A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The 5,000-year-old great city of Ani was once a powerful and flourishing place. Sadly, wars and hostile invasion forces put a definite end to its prosperity. What remains today of the lost capital of Armenia is nothing but forgotten ruins scattered over a vast area.
Not long ago secret water channels, mysterious monk cells, meditation rooms, huge corridors, intricate tunnels, traps, and corners were discovered under the ruins of the ancient city.
Situated on the eastern border of Turkey, across the Akhurian River from Armenia, the ancient city of Ani was once called the “City of 1,001 Churches” or the “City of Forty Gates,”
The ancient city of Ani was once the capital of Armenia.
At its height, Ani had a population of 100,000–200,000 people and was the rival of Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus. Founded more than 1,600 years ago, Ani was situated on several trade routes. The location was one of the reasons why Ani and the surrounding region were conquered hundreds of times. Byzantine emperors, Ottoman Turks, Armenians, nomadic Kurds, Georgians, and Russians claimed and reclaimed the area, repeatedly attacking and chasing out residents.
By the 1300s, Ani was in steep decline. Renowned for its splendor and magnificence, Ani was abandoned and largely forgotten in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Remains of an ancient bridge below Ani, photographed on June 19, 2011. Armenia is on the right, Turkey on the left. Credit: (CC BY SA Martin Lopatka)
It was rediscovered in the 19th century and the city had a brief moment of fame. However, the city was closed off by World War I. Shortly after World War I, Turkish officials ordered the obliteration of Ani’s monuments, which were within Turkey’s borders by then.
The ruins crumbled at the hands of many: looters, vandals, Turks who tried to eliminate Armenian history from the area.
Illustration of Ani, the capital city of the medieval Armenian kingdom of the Bagratuni dynasty (961 C.E.)
Fortunately, the great city of Ani could not be erased from history. Archaeologists excavating in the region uncovered the secrets of “underground Ani”. While digging at one of the underground tunnels in Ani, George Ivanovic Gurdjieff, who spent most of his childhood and youth in Kars noticed that the soil became different.
The Church of the Redeemer
He and his friend Pogosyan continued digging and discovered a narrow tunnel. But the end of the tunnel was closed off with stones. They cleaned the stones and found a room where they found decayed furniture, broken pots and pans. They also found a scrap of parchment in a niche. As they continued digging, they stumbled upon a famous Mesopotamian school that was used in the sixth and seventh centuries. They also found letters between monks that were written in an ancient Armenian language.
Secret tunnels were discovered beneath the ancient city of Ani.
Ruins of the Mausoleum of the Child Princes in the Citadel in Ani, on April 19, 2011. Located in the Inner Fortress on Citadel Hill, this structure is thought to have been built around 1050 AD. (CC BY SA Georgios Giannopoulos
As confirmed by Italian excavators in 1915, underground Ani had a school, a monastery, rock houses, monk cells, water channels, meditation rooms, and more than 500 meters (1,600 ft) of complex tunnels. At least 823 structures and caves have been identified in underground Ani.
The Alem village is home to 15 rock paintings that have never been examined and belong to humanity. Credits: AA Photos
The rock paintings will play a significant role in the ruins of Ani to be included in the UNESCO list in 2016. Credits: AA Photo
How many more secrets are still hidden beneath the ancient great city of Ani remains yet to be seen. It is very likely that there are many more undiscovered underground structures archaeologists have not yet been able to locate.
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer