Zorats Karer: The Stones of the Powerful


Zorats Krater

Zorats Karer, the oldest observatory in the world


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Sisian, Armenia, July 2012

Maybe it was by luck, maybe it was destiny, I would like to think that it was a little bit of both which in a way they are connected.

Our cycling day was over and we were looking for a place to camp. No options for wild camping, we had searched for some kilometers and were not able to find any option except one: a Hotel. At the beginning I did not think they would let us camp in their yard, it was a Hotel after all, it’s name Qarahunge. As we entered a very friendly man attended us and realizing we did not spoke Armenian he called his son Sos for aid.

Qarunge Hotel

Qarunge Hotel

Sos, a 19 year old Armenian student of Physics, helped us arrange our deal. They agreed and not only let us camp there but gave us food and even a beer.

The surprise was yet to come. Before sleeping the man gave us a brochure of his hotel. It had two parts of information: the hotel’s phone number, the services they provide and information about the two arcelogical sites less than 2 km away from the hotel. One of them was about a mystical place. According to Paris Herouni, a prominent Armenian scientist, holder of 20 patents and author of 360 scientific works related to radio astronomy this place is, “the world’s oldest observatory”. This claim was later supported by an expedition in September of 2010 made by Mihran Vardanyan of the Oxford University -Royal Geographical Society who concluded by saying that the site known as Zorats Karer was indeed “the oldest observatory ever known to man”.

Before sleeping and after a long and interesting talk with Sos on how the stones were arranged in line to signal the summer’s solstice, we decided we should have a look the next morning for ourselves.

Zorats no touch

Some stones weight 50 tons


As soon as we woke up we packed our things and decided to walk the 1.2 km distance to the archeological site. What we found was hallucinating and free of entrance. On top of the high plateau there is a circle formed by heavy stones. The particularity of them are the holes drilled through the monoliths and aiming into the horizon, perhaps the evidence that the stones were used to make observations in the sky. The whole archeological place was only stone and dry grass, maybe not the most beautiful place in the world but according to Herouni the observatory, estimated to be 7,500 years old, was also a university and a temple for the sun god Ari. If we compare that to the history of human beings, this place was build 500 years after the last glaze period, let us see a building of today last this long.

Souvenir Shop Zorats Karer

Souvenir Shop Zorats Karer

After taking some pictures and walking around for a while I wanted to research more, we had no information about the site other than the brochure. The site had a small house made out of rock that worked a souvenir shop. We did not bother looking around.

Zorats Karer, the oldest observatory in the world

The holes drilled in the stone to look at the stars.

Finally and because in time I have become a little bit picky on the information I get first hand, I did some research for myself.

Well, I found out that not only the information that was given to me was true but there was even more. I found out that the some of the stones weight about 50 tons, and the drilled holes are indeed original. The most extraordinary discovery for me was that the rock formations were arranged reflecting the stars of Cygnus or the Swan-Vulture constellation, which in certain cultures it was believed to be the door to the sky world. Although scientists still do not know who build the site, the fact that they reflect this particular constellation on earth using stones can tell us that they indeed studied the stars and were trying to understand their place in the universe. Later I also learned that the translation of the official Armenian name Zorats Karer to English was The Stones of the Powerful.

011.CR2annika in Zorats

How about ending up in a place like that? Destiny or luck…you tell me.

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  1. Pingback: Zorats Karer, Armenia el primer obserbatorio del mundo. | Tasting Travels

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