|Location||near Sisian, Syunik Province, Armenia|
|Periods||Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age|
|History of Armenia|
Zorats Karer (Armenian: Զորաց Քարեր, locally Դիք-դիք քարեր Dik-dik karer), also called Karahunj or Carahunge (Armenian: Քարահունջ) is a prehistoric archaeological site near the town of Sisian in the Syunik Province of Armenia. The phrase Zorats Karer is literally translated from Armenian as Army Stones. Also known in local lore as Tsits Karer (Ցից Քարեր), meaning Vertical Stones in Armenian vernaculars. It is also often referred to in international tourist lore as "Armenian Stonehenge." The name Karahunj is interpreted as deriving from two Armenian words: kar (Armenian: քար), meaning stone, and hoonch (Armenian: հունչ), meaning sound. This interpretation is related to the fact that the stones make whistling sounds on a windy day, presumably because of multiple reach-through holes bored under different angles into the stones in prehistoric times.
The site is located on a rocky promontory near Sisian. In 2004, the site was officially named the Karahunj (Carahunge) Observatory, by Parliamentary decree (Government decision No. 1095-n, July 29, 2004). About 223 large stone tombs can be found in the area.
Zorats Karer was explored by a team of archaeologists from the Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie, University of Munich who published their findings in 2000. They concluded that "In contrast to the opinion that Zorakarer may be called an Armenian Stonehenge, an exact investigation of the place yields other results. Zorakarer, located on a rocky promontory, was mainly a necropolis from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age." The Munich archaeologists add that it may have served "as a place of refuge in times of war," possibly in the Hellenistic - Roman period (c. 300 BC - 300 AD). A wall of rocks and compacted soil (loam) was built around the site with vertical rocks plugged into it for reinforcement: today only these upright rocks remain.
Archaeostronomer Clive Ruggles wrote that "Inevitably there have been other claims—more speculative and less supportable—relating to the astronomical significance of the site. One is that it can be astronomically dated to the sixth millennium B.C.E. And direct comparisons with Stonehenge, which few now believe was an observatory, are less than helpful."
Total area of archaeological site is approximately 7 ha. Site is rich with stone settings, burial cysts and standing stones - Menhirs. In total registered 222 standing stones which are up to 2.8 m tall and approximately 10 tons heavy.
About 84 of the stones feature a circular hole, although only about 50 of the stones survive. They have been of interest to Russian and Armenian archaeoastronomers who have suggested that the standing stones could have been used for astronomical observation. This suggestion was made by observers who noted four stone holes which could be claimed to be sighted at the point on the horizon where the sun rises on midsummer's day. Four others standing stones display holes which observers claimed point where the sun sets on the same day. However, this must remain conjectural as the holes are relatively unweathered and may not even be prehistoric in origin.
In the nearby city of Sisian, there is a small museum dedicated to findings in the area, including palaeolithic petroglyphs found on mountain tops in the area, and grave artefacts form the Bronze Age burial site with over 200 shaft graves.
- "Քարահունջի չտեսնված հմայքը". 1in.am (in Armenian). 3 July 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
- "The Vorotan Project". Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. 2005. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
- Paris Herouni, Armenians and Old Armenia, Yerevan, 2004.
- "2000 Survey in Southern Armenia". Archived from the original on 2007-12-23.
- Ruggles (2005), pp. 65–67.
- "Karahunj (Zorats Karer)". Wondermondo.
- Ruggles (2005), pp. 65–67.
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