Zorats Karer (Carahunge)
Situated on a wind-swept plateau not far from the town of Sisian lies one of earths greatest archaeological puzzles. Hundreds of standing stones arranged in a circular pattern with north and south arms have stood here for thousands of years. They are known as Zorats Karer, or more recently, Carahunge. Zorats Karer’s name, meaning stone warriors, comes from a legend that military leaders are buried at the depths of the standing stones. Scholars are actively debating the meaning and use of the site, with no general consensus. Many believe it to be an astronomical observatory, which would make it one of the very first in the world. Others lean that it is more simply a prehistoric settlement and burial complex.
The history of the enigmatic site possibly dates as far back as 7,500 years ago, some scholars even suggested much earlier dates. This places the age several thousand years older than a very similar, but much more famous monument, Stonehenge. Over 200 hundred standing stones are found in this relatively small area, over 80 of them with holes precisely carved through the rock. It certainly adds to the mystery, but it gives further credence to the observatory theory. This site, and others such as Gobekli Tepe, proves there is much to be learned about the history of man on this amazing planet.
In central Syunik province, a few kilometers north of the town of Sisian. It is well connected via the main north-south road of Armenia.
Possibly constructed 7,500 years ago, or even earlier. The age is part of the mystery and is currently undergoing more research.
The purpose is also debated, although the general consensus is that is was an ancient observatory. Others believe it is an ancient cemetery.
It is still undergoing research and excavations occasionally, though visitors are allowed and free to wander around the site after paying a modest entrance fee (1500 dram as of 2023).
We entered through the main gate east of the complex, which houses a small gift shop and ticket booth. The atmosphere of the site is special, and quite hard to put it in words. The surroundings feel ancient, with only the standing stones separating us as visitors and the beautiful nature around. It is also hard to grasp the size and shape of the monument, but taking a look at aerial photographs prior to visiting helped. It definitely is one of the most unique sites in Armenia, and possibly the world, that we have visited. Similar sites are strictly fenced off, whereas here is free range. We departed by hiking down the ridge and through the meadow and grasslands west. A stunning hike, and a worthwhile half day excursion.