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The typology and Chronology of Khachkar
First Khachkars of the 9-10th centuries.
Although existing data suggests that the cross and cross composition became popular beginning in the 7th century, the first cross-stones or khachkars appeared only in 9th century. A thorough examination of the circumstances that account for this delay suggests that the formation and preliminary development of khachkars should be considered not only from an artistic standpoint, but rather as the totality of political-confessional and artistic processes then underway. Under the circumstances of centuries under consideration, when Armenia was under the heavy Arabic political yoke and broad religious intolerance, the development of new types of Christian monuments, especially open air monuments, was almost impossible. Khachkars appeared in parallel with the fading of Arabic domination, becoming the result of the ongoing political-religious development. These centuries represent a phase of the formation of the stele, the complexity of composition and shaping of inscriptional text of khachkars.
The formational process of the first khachkars begins with a depiction of medieval compositions and steles on a flat surface, and ends with the foundation of a new composition, depicted inside of an arch-like or rectangular niche. The new composition is presented with a cross, leaning on a round rosette and palmette, with bunches of grape or palmettes coming down from the upper wing of the cross or the upper angles of the niche toward the crossing point of the wings of the cross, and the placement of different carvings of birds in different sections of the stone. The cross also passes through a certain path of development - from di-lobed to tri-lobed endings, from uncarved, smooth wings of the cross to triangular slits and palmette and lily decorations. In terms of style the most characteristic for 9th-10th century khachkars is the monumentality of the carvings, which is expressed with clear division of composition and background, which technically was achieved by moving off deep layers around the separate relief. The whole composition or separate parts of it, which is situated on the smooth and uncarved background, gives the impression that the carvings belong not to the same stone but are placed on it artificially. The overall perception of the composition is preserved first of all due to underlined protuberance. In early khachkars the weaved ornaments are lacking. Certain details of the composition are not weaved, but rather are "touching" each other as more visual or indissoluble method to bind these details is not discovered yet. The lack of this particular skill in the sphere of carving was overcome almost one hundred years later. Compositions that were balanced and carved in detail appeared only at the end of 10th century and in the 11th century.
Another characteristic feature that appeared with the first examples of the khachkar was the inscription. The examination of early inscriptions shows that the great majority of the first khachkars had been erected by influential political and religious leaders of the country and had a general or communal usage.

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Endangered Khachkars

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