastronomical interpretation comes with identifying the holes in the stones as sights for viewing. If you are close enough to a 2" hole to see much at all though it your field of view is going to be 20 to 30 degrees wide, not a very precise measuring tool. I have also been unable to find any reports that mention holes in adjacent rocks lining up which would have actually been a much more precise sighting device. In the photo above you can see a monolith through the hole as if they were a rifle's peep sight and front sight, but they line up on the distant hillside, not anything on the horizon or sky. Obviously not a marker.

View through a drilled stone,,
Public domain.

"In 1994, Zorats Karer was extensively analyzed by Professor Paris Herouni, a member of the Armenian National Academy of Science and President of the Radio Physics Research Institute in Yerevan. His expeditions revealed a great deal of fascinating information about the site. First of all, his team counted 223 stones, of which 84 were found to have holes." (Klimczak 2016) (the holes are, however, especially fascinating.)

Map of Zorats Karer,
Public domain.

Klimczak continued that "a number of researchers concluded that the monument is at least 7,500-years-old, but possibly much more. It is believed to have been created for ritual reasons and the need to understand the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. The people who created (it) connected their beliefs with the early science of astronomy. it seems that the main functions of the observatory, which was also a temple, were to serve in the cult of the Sun god of early Armenians, to provide protection through cultivating the Armenian god of science, to serve as a school, and to function as an observatory." (Klimczak 2016)

In other words, we don't have any idea exactly what Zorats Karer was intended for. Also, none of the reports I have been able to find explain how the daring was arrived at. Probably, as in so many other cases, the uses changed over time with the beliefs and interests of the inhabitants of the area, and maybe all of the suggestions have a germ of truth in them. In any case, it looks like an absolutely fascinating site, and deserves much more study. The truth must be in there somewhere.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet after a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Klimczak, Natalia
2016 Armenian Stonehenge: Incredible History of the 7,500-Year-Old Observatory of Zorats Karer,

Vann, Karen
2017 Unraveling the Mystery of the "Armenian Stonehenge",

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