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Karahundj 5: Archeological Excavations . Central grave. Grave Field.

Archeological Excavations

The majority of Zorats Kar's unusually large sepulchers were sacked in ancient times and study of a graveyard 2 km to the south in Sissian (Sissian Experimental Station) was needed to understand the culture that inhabited the site. Excavators tentatively date the graves to the first quarter of the 2nd millennium BCE. Pieces of pottery found in the lower layer are characteristic of the earliest period of “Sevan-Artsakh” culture, mid 13th c BCE.

Central grave

Archeological excavations begun in the 1980s opened the central tomb and a number of the cist tombs in the west of the complex. Dr. Onnik Khnkikyan's team uncovered a huge stone cist, composed of two cells that belong to the 1st millennium BCE. The cist was covered with a mound of stones. A considerable portion of the filling was found inside the cist, as some of the capstones had been removed, presumably by grave robbers.

Three capstones had perforated holes, the one at the east end of the grave is red. The mound for the grave is striped with cromlech (a prehistoric monument consisting of monoliths encircling a mound) attached to each other and with flat exteriors.

Grave Field

The area to the west of the oval is called “the cape”, a triangular area hemmed in by the river cliffs which form its western borders. The entire area is covered with various structures of cyclopean masonry. Spaces in and between the dwellings have stone cists (small stone-built coffin-like boxes or ossuaries used to hold the bodies of the dead) buried in the ground. The capstones for these have been systematically removed, suggesting grave robbery. Another group lying outside the walls of the compound was built above ground.

Test excavations showed a number of objects, including potsherds with black or dark brown surfaces; quern stones (a pair of stone tools for hand grinding); obsidian chisels; colorful vessels; and weight pendants.

Excavation of the only tomb with a northern entrance showed the grave was used as a dwelling in the medieval era, excavators finding a hearth, glazed ceramic shard and potsherds of various designs. At lower levels, fragments of Bronze Age artifacts were found, including potsherds, some with features showing work originating in the end of Early Bronze Age and beginning of mid-Bronze.

Richer finds were found at the Zorats Kar grave field 2 km south of Karahundj in the Sissian “Experimental Station” yard, The graveyard consists of Middle Bronze and Iron Age tombs, and help researchers clarify the cultural development of the era. Finds include potsherds, metal and stone tools, pendants, daggers and skeletons of animals including horses. In the burial ceremony, skeletons were encased in clay mash as well as purified through fire. The presence of tools and pottery in the graves suggests they were intended for the after-life, not just as memorials to the dead.