The Oldest Stonehenge? continued 

    Parsamian was able to confirm the purpose of the stones, but she was unable to complete her investigations because of funding limitations.  Nevertheless, her work was enough to fuel a deep interest in the complex.  

From her findings it was clear that the site was used to watch the night sky and solar positions, and it seemed the stones were from a different era than that of the burial ground.  Other archeologists agreed, but lacking carbon dating or other methods of determining the age of the stones, they were unable to agree on a specific date, and so the site was ascribed as 3rd millennium BC.   

Parsamian published her findings beginning in 1984, and shared her discovery with others, one of whom was Paris Herouni, the director of the Radio Physics Measurement Institute and the designer of the first optical radio telescope in the world, located just above Byurakan on Aragats mountain.  Herouni, an avid fan of Parsamian's pioneering work, was fascinated with her findings.  Believing that her pioneering work at Metsamor and Sissian not only shattered previous conceptions about when ancestral Armenians developed their culture, but that it also pointed to a source of civilization itself on the Armenian Plateau, Herouni began to study her work carefully, as well as that by Gerald Hawkins regarding Europe's henges. 

Using Parsamian's original findings, Herouni organized four expeditions to the site between 1994 and 1996, each during an equinox or solstice.  He and his assistants brought chronometers, telescopes and other astronomical equipment to test the accuracy of the stones. "We even took a helicopter and flew over the sight to accurately plot the area," Herouni says with a laugh.  "I had cartographers and photographers all over the site, we marked and catalogued the stones, took measurements—it was like a small army had invaded the area." 

 Herouni and his team soon verified Parsamian's findings:  the stones were indeed an astronomical instrument, and it is still very accurate.   Holding a topographical map of the site, Herouni points out the site's features, "Inside the complex there are 204 main stones.  All of them are made of basalt.  They rise between a half a meter to 3 meters tall,, their bases are up to one and a half meters wide, and they weigh up to ten tons each.  Of these main stones, 76 have apertures, 63 are stable, 16 declining, and 90 lying on their sides.  45 are damaged, especially the apertures."  Herouni thinks the damages were caused by invading armies and early Christians trying to destroy the pagan worship site.   

A bird's-eye view of the site is impressive.  The complex is centered around 39 stones in the configuration of an egg, with its main axis lying East to West.  "From East to West, this 'egg' stretches 43 meters," Herouni adds, "37 meters from North to South."  Dissecting this central form is an arc of twenty stones that bends to the West, "forming an inner elliptical shape, a 'Khorda'."  The excavated graves lie inside the khorda, which led archeologists to originally think the stones were placed there about the same time.

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