The Stones of Karahunj – Ancient Celestial Observatory in Armenia

The Stounes of KarahunjThe Karahunj Monument consists. of the following parts: the Central Circle, the North Arm, the South Arm, N-E Alley, the Chord (crossing the Circle) and Separate Standing Stones (see map, Fig. 3). General view of Karahunj central part from helicopter is shown in Fig. 4. The heights of the stones range from 0.5 to 3 m (above ground) and weight up to 10 tons.

They are basalt (andesit) stones, eroded by time and covered with moss and lichen of many colours. The inside surface of holes preserved much better. There are also many broken and unnumbered stones.

Stones were picked up from neighbouring canyon and lifted (hauled) by animals (bull, horse). Then in the Observatory the holes in stones and astronomical instruments were made.

Fig. 3. The Map of Karahunj Monument

The Monument was designed, built and used by Armennians, native inhabitants, who created here civilization more than 40 thousand years ago. The information about quantity and condition of numbered 223 stones is in Table 1.

Table 1

The Central Circle

It consists of 40 stones and is egg-shaped to the West, with sizes of 45 x 35 m. Approximately in the middle of Circle there are ruins of perhaps some religious temple having proportions about 7 x 5. It is interesting that the same proportions has the famous ancient Garni Temple (20 km from Yerevan) of Sun God AR.

Apparently the Central Circle and NE short Alley (directed to the sunrise point in Summer solstice day) served for solemn ceremony in honnour of AR. There were no sacrificial altars (Stones) and sacrifice in Armennia. The AR God was kind to nature, to people, to Armennians – His children. He gifted life generously and unselfishly.

The North Arm

It goes to North from the Central Circle and consists of 80 stones (numbered), 49 of which have holes. The length of the Arm is 136m and it has at the northerly end of the Arm western and eastern alleys of about 50m length each one.

The South Arm

It goes to South from the Central Circle for 75 m, then turns approximately to WW-S and continues for 40 m more. It consists of 70 stones (numbered), 26 of which have holes. After the end of South Arm there are circular tombs 3 m to 8 m in diameter.

North-East Alley

It has a length of 36 m and width of 8 m and is directed approximately to the Sunrise side at the Summer solstice day. The Alley includes 8 stones (numbered, including lying ones), 2 of which (lain) have holes. All NE Alley is on bank of about 0.5 m in height.

The Chord

Chord crosses the Central Circle and is as the continuation of North Arm pending to connect it with South Arm. The Chord includes 20 (numbered) relatively small stones, 6 of which have holes.

Separate Standing Stones

They stay at the East as well as at the West sides of the Arms at a distance of up to 90 m and more. There are minimum 5 of such stones. One of them (lying) has a hole. Possibly Separate Stones have been used as Heel stone in Stonehenge (as bead on gun).

About Some Stones

Stones KeN! 50, 71, 85 have two holes each. The lying stones KeN! 90, 92, 125 have holes pierced partially (are not finished) and these stones are not too mossy. This suggests that both sky observing and new instrument making work in Observatory were carried on simultaneously over a long period
of time and were suddenly interrupted. Many stones are declined or lying extracted from ground. Many stones are broken (especially their hole parts).

Some Particularities

The North and South Arms have the slit paths of about 1-1.5 m in width, paved (covered) by stone plates (Fig. 5). Along paths in opposite side of Stones there are small stones, which perhaps served as “seats” for observers. The seats probably had also a wooden superstructure to fix the head of observer. Many Stones look like men and animals (Fig. 6).

Members Of Expeditiones

In Fig. 7 some regular members of our expeditions are shown: (from left) camera-man M.Nersesian, consultant V.Azoyan, historian P.Safian, P.Herouni, tourist manager O.Bakhshian, film director R.Hovanesian, driver S.Manoukian, mechanic V.Karapetian. A lot of work was done also by topographers S.Hakopian and M.Hovsepian, photographer G.Bagdasarian, astronomer R.Mnatsakanian, programmer L.Tatevosian and many others. In Fig. 8 a working moment of our expedition in Karahunj in 1994 is shown. It was Dr. of History P.G.Safian, who first paid attention to the stones KeN! 207-222 at the North part of the Monument (Fig. 9).

Our Guests Finding

Dr. H.P.Kleiner, the specialist (studied also archaeology) from Switzerland, who took part in our expedition in 1995 (Fig. 10), paid attention to the stone N! 68 having a bowl with water, the reflected ray from the surface of which composes a definite angle with top of the neighbouring stone NI 69.

He noted separately standing stone N! 200 that could be an analogue of the Heel stone of Stonehenge. He also found a little cutter made from obsidian (Fig. 11). Professor N.G.Bochkarev (astronomer), President of Euro-Asian Astronomical Society (Moscow), who took part in our expedition in 2001 with his two students (Fig. 12), discovered another Periscope-Stone (NI 90a), which was lying between other lying stones near South Arm Stone NI 90 (Fig. 13).

