Member of fact check team at Media Initiatives Center
On June 20, Livenews.am published an article on the excavations which are taking place at the Zorats Karer historical-cultural reserve, claiming that during the excavations a number of laws were violated and “obvious encroachment” had taken place against the ancient site.
The author of the article quotes a member of the Civil Movement for the Protection of Carahunge, Nana Herouni (Daughter of Paris Herouni), who spoke about the “conspiracy to destroy” Carahunge.
The article concludes with the assertion that the excavation expedition, with the consent of the Ministry of Culture, implemented an order to “denigrate this piece of world history and culture.”
The allegations contained in the article do not respond to reality.
Paris Herouni’s observatory hypothesis has not been proven
The author calls the fact that the sign placed near the ancient site does not indicate that the Zorats stones are an observatory as an “obvious encroachment.” It was also hinted that the content of the “condemned” sign was dictated according to international funding.
The claim that Zorats Karer is an observatory was made by several researchers, but this hypothesis is most often linked to the famous scientist and academician Paris Herouni. Herouni studied the Zorats stones in the 1990s and 2000s and stated that the ancient site is a 7500-year-old observatory.
If this hypothesis is correct it would mean that Carahunge is the oldest observatory in the world, built earlier than Stonehenge.
Paris Herouni’s good reputation contributed to this remarkable international recognition. Thus, international scholars and research groups began to study Carahunge.
However, when they began to study Herouni’s allegations in more detail, it turned out that there were a number of inaccuracies and assumptions that had no scientific basis.
For example, Herouni claimed that people used the Zorats stones as an observatory and had placed clay pipes with holes of a special diameter, in order to be able to follow the movement of celestial bodies.
However, there were no traces of clay pipes in the holes or around the surrounding area. Moreover, there is no information that people of that time and region used similar tools. In other words, the explanation of the use of the pipes, their form and diameter were not proven with facts rather, was based on assumptions.
Among the shortcomings are the hypotheses of Herouni according to which the Zorats Stones used mirrors made of obsidian which were placed in the holes in order to follow the sun. Traces of such tools have not been found at the ancient site.
The age of the observatory was also problematic “7500 years” made Carahunge the oldest, but it was not proven by research.
The articles published by Herouni were criticized and its provisions were denied in other scientific publications.
It is unclear as to how the law was violated
The article in Livenews.am mentions that three laws were violated simultaneously during the excavations, but the author did not clarify which laws were broken and how. The allegation of breaking the law remains unclear.
The author of the article claims that the fact that Carahunge was an observatory was “established on 11.08.2004” by Government Decree and signed by the President.
This decision was repealed in 2017.
Moreover, the results of scientific research do not depend on government definitions. The study of the Zorats Stones does not show that it was an ancient observatory. This fact cannot be changed by any law.
The non-affirmation of the assumption that the Zorats Stones were an observatory does not mean that the site is of less interest to archeologists. It remains a unique monument, the study of which is being continued by both Armenian and foreign scientists.