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4 October 2005
Scientists say Armenian ancient sites are being destroyed

A joint Armenian-American-British archeological expedition has found another example of the destruction of ancient Armenian monuments. This time it is in the Syunik marz of Armenia.
     In the village of Shaghat, 22 kilometers from the town of Sisian, the archeologists from the Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, University of Michigan and the Sheffield University in England discovered a rich archeological material while at a test excavation in 2004. But when the expedition returned to the village it found the 1 hectare territory totally ruined by bulldozers.
     "The smallest piece of clay or stone of archeological interest is very important to us, so can you imagine what it means turning a hectare of territory upside down," says archeologist, Professor Susan Alcock, regretfully pointing out to the pieces of decorated vase of Bronze Age that has narrowly escaped the bulldozer. "We are especially interested in the discovered settlements of Middle Bronze Age," says senior scientist Mkrtych Zardaryan from the Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of the NAS. "There are many tombs that have been preserved from those times, but this is the only settlement until now discovered in the Middle East,"
     But the site is being turned into a cemetery. Shaghat village head Hovik Mkhitaryan turned the tractors loose on the property to clear it for a graveyard, because the land in shifting in the village’s old one. According to Mkhitaryan he has proper permission by the government. But the map, reduced several times on the submitted document, does not show the ruined territory at all. "The lack of indication on the map also has no justification, for the head of the village is responsible for being aware of each stone in his community" says Hrahat Hakobjanyan, representative of the Syunik regional Service for Preservation of Historical Monuments.
     An Armenian-French archeological expedition making excavations in the Inner Godedzor ancient settlement in the village of Angeghakot 13 kilometers from Sisian also has problems since part of the ancient settlement territory is a stone mining area. "We learnt about the ancient settlement in 2003 when the cultural layers were destroyed during mining. Fortunately, our expedition was working in the neighborhood. The test excavations showed that we deal with an interesting settlement of late Copper and Stone Age" says senior scientist of the Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of the RA NAS. Pavel Avetisyan. Archeologists from the Maison de l'Orient at Lyon University and the Institute for Archeology and Ethnography of the RA NAS found ceramics belonging to the Obeyid culture of the 5th millennium here.
     The upper layer of the ancient settlement has disclosed for the first a settlement of late Eneolithic era that has served as grounds for the creation and the development of Kura-Arax culture in these territories. "The Kura-Arax culture is a huge cultural phenomenon of early Bronze Age of 4-3 millennia BCE typical to northern and south Caucasus," says Avetisyan.
     Archeologists are concerned that these and other important archeology sites are being carelessly destroyed. "We have appealed to all proper bodies, but the stone mine works day and night," says Avetisyan. "This is a state crime before everybody’s eyes." Michigan University professor John Cherry says it is too bad that the Armenians show such disregard for the riches of their own past. "If it continues this way many ancient settlements may be destroyed without being studied."

Source: ArmeniaNow.com (2 October 2005)

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