Spring 2003 (11.1)
the Kish Church Reconstruction Project
Left: The archaeological team who did excavation
work on the Kish Church, near Shaki, in summer 2000.
Azerbaijan has numerous
old church buildings that date back to the period when Christianity
existed in the region. One such church is located in the village
of Kish, near Shaki, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains,
about five hours northwest from Baku. Once the Kish Church Museum
opens in late September 2003, tourists visiting Azerbaijan should
consider putting the village of Kish on their "must-see"
list for any visit to Shaki and the western part of Azerbaijan.
Radiocarbon analysis has been made of various objects on the
site: the cultic site found beneath the altar of the church dates
to about 3000 B.C., while the Church construction itself dates
to about the 12th century (990-1160 A.D.).
The idea for the Kish Project was conceived by Bjørn Wegge
of Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise. In the mid-1990s, he frequently
visited Azerbaijan to assess the refugee situation and offer
humanitarian assistance to victims of the Armenian-Azerbaijani
war over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The idea was to restore
the neglected and abandoned Kish Church and turn it into a museum
dedicated to the early church history of Caucasus Albania. Before
reconstruction of the building could begin, archaeologists were
consulted to establish the date of the church and determine if
there had been any earlier stages of construction or use, as
is often true of religious sites.
The Kish Project began in 2000 and is scheduled to be completed
by late 2003. Funding for the project was provided by the Norwegian
Foreign Ministry. Reconstruction has been a joint project between
Baku State University for Architecture and Construction and the
Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise. The project is being carried
out under the direction of Dr. Gulchohra Mammadova, Rector of
the University for Architecture and Construction, who is also
a Member of Parliament.
Dr. Vilayat Karimov of Baku's Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography
served as the Director of Excavations. Archaeologists included
Aliya Garahmadova of the same institute and Suseela C. Y. Storfjell
of the University of Sheffield, England. The Archaeological Advisor
for the project was J. Bjørnar Storfjell, who hails from
Tromsø, Norway and currently directs the Thor Heyerdahl
Research Centre in Aylesbury, England. The staff of archaeologists
was assisted by a group of workers led by local archaeologist
The date for the opening ceremony of the Kish Church historic
monument is planned for the weekend of September 26-28, 2003.
For more information about the event, contact Tore Seierstad,
Country Director of Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise in Baku.
Tel: (994-12) 93-62-19 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or the Norwegian Embassy in Baku at Tel: (994-12) 97-43-25 or
For an earlier description of
the project, see J. Bjørnar Storfjell's article, "The
Kish Church-Digging Up History: Norwegians Help Restore Ancient
Church" in AI 8.4 (Winter 2000). Search at AZER.com.
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AI 11.1 (Spring 2003)
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