Campaign News 2013
Before we left Shikahogh, 12 volunteers from the Faith and Heritage Organization visited us. Faith and Heritage is our sister Armenia program funded by OTC/LCO whose mission is to stimulate and encourage the youth of Armenia to safeguard and preserve our heritage by conducting clean up campaigns of historical sites. They were on a three-day campaign in the Syunik region.
The volunteers have done an incredible job in a week's time. The church's floor has been completely cleared of dirt and the stone floor can be seen. Now they are working on the front wall of the church that must be cleared 5 feet out and 6 inches deep, and the north wall outside of the church grounds that must be dug out 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep to reach the wall's foundation. Small hand tools are being used for this work. After getting 5 feet in, shovels and larger tools can be used to dig the area and remove the dirt. As always, archaeologist Arman is on hand supervising this archaeological phase of this project.
Volunteers are continuing working on the church. They are clearing the surrounding area outside the walls, lifting stones and debris. The church interior is still delicate work. The roof tiles, which are being removed by local workers, hold historical finds of earlier crosses carved on stone. Also, a sword from the David Beg era was found. Weapons were often hidden in various parts of churches during our tumultuous history. Needless to say, the volunteers were thrilled with this find, as well as our archeologist.
After several days of work, the group got some time off to explore the surrounding area. Volunteers took a one-hour scenic walk up through lush forests above the city of Kapan to the remains of Halizhor fortress and Sourp Minas Church where David Bek and his soldiers resisted the invading Ottoman army. The local caretaker and his family saw our group walking and invited them for Armenian hospitality and tea. The Armenian music was going and the family and group danced. After the pit stop, the group descended back down the mountains and enjoyed lunch overlooking the Voghji River. Then it was down to the big city of Kapan to hang out for coffee, ice cream, Wi-Fi, and shop for snacks to take back in the village.
The 2013 volunteers began work on a new campaign on the 16th Century Sourp Stepanos Nakhavegah Church in Shikahogh with inscriptions on stones from the 13th century. AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union)’s founder Boghos Nubar Pasha's forefather Moves Kahana Melik Nubaryans are from this village as evidenced by one of the gravestones on the church grounds. Volunteers were eager to begin the work, putting on their work gloves and heading from their home up to the church. The project began with hired workers cutting any trees that had grown on the church’s roof and our volunteers helped remove the debris. Later, the church’s roof will be professionally dismantled stone by stone and any remaining tree roots will be cautiously removed. As in all LCO historical renovation projects, first an archaeological dig is done before any restoration work begins. Armenian archaeologist Arman Nalbandian is guiding and overseeing the group during the archaeological phase of the project. Volunteers got into it clearing stones from inside and outside of the church. Others took small tools and began digging away brush and the top layer of soil. Some found ceramic pieces and bones. Anytime a volunteer finds anything, they notify Arman who documents the artifact.