Azokh, Togh

  Azokh and Togh neighboring historical villages in the distance of 50 km south from Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic. The first is known by its cave, which is a six-cave complex known as a habitation site of prehistoric humans. It was discovered by the "Palaeolithic Archaeological Expedition" in 1960. A Neanderthal-like jaw bone found in 1968 is assumed to be over 300,000 years old. Its discovery gave rise to the term Azokh Man (azokhanthrop). Archaeologists have suggested that the finds from the lowest layers are of a pre-Acheulean culture (730,000 to 1,800,000 years ago). Excavations resumed since the mid 1990s. In 2002 an international research team headed by Tanya King discovered undisturbed entrances to the cave as well as fauna and stone tools.

Fossil assemblages recovered from the excavations between 2002 and 2009 found Pleistocene-era remains of bears accumulated as a result of hibernation. Other faunal remains, mainly herbivores, had been brought to the cave by hominins. Finally, during the Holocene, the upper sediments were eroded by water, opening up the cave to renewed human use. The cave is now considered to have housed some of the earliest groups of proto-humans in Eurasia. Using uranium isotopes as a speleothem dating method, the minimum date for the formation of the cave, and thus the earliest hominid deposits, have been dated to 1.19 ±0.08 million years. During archaeological excavations there were registered 10 archaeological layers in the Azokh Paleolithic Cave.

Togh and the neighboring fortress of Ktishberd, are first mentioned in the 9th century, as the capital of the local Armenian principality. Here in 854, enemy's 200,000 army was defeated. In 1737, the local prince built a palace and Saint John church here. Melik's palace of Togh is one of the oldest buildings of the kind that is dated and with its closed construction it obviously had defensive purpose also as one of the army centres. The village has a school, a hospital, a house of culture, a movie theater and a library. In addition to nearby Gtichavank monastery, remains of it may be reached by hikers. There are nearby ruins of some churches including Stepanos Nakhavkayi Church of the 13th century. The most remarkable building of the palace is the prince's Parlor in the Southern part of the Yard.

In the late middle ages Eastern Armenia was a part of Iran, and Western Armenia was a part of Ottoman Empire. During the Persian rule the princes (meliks) of Artsakh and Syunik had authorities. The centre of this autonomous government, consisting of 5 melikdoms, was the village Togh. The main prince's parlor is original and presents a new typical style of building such constructions. The gate of the palace is also unique. The two floor building presents an interesting architectural complex that contains residential and economic territories. Residential territories and guestrooms are grouped in three places, connected to each other by enclosure. The palace gives clear image of the Armenian dwellings of the 18th-19th centuries. The palace is being repaired since 2009 and it is planned to open a museum of carpet weaving and handicraft there.

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