The ministry of culture of Armenia intends to lease its ancient caves
Four caves and one cave complex have been put up for tender for a period of five years by the Ministry o Culture of Armenia, thereby hoping to promote the development of tourism. The competition for the lease of the caves is open to foreign legal entities and businesspeople. The announcement stated that if the contract terms are properly met, the winner will be given the opportunity to extend the lease contract for another twenty years without a repeat appeal for the bid.
The decision to lease the caves is considered “ridiculous and illiterate” by the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, despite the fact that, according to the requirements of participation in the competition, all applicants must submit a list of measures in their bid application aimed at preserving the natural and climatic condition of the caves and ensure the safety of flora and fauna.
Their responsibilities also include the preservation of historical monuments, for which they need to thoroughly study the condition of the caves in advance and, if necessary, initially limit the number of visitors.
Armenia’s Media published a list of caves that may be rented and their brief description.
Magelan’s Cave is situated in the community of Vayots Dzor Province. It is 1.7 kilometers long. The cave has a rich biodiversity. Animals native to the cave are among those included in the Red Book of Armenia as well as the bat species included in the Red List of The International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Birds’ Cave is located in the area of Areni, famous for its wines. Its area is 400 – 600 sq.m. In ancient times, this cave was a settlement as evidenced by the remains of the late Eneolithic culture that is of the Copper Age, dating to the 5th – 4th millennia BC. Wine production was evidenced in one of the halls of the cave dating to the 4th millennium BC. It is the oldest in the world from those discovered until now. Archaeologists have unearthed the most ancient leather footwear here, which is six thousand years old.
Bear’s Cave is the largest cave in Armenia, with a length of 3.5 kilometers. Rhinolophus Euryale birds live here that are also listed in the Red Book of Armenia.
The Cave of Mozrov is also located in the Vayots Dzor region. It has a hydrothermal origin. The walls and vaults of the cave are covered with layers of calcite crystals. The bird species Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and Myotis mystacinus live here.
The Cave of Stone Doors is a monument of the Middle Ages. Hiding places for shelter and storage of food were cut into the walls of the cave in the 6th – 8th centuries and people lived there prior to the 10th century.
Archeologists are particularly concerned when referring to the Bird’s Cave. In their opinion, the flow of tourists into this cave is inadmissible, since scientists are still to conduct long and serious research here and the access of tourists may lead to the destruction of the monument.