Mystery of the Speaking Stones

Sisian, Armenia
Jul 28, 2018

On a wind-swept plain near the town of Sisian in southern Armenia, stand some silent sentinels of the past. Some two hundred large megalithic stones stand scattered around the field. Some are arranged in a circle, some form northern and southern arms extending from the circumference. Yet another line of stones lies along a chord of the circle while others are separate standing stones. Some lean sideways, some have fallen to the ground but most still stand vertically. Curiously, many of them have well-polished holes near the upper edges. Who built them and why, is a question that set off many an investigation, for several decades and hotly contested theories raged.

Local lore called them Goshun Dash or Stone Army in Turkic, which in Armenian is Zorats Karer, as is now called. But the site is also known colloquially as Karahunj, meaning Speaking Stones, so called because of the sound made when wind blows through the holes in the stones.

Like so many other places in Armenia, this is an area that has been inhabited since the earliest times. The enormous stone tombs that were found here lead to the current theory that it was a necropolis from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age and the megaliths are presumed to commemorate fallen soldiers. But studies of this area remain incomplete, the reason sadly being the usual lack of funds.

Popular stories propagated by the tourist industry though, have a different take. Brochures are rife with stories of a prehistoric observatory, some even calling it the oldest one in the world. They base it on a claim made by an investigator in the mid-1990s. The fact that this theory is now disregarded, is of no consequence. Neither apparently is etymology, since the similarity in name to Stonehenge is considered the final proof that Karahunj is an Armenian Stonehenge.

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