Often called the Armenian Stonehenge, the Karahunj complex, near Tatev Monastery, contains over two hundred menhirs, massive rocks ranging from half a meter to three meters in size. The seven-hectare site, sprawled across the mountains of the Syunik province, is wrapped around Bronze Age burial mounds and said to be an ancient observatory. The name derives from the Armenian words for stone (kar), and sound (hunj), essentially being “Speaking Stones.”
Karahunj was estimated to be six thousand years old after a stone was found with an angular hole looking almost vertically towards the sky. Through it, currently, no stars are visible – however, using a reflective surface (such as polished bronze), the theory states that ancient astronomers would have looked directly up at the night sky. By studying the variation in star alignments and their steady shift over centuries, scientists rewound the night sky to 4,200 BC when the star, a Capella, was directly above this stone and visible to its users. This also corresponds with the dating of zodiac chart petroglyphs found around the Geghama Mountains nearby.
Walking around the site, looking through the eighty circular holes (achq, or eye in Armenian) pierced through the stones, picture what kind of people might have existed around them. It is said that in order for a society to have mapped out the stars to their zodiac forms, to have been able to establish an observatory of this size and observe the heavens with this detail, it must have been a fairly advanced, social group. Early civilizations would have had most of their members hunting, cultivating, defending themselves against other tribes and natural challenges; this site at Karahunj, however, points at an organized societal structure, where enough surplus in terms of manpower and food (probably due to growing agricultural practices), allowed certain members the “free time” to stargaze!