museum opened last month in the village of Tsitsernavank,
part of the corridor that links Armenia and Karabakh
and a territory of severe fighting during the
1990-94 war. The territory, previously known as
Lachin, is now called Kashatagh.
Only recently is the area being resettled, and
part of the resettlement has included a search
for pieces of Armenian history.
So far, the museum houses a candlestick dated
to the 5th century, a small statue of a woman
with a lamb in her hands, some household items
and grave tiles used during funeral ceremonies
But one significant find has not been fully displayed,
as a chief administrator says it is too ghastly.
Only a piece of marble tombstone with "Tsatur"
inscribed on it and some nails hint of the complete
discovery -- a human skull with nails driven into
The skull and a few fragments of skeleton were
found during excavation near a monastery wall
and is thought by at least one expert to be the
remains of a Christian martyr from the 6th century.
(The nails remain at the museum, while the skull
was taken to Yerevan for further analysis.)
"The rock was dug from below and the cemetery
opened itself," says Menush, a specialist
who is reconstructing Tsitsernavank and who has
reconstructed several churches and was conferred
with the Order of Ananya Shirakatsi. "The
skull was with nails in it and also arms. A woman
took the skull in her hands and was stroking it."
Scientists suppose that the remains were buried
under the monastery's walls because they belong
to someone considered to be a saint.
of Kashatagh's administration Alexan Hakobyan,
who is also a Candidate of Historic Sciences,
published the research concerning the remains
in "Handes Amsoria" scientific journal.
He writes that it is possible to guess from the
tombstone's inscription that the martyr's name
was Astvatsatur (the entire tombstone was not
According to Armenian history there was only
one martyr with such a name, a Persian by nationality,
who was crucified in 553 in Dvin. After an earthquake
in Dvin the citizens of that town moved to Syunik,
where Tsitsernavank is located. Hakobyan guesses
that the martyr's remains were taken there.
"It is an exceptional hypothesis. If there
are any other opinions then it would be interesting,"
Hakobyan says, "we didn't exhibit the skull
as we think that it is very horrific."
Tsitsernavank dates to the 4th or 5th century
(construction made in accordance with the project
of extended rectangle and it is one of the main
types of the early Christian temples). The church
and its bakery were reconstructed in 2001-2002
with the help of Armenian benefactors from Diaspora.
A 19th century Armenian cemetery is next to the
The museum is in the building of the bakery and
is a branch of Kashatagh's museum of regional
In Berdzor (formerly called Lachin), a museum
has opened in 1996 and contains a bronze club
dated 3rd millennium B.C. and stone totems. The
items were discovered six years ago during excavations
carried out in the territory of Kaitskarsar.
most part of the 300 exhibits presented in the
museum were collected by the director of the museum
Livera Hovhannisyan, who, before moving to Lachin,
had been working for 18 years in Yerevan Museum
of History and was chief scientific expert.
"In April, during one month, I had traveled
in 47 villages and collected all these exhibits
to be in time for the museum's opening,"
says Hovhannisyan. "Those days many villages
hadn't been settled yet. Accompanied by two men
I was going to every village by truck and we were
searching and finding in every house things we
had been looking for. In one village we were fired
upon. Residents of that village hadn't seen other
people for a long period of time and when they
saw us they were afraid very much and thought
we were Azeris."
Armenian household items dated from the 3rd to
2nd millennium B.C. are on display in the museum,
including an oil glim, dated 3rd millennium and
found on the bank of Arax River. A clay pot dated
from the 1st millennium was found in Aghavnu gyugh
(formerly Zabugh) village as were a lampshade
dated around the 17th or 18th century and a copper
basin with an inscription that says "Margara
- son of Hairapet".