Karahunj (Zorats Karer)
Our Armenia destination spotlight is Karahunj (Stones with voice) or alternatively Zorats Karer (Powerful Stones) in Syunik marz, an ancient stone circle. Situated not far from the Vorotan river gorge, and the town of Sisian, the landscape is stunningly evocative and there is no tourist infrastructure to interrupt the view.
Intriguingly, the name Karahunj, points to connections with Stone Henge. Kar means stone in Armenian, and hunj sounds very similar to henge which has no meaning in English.Though generally thought to have been in use from the 1st or 2nd millenium BC, the site, it has been dated by some to the 6th millenium BC, approximately 3,500 years before Stone Henge.
Scientists believe that a temple once stood in the centre of the stone circle dedicated to the Armenian god Ari, name which also refers to the sun. Karahunj is thought by some to be the world's first astronomical observatory. There are also many legends to account for the circle of stones.
One says that during a wedding, enemies approached with the intention of kidnapping the bride. After praying to the Gods, the approaching men were turned to stone. High on the nearby mountains there are also many petroglyphs or stone paintings. Most of the season visitors are lucky enough to have the place to themselves.
Tourists familiar with British heritage would be astonished to discover the possibility of famous Stonehenge to have been originated in Armenia, claiming the fact that the Armenian land is the real cradle of civilization.
Famous professor and world known specialist on stone monuments Gerald. S. Hawkins had acknowledged that Karahunj is 7,500 years old, which means that it is 3,500 years older than British Stonehenge, older than Karnak in France and Newgrenge in Ireland. It may prove what some people already suspect - that Armenia is the cradle of the civilization.
On the territory of 7 hectares, 223 huge vertical stones like soldiers stand on the hill, some with holes pierced in them. The rough- cut stones aligned irregularly for a purpose, 84 were found to have holes. Many unique astronomic instruments consisting of one, two or three stones were identified and using these many observations of the Sun, the Moon and the stars were carried out.
It is commonly assumed to be an early observatory, an evidence of ancient astronomical culture in Armenia. These stones have been attributed with mystical and cosmic powers. The Armenian scientists in ancient times could accurately measure latitude, knew that the Earth was ball-shaped, had an accurate calendar, and many more.
The sight is beautiful and ancient, well worth the visit. Astronomers from Europe and the US are showing increasing interest in the complex, and several expeditions have already taken place.