Momik: Noravank

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Noravank 2: Mageli Cavern. T'rchuneri (Bird) Cave. Armenia's Bats.

Mageli Cavern

Mageli Cavern is one of the largest caves in Armenia; its mapped area is 1.7 km deep but there are many offshoots that have not been entirely explored. The cavern was inhabited as far back as the Chalcolithic period, along with more “recent” finds from the 10-14th centuries. Its remote location and difficult entry made it a good place to hide during invasions.

Because of its depth, the cavern maintains a constant temperature of 14 degrees centigrade (58 degrees Fahrenheit). The main passageway varies from an area just large enough for a person to crawl through to a spacious chamber 10-15 meters in width. There are a few stalactites and stalagmites, but most have been broken by vandals and local children playing in the caves. It is not recommended to enter the cavern without a professional guide.

Mageli has a unique underground eco-system, home to thousands of bats. The only mammal capable of true flight, bats are an important part of Armenia's ecology, a keystone species that is vital to the stability of the eco-system. . .

NOTE: The cavern is not fully mapped and is quite dangerous in spots with sudden drops and holes. Only attempt exploration with an experienced, professional guide. For a local guide, contact the security officer at the entrance to the canyon, or call Arthur at (cell) (093)661583. In Yerevan, contact the Speleological Center (tel. 010-550986, URL: www.armenius.com/speleo/).


T'rchuneri (Bird) Cave

This cave is actually a complex of smaller caves that are more easily explored than Mageli Cave. The cave is located at the (M2) highway, at the entrance to Noravank Canyon. It is in the cliff behind the riverside restaurant (to the right as you enter the gorge). It is reached by taking a footpath behind the restaurant up the steep hill to the triangular entry points into the caves.

The cavern's collection of small caves, interconnected with narrow tunnels, include a few smaller caves in the higher cliff walls.

A more recent excavation uncovered evidence of wine production from the Chalcolithic period, which if proved will make the cave one of the earliest known sites for wine fermentation in the world (ca. 4200-3800 BC).

Just as in case with Mageli Cave, the greatest threat to the Bird Cave is human intrusion. Visitors have caused serious damage by drawing on the walls inside the cavern, breaking or taking with them fragments of stone works.

Other caves in the area include Archeri (Bear) and Mozrov Caves, reached via Arpi Village.


Armenia's Bats

The largest bat populations are in southern Armenia, though millions nest in the countless number of caves and crevices throughout the country. More than 800 caves and grottoes inhabited by bats have been discovered and mapped in Armenia, including more comprehensive research of cave-dwelling bats.

None seems to be as prolific or diverse as the bat population at Mageli Cavern, where more than 65% of Europe's bat fauna is represented. The colonies run to the many thousands, though with increased visitation by humans, they are beginning to migrate to area villages where they can roost in attics. They are especially numerous near waterside banks with moderately thick vegetation.

The text was edited by Boris Gasparyan, Researcher of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of Academy of Sciences of Armenia.