Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Adopts Shengavit Preserve Project

Excavating at Shengavit

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Cambridge Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA) at a recent meeting of its Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt a program to help preserve and renovate the Shengavit Historical and Archaeological Culture Preserve in Yerevan.

The Shengavit Preserve includes an archaeological site dating to the 4th millennium BC which was continually occupied from between 1,000 to 2,000 years. Archaeologists differ on the duration of occupancy. There is a small museum next to the archaeological excavation containing some of the artifacts recovered from the site. Other Shengavit artifacts are on display at other museums within Armenia. The Shengavit settlement was part of the so called Kura-Arax culture which had trade relations with cultures far beyond Armenia’s borders. This culture is believed to have played an important role in the formation of the Armenian people.

The American Archaeology team

The director of the Shengavit Preserve is Vladimir Tshagharyan, an architect and archaeologist with extensive experience managing archaeological sites in Armenia. He was also a participant in a U. S. State Department funded “Community Connections” training project sponsored by CYSCA for Cultural and Historical Preservation specialists from Armenia in the greater Boston area in May/June 2003.

Shengavit was initially excavated in 1936 by Joseph Orbeli (1887-1961) and Eugeni Bayburtyan (1898-1938). Orbeli was the director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bayburtyan, an Armenian archaeologist, was arrested by the Soviet secret police in 1938 for being too nationalistic. Most recently, in 2011, a team of Armenians and archaeologists from the U.S. led by Dr. Mitchell Rothman, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Widener University in Pennsylvania, examined the site.

“The site of Shengavit in the hills above the Ararat Plain is one set of remains of an ancient culture called variously Kura Araxes, Early Transcaucasian, Karaz, Pulur, Shengavitian, etc. Its full time period is still much under debate, but probably it starts somewhere around 3500 BC and ends 2500-2200 BC. The homeland of this culture is in the Southern Caucasus, the current countries of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, along with a section of current northeastern Turkey from Erzurum through Kars provinces. To fully understand the importance of this culture, its place in its contemporary world is essential to comprehend. Its beginning is co-terminus with the establishment of the first states in southern Mesopotamia and the founding of the first international trading system, which covered an area from the Persian Gulf to the North Caucasus from modern western Iran to the Mediterranean Sea…, said Dr. Rothman”

The Shengavit site has three employees, including its director, all of whom receive token salaries. There is, however, no budget for the preservation, maintenance and enhancement of the site. Immediate needs include visitor amenities such as bathrooms, running water, and a pavilion to provide shade from the glare of the hot summer sun. Next are required fencing and security for the site and repair, and ultimately replacement, of the museum building which dates to 1920. The site also needs landscaping appropriate for an archaeological site and most importantly preservation of the site’s archaeological structures and artifacts.

The Cambridge Yerevan Sister City Association was formed in 1986 and is a member of Sister Cities International. Since its inception CYSCA has participated in numerous exchanges and training programs with Armenia in many diverse fields, such as environment, business, medicine, education, tourism, public health, social work, aviation, culture, etc. In 1994 CYSCA was awarded a certificate for the most outstanding youth exchange nationally by the Sister Cities International. Over the past two decades, CYSCA has sponsored 10 youth exchanges and conducted 19 professional development training programs for specialists from Armenia.

CYSCA was incorporated in 1987 as a non-profit organization and given 501(c)(3) status by the IRS. Donations to this organization are deductible for Federal Income Tax Purposes. Donations for CYSCA’s Shengavit project can be sent to: CYSCA, PO Box 382591, Cambridge, MA, 02238-2591. Please include a note indicating that the donation is for the “Shengavit” project.

For more information about CYSCA please visit www.cysca.org or contact: Cheryl Shushan, President, cherylhasmail@gmail.com ; or Jack Medzorian at 781-729-6457, Jmedzorian@AOL.COM . For more information about Shengavit please contact Joseph Dagdigian at 978-772-9417.

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