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 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.

  • "There are experiences you shape and then there are experiences that shape you. The LCO Campaign of 2007 in the village of Azat offered me invaluable perceptions into the realities of my fellow Armenian brothers and sisters in a way only a true immersion program can. I urge everyone and anyone who might feel an inkling of belonging to this fascinating country, people, and history to sign up with the campaign immediately. I smile just thinking about what you have yet to experience."
    Noushig K, Azat 2007, CA, USA

  • "Coming back from a 4-day trip to Kharabagh really felt like coming back home, with our family waiting to greet us outside our house. That's when I realised just how attached we'd grown to the place, to our family, to the other volunteers"
    Anoosh Gasparian, Azat 2009, London UK

  • "I went to this trip with no expectations, and came back with a great appreciation for our country.  Life in the village is surreal, the food is beyond delicious and the people are incredibly nice. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget!"  Sam Tahmasian, 2009, CA, USA
  • "LCO is an amazing concept. It introduced the deprived Diasporan to their land and their people. It is a wonderful introduction to Armenia and something every young man or woman should experience."
    Madlene Minassian Ispirian, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, Yerevan, Armenia

  • "My most memprable experience was being so warmly taken care by an old village couple, receiving gifts from them, giving them gifts and establishing bonds."
    Naira Der-Kiureghian, Ayroum 2003, CA, USA

  • "...I know that when I reflect back on this experience I will feel ecstatic about the work we accomplished, the things we saw, and the bonds we forged."
    Hovig Saghdejian, Ayroum 2003, California, USA

  • "Dolma is made with mum's careful instructions, grandmothers eyes found on the faces of children, songs of Ararat are as familiar as the Khachkars dotting the landscape. If it smells like home, looks like home then it must be home."
    Datevig Simonian, Shadvan 2004, California, USA

  • "LCO experience was a revelation for me. It gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons both personally and professionally. One of the most important experiences of my life and an important factor in determining my future goals."
    Lara Aharonian, August 1999, August 2001, Montreal, Canada.

  • "I formed strong bonds with my volunteers, and the difference in backgrounds was refreshing. It was interesting to hear the points of view of different Armenians from other areas of the Diaspora."
    Aramazt Kalaydjian, Shoushi 2003, NY, USA

  • "I loved the simplicity of life in the village, the fresh homemade food is wonderful; that people are the friendliest and most hospitable... the children have the most beautiful faces..."
    Sophia Balakian, Shadvan 2004, New York, USA