Noravank-Birds Cave

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Noravank-Birds Cave: T'rchunneri (Birds) Cave (Areni 1)

The excavation is located above the Arpa River, inside a Karst Cavern made from tens of thousands of years of mineral water dripping into limestone crevices, It consists of three rooms or halls, the first two of which are connected by passageways. There are also niches and “basement” and “attic” floors opening upward and downward from the first room. The total area of the cave is about 500 square meters.

2007-2008 excavations of the first room and surrounding area uncovered layers of material culture dating to different periods of the Copper (chalcolithic) and Stone Ages. Based on the results of radiocarbon examination, samples taken from these layers (bone fragments, coal, fabric pieces, seeds and other organic residues) are traced back to late 5th- early 4th millennium BCE.

Artifacts found by the entrance to the first room point to its use as a 'living quarter' with remnants of dwellings, fortified floors and wells. At the far end of the room a complex of clay-made structures of different sizes and shapes were found. Judging from the various food storage pots and jars, wine-press and excellently preserved remnants of grape, plum, apricot, wheat, oat etc. seeds and sprouts found inside the pots, this was a production room.

The cavern with its unique and stable microclimate was perfect for food storage, which explains how uncovered organic remnants were so well preserved. This part of the cave had another use—as a ritual hall. The buried skulls of [two] young women were discovered next to structures made of clay. These burials, most probably, reflect ancient ideas about fertility ritual.

Excavations of the slope leading to the cave uncovered remnants of a defensive wall—its construction date yet to be set—that used to guard entry to the cave. Possibly it was built during the medieval period; Copper and Stone Age layers in the cave in some places show traces of 13-14th century activity.

Areni-1 is one of the rarest and best-preserved late Chalcolithic (Copper Age) monuments in the South Caucasus, study of which gives us a chance to understand not only the peculiarities of the material culture in the 5th-4th millenniums BCE, but which also shows us that wine-production in Armenia has at least a 6,000 year history.