In 1989 and 1990, Land and Culture volunteers had the opportunity to travel back in time by working on the archaeological site of Ambert, located in the Aragatz mountain range. Volunteers from various parts of the world lived in the quaint resort of Biuragan, also the site of Armenia's famous observatory. They commuted 15 minutes on a bumpy ride through time to excavate the “tonirs “and dwellings of their ancestors. Sounds, “sharagans”, and songs from the past were heard through the walls of the 10th century church. Working under the mesmerizing hum of bees, the cool picnics by the river were rejuvenating. Those who spent their summer at Ambert will always remember the ride back to the future and long for the past. LCO excavated and cleared the fortress to expose the walls from centuries of debris to reveal Ambert’s secrets.
Armenia's geographical position, at the crossroads of communication between east and west, made it the theater of fierce battles between the two world's, so profoundly different in their culture and traditions, and inevitably always in disagreement. Because it was troubled by this strife, and periodically laid waste by the invasions of powerful neighbors, Armenia and her princes, built over the centuries, numerous means of defense in order to survive against warlike adversaries. From this standpoint the Ambert fortress and church, typical examples of constructions arising in answer to a particular need, are especially interesting.
Tradition attributes the founding of Ambert and of many other fortresses along the Armenian border the King Ashot Yerkat, but this is just a popular tribute to the national hero, a protagonist in the struggle for Armenian independence. The exact founding date of Ambert can be established proving it belonged to the Pahlavouni princes from the 10th century to the Seljuk invasion. Ambert’s architectural works are clearly not from the same period. In fact, construction lasted several centuries. The fortress was built with the criteria used for military constructions at that time, for which considerable importance was given the choice of a site having a good natural defense system in order to reduce the number and size of fortifications. Ambert was built on a promontory formed by the narrow valleys hollowed out by the Ambert and Arkhashian Rivers. A domed church built in 1026 by the glorious army leader Vahram Pahlavouni rises between the castle and the end of the promontory, almost against the wall following the course of the Arkhashian River.