YEREVAN – Authorities in southern Armenia have opened a 5,000-year-old prehistoric monument dubbed “the Armenian Stonehenge,” but known locally as Carahunge, as a tourist site.
The monument, located some 200 km (124 miles) away from the capital, Yerevan, consists of over 200 shaped stones, some bearing smooth angled holes of 4 to 5cm in diameter, directed at different points at the sky.
“This territory will be developed for tourism,” said Samvel Musoyan, deputy chief of the Armenian culture ministry’s department for cultural heritage.
Funding has already been raised from the country’s budget to develop the tourist site, build a transparent wall around the monument and for maintenance and security of the site.
Following excavation of the site, it is believed to have served simultaneously as a temple of Ari, the ancient Armenian deity of the sun, a university and an observatory. According to recent archaeological findings, the site could be used to define the precise name of sunrise and lunar phases and the day when a year began.
The fact that chips of transparent obsidian glass were found at the site spawned the theory that the pre-historic dwellers, that inhabited the region, placed them inside the holes for magnification.
Though some scientists believe that Carahunge was built some five thousand years ago, Armenian scientists argue that it is 7,500 years old.
The more famous Stonehenge site located in the county of Wiltshire in southwest England is at least 5,000 years old and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
The structure comprises standing stones, believed to date back to 2200 B.C. which are surrounded by a circular earth mound and ditch constructed some 1000 years earlier. Its original purpose is unclear, but it is believed to have been used as a temple or an observatory.