Shushi (Arménie): Ancient settlement dating back to the 7th century B.C

Karine Ter-Sahakian

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"Discovery of the fortress of Karkar was the highlight of the excavation," archeologist Hamlet Petrosyan said.
Ancient settlement of Shushi dating back to the 7th century B.C. spreads along the walls of the old Shushi fortress. Villagers, ploughing up the flank of the hill at the fortress's wall were the ones to stumble upon its remains: bronze age weapons, skeletons, household items which were used to determine the date.

In June-July 2005, an expedition from the Armenian National Academy of Science's Institute of Archaeology and Ethnographic worked in Shushi and surrounding areas. The expedition was led by the historical sciences doctor, archeologist Hamlet Petrosyan.

The excavations of ancient burial vaults and medieval relics were held to systematize data on formation of Armenian ethnos in the area and prove the presence of Armenian cultural strata on the Shushi plateau before the arrival of Panakh Khan, with the final goal of promotion of cultural tourism in the region.

As Petrosyan told PanARMENIAN.Net excavations on iron age burial vaults were conducted, with individual vaults, dated 1st century B.C. unearthed in the north and north-east of the city wall. Among items discovered were household articles, bronze ornaments, iron weapons, ceramics. The excavations also unearthed dozens of skillfully made animal-shaped vessels reflecting our ancestors' perceptions of faith.

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The results of excavations in the old area of the Armenian-Greek cemetery at the eastern wall of Shushi prove the existence of an Armenian cemetery in the 12-13th centuries, with its khachkars used for new burials in the 19th century. The 5 khachkars found here proved that Shushi plateau was inhabited by Armenians in the period of prosperity of the Principality of Khachen.

Discovery of the fortress of Karkar was the highlight of the excavation, with Mongolian-type arrowheads and a piece of Chinese celadon found on the site, of special interest. The findings prove that a trade route crossed through the eastern part of Shushi plateau, with a fortress built by Khachen princes to protect the route. The new data suggests that Karkar is the very fortress in the gorge of Unot mentioned by historians. During a liberation movement in late 17th century, the fortress was reconstructed and renamed into Avani or Signakh Minor.

A detail study of Panakh Khan-built Shushi fence and specialized literature revealed that fragments of its ruins match those of a fence at Mkhitarashen gate. Though full-scale archeological works haven't been completed in the area, the findings prove that the territory was inhabited in the 1st century B.C.

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About 2000 items found during the excavations were taken to Yerevan to be studied and restored. Upon completion of works, the items will be donated to the Shushi museum of regional studies. The excavations being an important stage in the study, restoration and promotion of Armenian history and culture, governmental assistance is essential in the matter.

According to the Shushi museum director Ashot Harutyunyan, there are about 2000 burial vaults in the surrounding areas, with 90% pillaged back in pre-Soviet period. In 2005, a map of the burial grounds was drawn by the Shushi expedition. During month-long excavations, the expedition discovered 2 burial vaults from Kur-Araks culture dating back to 10-13th centuries B.C. Obsidian blade, ornaments and other items were also discovered, with the latters currently showcased at the Shushi museum.

"In 1974-75, Azeri Academy of Sciences held excavations in a cave near Shushi, with the items found dating back to the earlier period than mentioned above. All of those items are now displayed in Baku as samples of "Albanian culture," Harutyunyan said.