Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency, Iran
Oct 2 2005

Armenians Bury Their History
Scientists say Syunik region sites are being destroyed, instead of

ArmeniaNow, 2 October 2005 -- A joint Armenian-American-British
archeological expedition has found another example of the destruction
of ancient Armenian monuments. This time, though, it is neither in
Georgia nor in Azerbaijan (where monuments and churches have been
destroyed), but in the Syunik marz of Armenia.

In the village of Shaghat, 22 kilometers from the town of Sisian, the
archeologists from the Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of
the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, University of Michigan
and the Sheffield University in England discovered a rich
archeological material while at a test excavation in 2004. The
detailed examination of the finding was planned for 2005.

But when the expedition returned to the village it found the 1
hectare territory totally ruined by bulldozers.

`The smallest piece of clay or stone of archeological interest is
very important to us, so can you imagine what it means turning a
hectare of territory upside down,' says archeologist, Professor Susan
Alcock, regretfully pointing out to the pieces of decorated vase of
Bronze Age that has narrowly escaped the bulldozer.

Numerous monuments with cultural layers typical of different ages
were found during the excavations on a territory of approximately 5
square kilometers in Shaghat and neighboring Balak.

`We are especially interested in the discovered settlements of Middle
Bronze Age,' says senior scientist Mkrtych Zardaryan from the
Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of the NAS. `There are many
tombs that have been preserved from those times, but this is the only
settlement until now discovered in the Middle East,'

But rather than a fertile ground from which scientists might
embellish history of the region, the site is being turned into a

Shaghat village head Hovik Mkhitaryan turned the tractors loose on
the property to clear it for a graveyard, because the land in
shifting in the village's old one. (Some charge, too, that the sudden
interest in creating a new cemetery comes suspiciously close to
election time, when the village head might need to curry favor among

`I addressed the government for allotting land under the new
cemetery. I have not done anything illegal. Moreover, I have suffered
damages myself - who should pay for the fuel for my car?' says

According to Mkhitaryan he has proper permission by the government of
RA. But the map, reduced several times on the submitted document,
does not show the ruined territory at all.

According to Hrahat Hakobjanyan, representative of the Syunik
regional Service for Preservation of Historical Monuments, the
Shaghat case happened due to a lack of proper mapping of monuments.

Karen Tunyan, head of the Sisian regional branch of State Cadastre
said new maps have been received only two weeks ago including
`territories under state protection' highlighted with green.

`But the lack of indication on the map also has no justification, for
the head of the village is responsible for being aware of each stone
in his community; besides the head of the village himself used to dig
here and there with a spade in his hand in search of treasures, like
all the rest of the village. That is to say, they knew clearly there
were old settlements in the territory,' says Hakobjanyan.

Syunik has long been known as a region rich in ancient historical
remains, including a citadels settlement from the time of
fifth-century Prince Andovk Syuni.

`The northern slope and the foot of Shaghat are constantly destroyed
by the residents; time after time people decide to find the treasures
of Prince Andovk Syuni. People must understand that these old
settlements and the castle are more precious than the imaginary
treasures,' says Mkrtych Zardaryan.

According to him the Shaghat case is one among hundreds.

An Armenian-French archeological expedition making excavations in the
Inner Godedzor ancient settlement in the village of Angeghakot 13
kilometers from Sisian also has problems since part of the ancient
settlement territory is a stone mining area.

`We learnt about the ancient settlement in 2003 when the cultural
layers were destroyed during mining. Fortunately, our expedition was
working in the neighborhood. The test excavations showed that we deal
with an interesting settlement of late Copper and Stone Age,' says
senior scientist of the Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of
the RA NAS Pavel Avetisyan.

Archeologists from the Maison de l'Orient at Lyon University and the
Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of the RA NAS found ceramics
belonging to the Obeyid culture of the 5th millennium here.

According to Avetisyan the close ties between historic Armenia and
Mesopotamia and Syria are proved for the first time by material
facts, although it has been mentioned in historical documents for
many times.

The upper layer of the ancient settlement has disclosed for the first
a settlement of late Eneolithic era that has served as grounds for
the creation and the development of Kura-Arax culture in these

`The Kura-Arax culture is a huge cultural phenomenon of early Bronze
Age of 4-3 millennia BC typical to northern and sout Caucasus. Until
today its origins and hotbed of formation were not found,' says

Archeologists are concerned that these and other important archeology
sites are being carelessly destroyed.

`We have appealed to all proper bodies, the case is in the marz
prosecutor's office, but the stone mine works day and night,' says
Avetisyan. `This is a state crime before everybody's eyes."

Michigan University professor John Cherry who has worked in Greece,
Turkey, Italy and other countries, says it is too bad that the
Armenians show such disregard for the riches of their own past.

`As far as I know, they try to develop the tourism industry here and
such monuments are the best means to do that. Syunik is almost not
studied and is very rich in historical monuments,' Cherry says. `If
it continues this way many ancient settlements may be destroyed
without being studied.'