By Linda B. Glaser
ITHACA, N.Y. — On the slopes of Mount Aragats, the tallest mountain in Armenia, archaeologists are painstakingly uncovering the ancient past. From July 17 to 20, six Armenian girls got an insider’s view as participants in the pilot session of Camp Aragats.
The camp is the first programmatic initiative of the US-based Aragats Foundation and its Armenian sister organization, the Aragats Cultural Heritage Foundation. Founded in 2014 by Cornell archaeologists Lori Khatchadourian and Adam T. Smith, the Aragats Foundation serves as the public outreach wing of Project Aragats, a collaborative archaeological research program dedicated to exploring Armenia’s past through the modern era. The goal of the Aragats Foundation and its Armenian partner is to harness archaeology to enhance local prosperity through tourism.
“Bringing tourists into the area would be a boon to local business and a spur for entrepreneurship,” says Khatchadourian.
Education is another priority area for the foundation, and Camp Aragats represents its first public engagement effort. The girls-only pilot session was a response to the limited opportunities for girls in rural Armenia, says Khatchadourian. The camp focused on cultivating broad interests in archaeological research in addition to teaching the campers about the ancient history of their region.
“Archaeology is a terrific vehicle for sharing the thrill of scientific discovery and the possibilities of new technologies to illuminate the past. These insights and skills can be translated into domains beyond archaeology. Our goal is to ignite an interest in scientific and humanistic inquiry that can open doors and opportunities for children as they continue with their education,” says Khatchadourian. She served as camp co-director with Armine Harutyunyan, Armenian archaeologist and executive director of the Aragats Cultural Heritage Foundation.The camp piggybacked on the summer field research of Project Aragats. Scholars working on the project (including several Cornell graduate students) donated anywhere from an hour to half a day to teach the campers about their work. “It was extraordinary to have so many different dimensions of research going on at the same time, but that is the culture of Project Aragats. We cultivate multidisciplinary research so that when the different pieces are brought together, the sum is much greater than the parts,” notes Khatchadourian.