Archaeological tourism in Artsakh
It is well known that archaeological tourism is an excellent option for outdoor activities. If you have ever been interested in history and archeology, the Republic of Artsakh will pleasantly astonish you by offering a variety of tourist programs. Here you can not only relax but also get acquainted with the rich history and culture of this region, as well as observe the process of archaeological excavations. Perhaps you are lucky, and you will witness exciting discoveries!
The historical region of Artsakh was the 9th province of Great Armenia. In 387, during the partition of Armenia between Iran and the Roman Empire, the region was annexed to Albanian vassal from Iran. It covered the territory of modern Artsakh and the surrounding area. As of April 2019, more than 4,300 historical monuments have been officially registered in Artsakh, and today large-scale excavations and serious studies are being conducted in the region, which allow a more in-depth study of the history and culture of ancient times.
Excavations are continuous in many areas of the republic. For instance, in the Martakert region, anthropomorphic monuments were found, which are the essential components of pre-Christian culture. In the Kashatagh region, more than 60 ancient Armenian fortresses were discovered, including a complex with burial sites, a temple and a fortress, which are 4000 years old.
We offer the most impressive from tourist point of view archaeological areas in Artsakh, where you can watch the process of revealing the historical secrets of this land.
The city was founded in the 1st century BC and named after Tigran II (Great) - ruler of Great Armenia. The ruins of Tigranakert were discovered in 2005 in the Askeran region. Today Tigranakert is a state reserve where groups of archaeologists and historians work. In the place of the ancient city, burial mounds, stone sculptures, religious structures, churches, and hollowed out in the rocks have been preserved. Here were found the walls and towers of the city, a church built between the 5th and 7th centuries, an early Christian basilica, religious burials, elements of Parthian culture (confirms the fact that Tigranakert was a multinational Hellenistic city) and many other artifacts, both Hellenistic and Christian eras of Armenia. For instance, among the artifacts are unique funeral jugs on the wreckage of one of which a hunting scene is captured. Of particular significance is the found capital of an 8-meter column of an early medieval church with an Armenian letter, which indicates the prevalence of Armenian writing. All this is evidence that the city, for a long time, played a crucial role for the region.
Karkar is an ancient settlement; the fortress is situated 2 km from the city of Shushi, on the left bank of the river Karkar. The ancient settlement was founded in the 8-7th century BCE on a waterless plateau. Throughout the excavations, buildings of different eras were discovered here, including buildings with cyclopean masonry of the Iron Age, that is, 7-6 centuries BCE, as well as a water channel from the time of Urartu about 2 km long with artificial barriers to maintain water levels in different areas. Besides, during the excavations were discovered: a round tower of the northern fortress, wall of the Sassanid era of 5-8 centuries A.D; a room of the Sassanid era with a depth of 1.5 m; stone hearth-altar with charcoal; the citadel under the hill; burial mounds and many other artifacts. Findings, as well as references to Karkar in both Armenian and Arabic and Georgian chronicles, indicate that the settlement was significant in the Artsakh province of Greater Armenia.
Azokh cave is one of the oldest sites of primordial man in the world. The cave is located at the intersection of the migration routes of man and representatives of the animal world, moving in the Pleistocene era through the Caucasus towards Europe and Asia. Archaeologists note that the territory of the South Caucasus was the most crucial area of human settlement in the Pleistocene and Holocene. Research results indicate the presence in the specified region of different types of hominids. Local excavations make it possible to establish the time of the transition of the Acheulean culture (Early Paleolithic) to the Mousterian and Levallois (a stone industry characteristic of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic). In the Azokh cave, a sensational find was discovered - a fragment of the jaw of a Neanderthal man (only in four places around the world were the remains of a Neanderthal man found). Besides, among the finds, there are also stone tools, fossil remains of flora and fauna, traces of the art of primitive man, and much more. Lighting is carried out in the cave; paths for visitors are laid inside. Archaeological research is ongoing.
Melik Yegan Palace Complex is a vivid illustration of the 18th-century Armenian civil architecture in the village of Togh Hadrut region. Since 2009, archaeological excavations have been carried out here to clear and restore the monument and to further organize the tourist center. In the process of work, various-function buildings dating from the 14th-18th centuries were discovered here, including a two-story building, which probably served as a reception room, stone gates, and two vaulted buildings. Archaeological material consisted of a large number of ceramic products, metal tools, and weapons of local production. Among the finds identified objects from Iran and Central Asia. Of particular historical value is the 22-line inscription located on the portal of the courthouse that has been preserved here. The legend tells about the merits of the powerful Artsakh melik. Melik Yegan received the melik title (princely title) from the Iranian Shah and fought vigorously to preserve the independence of his people. On the territory of the complex, there is a scientific and restoration workshop and museum.
Dadivank is a majestic monastery complex, an excellent example of Armenian architecture of the 9th-13th centuries. The complex is located in the Karvachar region at an altitude of 1100 m on the slope of a wooded mountain.
According to legend, the monastery was built over the grave of St. Dadi, a student of the Apostle Thaddeus and a preacher of Christianity in Armenia. Excavations and clearing of the main entrance of the monastery complex were carried out here to identify unknown buildings and architectural details. As a result of the work, the following was discovered: the masonry of the threshold of the gate, the cut indentations of the axes of the double-wing doors and the base of the stone frame of the doorway.
Under the southern facade of the gate, the foundations of a rectangular structure were excavated - the gatekeeper's room, which, in all probability, was attached to the main entrance of the XVI-XVII centuries. Due to the variety of building motifs of secular and church architecture, the sophistication of stone carving, and the beauty of the preserved frescoes, the monastery is recognized as one of the brightest monuments of Armenian medieval architecture.
The church (sanctuary) "Dzhukhtak monastery" is located 1.2 km from the village of Khachen, Askeran region, and is located on a hill towering above the district. A small arched church with remarkably thick walls (preserved walls and spherical overlap of the apse) dates from the 13th century and is worshiped by pilgrims and believers, a sanctuary. As a result of excavations and cleaning up the territory, khachkars, fragments of architectural details, a large number of numerous broken tiles from the XIII-XVII centuries were discovered here. All this can be found in an open exhibition in the territory of the sanctuary.
Astghashen is a village in the Askeran province, where the fossilized remains of ancient organisms were discovered - marine fossil animals in the form of stars. The study of the fossilized remains was started in Astghashen in 2013 by participants in the archaeological expedition of the Azokh cave. Scientists believe that the Astghashen plateau belongs to the Jurassic period. As Russian blogger Igor Shiryaev notes: “Astghashen is extraordinary! It is said that when it rains heavily in Astghashen, they wash away the stars from heaven to earth. Then these stars are directly found on the earth by people, and they make jewelry for their beloved women. This beautiful plot is not entirely fiction. It has a very real basis.”