Armenia's Stonehenge: Singing Stones
This final part of Rick Ney's valuable article on Karahundj, Armenia's Stonehenge, examines the evidence for its antiquity and original purpose, according to leading scholars Parsamian and Herouni.
Professor Parsamian thinks Herouni is moving too fast in his enthusiasm. She does not see any conclusive data to confirm or deny Herouni's hypothesis.
"While it might be true," Parsamian says of Herouni's dating, "and I would be very happy if it were proven true, investigations like this must be made over time, and carefully. When I first saw that the observatory at Metsamor was as old as it is, I presented my findings before an audience of archeologists and astronomers. I can tell you there were many of them who were skeptical. There was a great deal of 'Who is this astronomer telling us how to date things.' I held my breath."
Parsamian's calculations were nothing less than a revolution in scientific circles. More than a few archeologists refused to admit the credibility of her study. "Archeologists have to touch things," Herouni said when asked about dating processes. "They look at artifacts and then compare them to other artifacts. They can't always believe that such a thing as star calendars exist, that you can in fact more accurately determine dates through astronomy than by comparing jars and pots with surrounding rocks."
Parsamian cautions Herouni in his conjecture. "I will never say 'something is so'. It is never 'so'. It has to be studied and proven or denied by more than one man's ideas."
To Herouni, it is a credit to Parsamian's pioneering work that he was able to make calculations he did to arrive at a date. And he welcomes further investigation, "to deny or confirm the date of origin," he adds with a smile.
Whether 5th millennium or 3rd millennium BC, the age of the site is impressive, since it predates the henges in the west. If Herouni is right, then the stones at Sissian are about 2000 years older than Stonehenge. Shattering history, indeed.
What's in a Name?
And then there is the name. For as long as anyone could remember, the site was called "Ghoshun Dash", a Turkish name meaning "Army Stone", probably because the complex looks like an army of soldiers when seen from a distance. Parsamian translated the name into Armenian, "Zorats Kar", but she couldn't help but notice that a nearby village and locality was called "Karahundj".
Parsamian first noted the 'coincidence' of the Karahundj with its translation into English, an Indo-European language like Armenian.
"The word 'Karahundj' is a complex word, made up of 'Kara' (from stone) and 'hundj'. 'hundj' is very close to 'henge.' So Kara-hundj translates into Stone-henge."
The tricky part is 'henge' and 'hundj'. There are no modern equivalents for these sounds in English or Armenian, both are ancient roots that have evolved into other words over time.
Parsamian adds, "The philologist Babkin Chukasian told me that in old Armenian the word 'hundj' may have been 'pundj' which means bouquet. Over time, we think they changed it to 'hundj' which is very close to the English 'henge'. Gerald Hawkins supposed that 'hundj' might be an old version of the word 'hung' or 'hang', which would make Stonehenge 'hanging stones."
Herouni thinks that "hundj" is a variant of the Armenian word for voice ('hunchuin'), and the name Karahundj means "Voice Stones" or "singing stones". He notes that at the March equinox, hundreds of people visit Stonehenge in England to listen to the stones, as the winds whistle through them.
"Most people know England's Stonehenge, but there are others in England, Scotland, Ireland, even in Iceland and Brittany. One in the Hebrides is called 'Kalinish'. The first part 'Kali' is close to the Armenian 'Kara'. And 'nish' is a precursor of the Armenian 'n'shen' which translates into 'sign'. A town near another henge in England is named 'Karnak', but in old English it was 'Karnish', which is close to the Armenian for Stone Sign."
What is fascinating to word buffs, whatever the real meaning of the words, is that the first part is identical between Armenian and English.
"Here you have two identical words in different languages," Herouni says. "Stone and Kar. And the village has had that name since anyone can remember. I don't think its a coincidence. Logic tells me there has to be a single source. This is Armenia's Stonehenge."
Parsamian bristles at the idea.
"There is only one Stonehenge," she says. "It is in England. Yes, there are hundreds of 'megalithic' monuments or henges in the world, which we find only in Europe—we don't find them in India, or in Egypt, even the Mesopotamian Ziggurats were not built in this way. But there is only one Stonehenge."
So just how old are the stones at Karahundj, or Zorats Kar? And were the ancestors of the Armenians the first to create the zodiac, the first to develop astronomy?
Further testing and analysis is required—carbon dating would help, as would additional research by astronomers. At least the site is 3rd millennium BC, and possibly it is 5th millennium BC. No matter how old the site is, it is older than the henges in Europe, as is the observatory at Metsamor. They are unique—unlike any other henge found.
Remarkably there are two ancient astronomical monuments in Armenia. And there are zodiac signs inscribed on the face of mountains in Armenia as old as any found in the Near East, perhaps older.
"We like to think we are an old country because we were the first Christian state," Herouni concludes. "But here are monuments thousands of years older than Christianity—these are the first signs of religion itself. And yet who looks at them?"
The monuments at Metsamor and Sissian remind us of the first steps to civilization, and they remind us of something else. "After all, if you believe in the Bible, God made the heavens, and then he made the earth."
[This concludes this revealing and challenging article on the stone circle at Karahundj, Armenia's "Stonehenge"]
Return to the start of Armenia's Stonehenge