Karahunj is a very serious Observatory” – was the first main opinion of Professor Bochkarev, who further using other methods also came in 2003 to the same estimation of the Karahunj Observatory age equal to 7500 years and agreed that Karahunj is the World oldest Observatory [96]. With the 7500 years of Karahunj age agreed also Armennian historian Professor G.A.Galoyan [75, p.12].

The Holes in Stones

The Holes all the way through Stones in Karahunj is a unique phenomenon in ancient monuments (observatories). The Holes made in these massive Stones ensure the highly stable and accurate pointing directions. Some Holes in Stones are shown in Fig. 14.

The weight and hardness of the Stone make it a very reliable instrument for observing celestial objects over many centuries. The long time stability of these stone astronomical instruments is even much more than of modern telescopes. Most of holes are directed to different points of the real horizon.

Some holes point above horizon and look up to the sky. In Table 2 the Azimuth and Elevation angles of unbroken (or almost unbroken) Holes measured by our expeditions in 47 normal standing
Stones are presented. The Holes are 4-5 cm in diameter and are located 15-20cm below the top of the Stones.

From the both sides Holes are broadened conical to diameter about 12 cm. The surface of the inside of the Holes is clean and smooth as if they had been polished (Fig. 14). Holes had been made by instruments having obsidian enters put in fired clay.

The Holes in Stones are the clearest indication that Karahunj had the astronomical function. They even allow to calculate the age of Karahunj Observatory (and of each Stone with Hole) with high accuracy, as it is shown below.

Table 2
In the Table 2: Az = 0° – is the North, Az = 90° – is the East, etc.

H the eye of observer ~ at a distance of1m from the external edge of cy6ndricaI part of the Hole, then the horizon ~ seen in angularlimit286°=172′ (Fig.l5). Considering that position of the Sun or Moon may be fixed by the eye in the centre of the Hole with accuracy equal to its angular size (32′), we achieve the accuracy of observation (or flxing) of their position equal to about (172-32) : 2 : 20 = 3.5′ (or 14 sec. of time).

I presumed that this accuracy could be increased if to observe through a pipe (made, for example, from bamboo or rush having inside diameter about 10 mm) interposed and fixed in a Hole by means of clay (Fig. 16). For a particular moment, such as Stmrise, it is necessary to correct the position
of pipe.

This can be done at the moment while day ls still wet. The next day, when the day hardens, it can be removed (with pipe) from the Hole for using again for the same event next days or year (years). Using the pipe, the horizon angular limit will be34′ and the accuracy of the Sun and Moon observations, from the same distance of 1 m, will be equal then to about (34-32) : 2: 2 =0.5′ =30″ (or 2 sec of time!).

For the star and planet observation it was possible to use a thin yam cross in pipe and then the accuracy will beequal to 34′ : 2 : 20 =0.85′ =51″ (or 3A sec. oftime). To work with said high resolution it was ~ryalso to fix the head of observer (his chin and brow, Le. eyes) using some simple wooden construction.

In the autumn equinox of 1997 and days close to it we made~experimentswith the pipes (having an inside diameter of 1 cm)for the Sun and Moon rNng and settingmoments observation using the stones X!NI 66, 67, 79 and others. In Fig. 17 the stoneXI66 with the pipe in the hole is shown, Fig. 18 presents threeof our pipes in the day, removed from the holes. Someof the results of our observatiom are given in Fig. 19- Sunrise moment through the pipe in StoneXI67on 22 September 1997,and in
Fig. 20 – Moonrise through the pipe in Stone XI79 on 21 September 1997.

This experiment shows the ~DiJity ofusing pipes in Karahunj many tbomandyears ago. In favour of the pipes using in Karahunj times testifies also the important fact that the edges of all Holes are conical broadened. Using a sketch as in Fig. 16 we can calculate that the pipe with inside diameter of 10 mm and outside diameter of 24 mm (so wall thickness is 7 mm, which becomes bamboo) can be declined in Hole to the angle ±25° to any side from hole axis.

Thus, such a pipe, having the high angular (and time) resolution for observations, gives the possibility to be fixed in Hole for a wide angular directions and to use each Hole for different celestial sources observation or the same source for different moments of time. This is the reason why Holes have been made with conic broadening in Stones.

The presence of Holes with narrow diameter (4-5 cm and 10mm) directed to definite fixed points on the Sky gives the unique possibility to make exact calculations of the age of Karahunj Observatory using astronomical methods, even with more accuracy than it is possible to achieveby well-known Carbon method.

An extract from the book “Armenians and Ancient Armenia” by Paris Heoruni.

To date, The Prehistoric Wonder in Armenia Karahunj is included in the Top Ancient Sites for Stargazing in National Geographic

Fig 10 Our guest H.P.Kleiner from Switzerland in Carahunge, 1995


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