Rick Ney, the author of this article, has been living and working in Armenia since 1992, in education, humanitarian aid and development.
Rick wrote the first guide book to Armenia in the post Soviet era and the first multi-media complete guide to any country, TourArmenia. Writings include the first articles out of the Soviet Union about astral and archeological monuments in Armenia dating back 9000 BC.
Rick and his team at TourArmenia continue to add information about the country to their 600 page web site at www.TaCentral.com.
Armenia's Stonehenge: the Origins of the Zodiac?
In this fourth part of this fascinating article, Rick Ney continues his discovery of the fantastic history of Karahundj, Ancient Armenia's "Stonehenge", possibly the world's first astronomical observatory.
Other stones mark the sun at its zenith at the equinox. "March 21 is the beginning of Spring. We all know that. March 21 was also the beginning of the New Year in the Old Armenian Calendar. These stones were crucial to marking the start of the year." Herouni adds that holes also point to constellations in the night sky, and that the site was also a university.
"Stones #160 and #161 (shown in the image) are what I call the university. # 160 looks West to a low hill, and is positioned for an adult to look through it. Right next to it lies stone # 161, which looks at the same point, but is much lower. It is ideal for a child to use. I believe it was used to teach the next generation how to use the complex."
The one thing Parsamian needed to better date the site was a key inscription or design like the compass and trapezium she found at Metsamor. If she had found that, she could have begun her calculations based on a stellar calendar. But she could not find the key to unlock this final mystery, and so returned to her work at Metsamor and as an astrophysicist at Byurakan.
Herouni believes he has found the key, and using the same method Parsamian used to date the observatory at Metsamor, is conjecturing that the stones are so much older than the excavated graves, it will "shake everyone's theories about when astronomy began."
To put Herouni's theory into perspective, it is important to understand what the classical history of the beginning of astronomy was. That history officially begins around 3500 BC, when Mesopotamians were thought to have built ziggurats (stepped towers resembling a pyramid) in Sumeria, in order to study the night sky. It continues to ca. 2800 BC, when historians thought the division of the firmament into constellations was completed, creating the Zodiac.
It concludes with the first Babylonian Empire (ca. 2400-1800 BC), where historians say the first astronomy really began, as well as the first calendar, a counting system based on 60 (the beginning of time division), and the first navigation. In some histories the whole thing occurred during the Babylonian empire period.
By the time Parsamian had first published her findings in Metsamor, this history had already been challenged with excavations showing zodiac signs much older than anyone had seen before, in Anatolia and the Armenian Plateau..
Astronomy without Telescopes?
A startling report done in 1988, which challenged previous thoughts about where the Indo-European language came from, fed the fire, and as more and more excavations and studies came forward, it has now become more widely accepted that both the Indo-Europeans and the Zodiac were not the domain of the Babylonians and the end of the 3rd millennium, they were the domain of the peoples living in Anatolia and on the Armenian Plateau.
Parsamian points to several studies suggesting the source of the Zodiac came from the Armenian plateau. And she points to no less a person than the most famous investigator of stone observatories in the world, Gerald Hawkins, who wrote to Victor Hambartsumian saying he believed that stone henges in the West are not unique, and that the same monuments can be found in Armenia.
"Maunder and Olkott were the first to put the zodiac in our part of the world," Parsamian adds. "Both of them—and this is in the early part of our century—wrote that the zodiac constellations were created in Eastern Anatolia and Armenia.
E. Maunder and W. Olkott, respected astronomers and archeologists, based their theory around the designs of the constellations—just what animals were chosen to represent the constellations, and where did they come from—to lead to where they originated.
"There are millions of stars," Parsamian says, "you could have made any design you wanted. Maunder and Olkott asked, 'why these animals?', knowing they would lead them to the place the zodiac creators lived."
Astronomical facts correspond with historical and archeological investigations and prove that people who have invented the ancient figures of the constellations probably lived in the valley of the Euphrates, as well as in the region near the mountain Ararat.
While Maunder, in his Astronomy Without Telescopes (London 1906), wrote:
People, who divided the sky into constellations, most probably lived between 36 and 42 degrees of the northern latitude, so neither Egypt nor Babylon could be the motherland of creation of constellations. Calculating in what place the center of this empty region coincides with the North Pole, we got he figure 2800 BC, which is probably the date during which the naming of the constellations were completed. It was observed that such animals such as the elephant, camel, hippopotamus, crocodile and tiger were not amongst the figures representing the constellations, therefore we can assert that India, Arabia and Egypt could not have been the place where the idea of the firmament originated.
Parsamian's discovery at Metsamor, and the stones at Sissian give concrete credence to Maunder's and Olkott's theories, especially when coupled with ca. 4000–3000 BC stone carvings of zodiac figures on rocks on the Geghama Mountain Range in Armenia.
We can exclude Greece, Italy and Spain on the basis of the fact that the figure of the tiger is presented in the figures of the constellations.
Thus, purely by logical thinking we can assert that the motherland of the celestial figures must be in Asia Minor and Armenia, that is to say a region limited by the Black, the Mediterranean, the Caspian and the Aegean Seas.
[Part 5 of this article looks at the ways that the true age of the monument can be calculated, using known star positions.]
Read part 5 of Armenia's Stonehenge