Large monolithic stones stand aging stoically in a circle on top of a grassy field. No, this isn’t England’s Stonehenge. This is Karahunj located in Southern Armenia. Even older than its British neighbor, Karahunj’s ancient origins are shrouded in just as much mystery. For all that we’ve been able to discover about the world around us, some places still remain just outside the reach of our understanding. Karahunj is one such enigma we may never find the answers to.
Fragments of a structure from the past
Karahunj – or Zorats Karer – is comprised of 220 odd stones altogether. It’s located on a rocky promontory at the deep canyon of Dar river in Armenia and is constructed from local stones. Jutting out from either side of the main circle are two stone arms running both north and south. They could have made a wall at one bygone time.
Now mostly camouflaged in rust-colored lichen, the stones themselves have been worked by human hand in ways that add to the mystery of their purpose. Some of the stones depict curious carvings of alien-like humanoid figures with oversized almond eyes. But most outstanding is the fact that some stones have a single circular hole drilled through their upper portions.
While theories abound regarding Karahunj’s origins, two stand out as the most prominent. The more recent of the two postulates the place is a burial site dating mainly from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Many shallow stone graves have been discovered in the surrounding area so it’s possible Karahunj was the central point of a vast necropolis.
One alternative theory pushed by Russian prehistorian Professor Paris Herouni introduced the far more exotic idea that this may be the world’s oldest astronomical observatory, built in the 6th millennia BC. To test this out, researchers measured the locations and directions of the stones and holes and compared them against constellations and the sun and moon. They did find a handful of stones where the holes point directly at the sunrise and sunset in midsummer as well as some holes that pointed directly at a smattering of constellations.
However, some questions exist about this theory. For instance, if there are so many holes in the stones, is it not possible some would point directly to astronomical phenomena as a matter of chance? Also, in some cases, the holes are drilled so large, they don’t seem to point accurately to any one location in the distance.
Other ideas on origin
Local stories hold that Karahunj was a place built by kind-hearted giants as a gift for us small folk. And a simpler explanation taps into human nature to provide some answers. That this was simply a place marked off for prehistoric-style parties and ritual celebrations in the days of our ancestors.
Whatever the explanation, there is no doubt Karahunj has some ancient secrets locked inside. But with most clues to its origins lost to time, we may never discover them again.