Executive summary. In June-July 2005, Artsakh archeological expedition of Archeological and Ethnography Institute of National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of RA, headed by senior staff member of scientific Institution of NAS, archeologist L.H.D. Hamlet Petrossian, with the following members of the expedition Nora Abrahamian (Archeological and Ethnography Institute of NAS of RA) and Vardges Safarian (Artsakh State University), architect Manoushak Titanian and director of Museum of History and Country Studies of Shoushi Ashot Haroutiunian, had accomplished wide archeological excavations in Shoushi town and surrounding areas of NKR. The Excavations were done on the initiative of “Shoushi” Foundation (president – Bakour Karapetian, executive director Sevak Artsruni) and with financial assistance of “Zhan Poghossian and the sons” Foundation. This initial statement represents to the corresponding departments and interested organizations the first results of the studies. The study as was foreseen, was carried in two main directions, i.e. , excavations of ancient tombs, aim of which is to set on serious scientific base the problems of Armenians’ formation in this part of the mountainous country as well as excavations of medieval monuments, the aim of which is to prove that Shoushi plateau was inhabited by Armenians and the existence of Armenian culture in the region before Panah’s appearing. The second important aim of the excavations is the creation of attractive prospective of cultural tourism. One can witness that there are serious results in all the directions.
The excavations of tombs of Metal Ages. In the two valleys of the tombs, adjoining the gates of Shoushi from North and North-East, were excavated one by one the tombs dating back to the first millennium BC, which have not only strictly spectacular solutions, but presented hundreds of bronze articles and ornaments, metal weapons and earthenware crockery. We can confidently say that after the restoration, these goods can become a luxury for every museum exhibition. Dozens of vessels with externities of deities and taps witness the high level craftsmanship of their creation and the fine aesthetic taste, which represent the beliefs and ideas of old inhabitants.
Exploratory excavations of Armenian and Greek and Ancient Cemeteries. Near the Eastern stone-wall of Shoushi, the excavations of the ancient parts of the so-called Armenian and Greek cemetery showed that there was an Armenian cemetery here in 12-13th centuries, the Khachkars of which, in the middle of the 19th century, were used for new burials. The five Khachkars of the 12-13th centuries, testified here, witness that Shoushi plateau was inhabited by Armenians during the most prosperous period of Khacheni Armenian principality. Now the next problem is to find the corresponding place of residence to which Khachkars belong.
It is interesting to study the gravestones found as a result of the cleaning works of some parts in the Ancient cemetery. One of them dates back to 1771, which is, in fact, the most ancient Armenian epitaph in the territory of Shoushi, which is protected by the stone-wall.
Discovery and excavations of Karkar castle(*1).
One can consider extremely spectacular the exploratory excavations of the castle near the cave, called Avan bonds, in Hounot canyon. During the cleaning works in the upper platform in the fillings and tonir (Armenian stove to bake bread) many examples of materials referring 12-14 centuries were found. It is worth mentioning the arrow and spit of Mongolian type and the fragment of Chinese bullock-cart found here. They not only prove that the Eastern part of Shoushi plateau, Hounot canyon, was inhabited at that time, but also, that a trading road was passing here, for the retention of which Khacheni princes erected these fortifications. These new data became a base to locate Karkar castle, mentioned by historians, right in this place, which in the end of the 17th century, during Armenian liberation movements, was reconstructed and got Avan or Small Sghnakh (*2) name. The first conclusion is that not only Turkish newcomers, but before them, Armenian Melik Shahnazar and sotnik Avan in the beginning of the 18th century fortified and reconstructed the fortifying points, which were founded by Armenian princes centuries ago and played an important role.
Discovery and excavations of Shoshva (*3) Sghnakh. Thanks to the detailed observations and the examination of appropriate special literature on Shoushi stone-walls, we managed to find out that the building of stone-walls on the present territory of Shoushi by Panah (in the fifties of the 18th century) and the ruins of one of the castles corresponds to the part of the stone-wall which is situated near Mkhitarashen gates. The large-scale excavations undertaken here are not still over, but they have already given the data, which witness that this part inside the stone-wall was inhabited in the beginning of the first millennium BC.
These are serious data to end up the Azeri Myth that Shoushi plateau was first inhabited by Panah. The excavations of this important part will continue next year and we hope that we will manage to testify one more huge Armenian building existing in pre-Panah times, but this time inside the town gates. This seems to be more strictly prospective and important, because it is situated almost in front of Shosh village, and is 250 meters far from Cemetery with Khachkars. Maybe, thanks to this castle, it will be possible to testify the prominent Shoshi stone or Sghnakh, from which, according to some points of view, Shoushi town got its name. We hope that the entire and detailed scientific examination of the results, which is already undertaken by the scientific staff of the expedition, will result in more expanded and deep conclusions.
The archeological materials discovered during the excavations, i.e., around 2000 fragments of different articles (especially clay vessels), were temporarily shifted to Yerevan and are now in the process of laboratory examinations and restoration. After finishing the mentioned works, the materials from N 71 tomb (a part of which was registered in the Museum of History and Country Study of Shoushi before the excavations), in the cleaned and restored state, with the appropriate sequence, will be delivered to the Museum of History and Country Study of Shoushi. The question of the final shelter for the materials from remaining excavation places will be solved by the corresponding order of NKR Government. The excavations of Shoushi are an important phase on the way of native history and culture study, restoration, propagation and the implementation of its best traditions; therefore, it is very important for them to become the issue of state attention and care.
Head of Archeological studies of Shoushi,
Doctor of Sciences Hamlet Petrossian
January 10, 2006
*1. It is wrong to call the castle situated near Avan cave, Karkar Castle, because according to numerous sources, i.e., Arab geographer Hamavi, historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi, the whole fortress was called Karkar. And the rivulet, flowing in the Canyon, got its name from the fortress and not vice versa. And the cave named Avan, which formed a partial protection together with other caves and castles in the system of Karkar fortress, was never named Karkar (all the footnotes are done by the author).
*2. In Armenian dialectical dictionary Sghnakh means fortified area and in the 18th century the name of Karabakh was Armenian Sghnakh.
*3. Hounot and Mkhitarian villages were situated between Shosh village and Shoushi or Karkar fortress. The “fortification” founded here in the 1st quarter of 18th century, which was included in the military formation system of Armenian Sghnakh places was called Shoushi or Small Sghnakh, which are proven by dozens of documents of that time period. And about Shoushi village of the plateau, the first information was given by the scribe Father Manuel in 1428 in the records of Shoushi’s Gospels. So, name Shoushi was not given by Panah, but it existed from ancient times.