Ani archaeological site, located 42 km from Kars city center and within the borders of Ani village, is the largest archaeological site in the Eastern Anatolia region, built on volcanic land to the west of the Arpaçay River that separates the Türkiye-Armenia border.
In the prehistoric period, the first settlements in the areas known as Bostanlar Stream and Harmanyeri, outside of today's ancient city, continued until the Chalcolithic, Old Bronze Age, and Iron Age. The settlement within the walls of the archaeological site started in the inner castle in the 4th century A.D and the thousand-year-old settlement continued uninterruptedly in the ancient city.
The walls surrounding the archaeological site are the most important architectural elements that 21 architectural structures (temple, church, palace, caravanserai, mosque, bath, mill, etc.) and archaeological sites that have survived from religious, administrative, military, and civil architectural examples in the city of Ani, which is a trade city on the Silk Road and home to many civilizations. After the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope during geographical discoveries in 1497, Mediterranean-based trade started to be made over the Atlantic Ocean, which reduced the importance of the Silk Road. As a result, the population of the city decreased in the early 16th century due to immigration, and in the 17th century, the ancient city was completely emptied. Apart from the important monumental architectural structures that have survived in the ruins, the movable and immovable cultural assets that were destroyed due to various earthquakes, wars, or other physical destructions and remained under the ground are revealed by the scientific archaeological excavations carried out in the ruins.
The first archaeological excavations in Ani Ruins were initiated by the Georgian-born Russian archaeologist Nikolai Marr between 1892-1916, and continued with Prof. Dr. Kılıç KÖKTEN's surface surveys and sounding excavations between 1940-1943. It continued with the excavations of Prof. Dr. Kemal BALKAN in 1965-66, the excavations carried out by Prof. Dr. Beyhan KARAMAĞARALI, which started in 1989 and continued until 2005, and the excavations carried out under the direction of Prof. Dr. Yaşar ÇORUHLU between 2007 and 2010. Between 2014 and 2018, excavations were continued by a team headed by Prof Dr. Fahriye BAYRAM, and in 2019, excavations were carried out with the scientific participation of Kafkas University Faculty Member Dr. Muhammet ARSLAN and his team under the chairmanship of Kars Museum Directorate. These works, which were unearthed from archaeological excavations and exhibited in the Kars Museum, consist of metal works, coins, glass works, and stone works, especially terracotta vases.
The survey, sounding and archaeological excavations that have been going on for about 100 years show that the settlement here continued uninterrupted from the Chalcolithic period until the middle of the New Age. The city of Ani, which was a trade city on the Silk Road at the entrance to Anatolia from the Caucasus and grew into a city where approximately 20,000 people lived in the middle ages, lived its heyday between the 10th and 13th centuries. In this period, palaces, churches, mosques, baths, cloth mills, shops, residences, etc. were built within the walls surrounding the city and consisting of 5 km and became an important settlement center in this period. 85 hectares of the area of approximately 540 hectares were covered by the Ani Archaeological Site as the 1st and 3rd archaeological sites were surrounded by walls, and the Ani City settlement was formed. There is also a complex of different structures, especially the caves in the Bostanlar Stream, where settlements outside the city walls are located, and archaeological remains with rock paintings, cemeteries, and flat settlements around it. The Ateşgede Temple in the archaeological site, churches and religious temples in which mosques are located symbolize the cultural tourism and faith tourism of Ani City. Along with the archaeological remains outside the city walls, the waterfall and natural beauties in the Arpaçay Valley also highlight the plateau tourism of Ani.
Ani, which was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Main List on 15 July 2016; Due to the archaeological and natural values it contains, it has become one of the most important archaeological centers of our country open to tourism in terms of cultural tourism, faith tourism, and highland tourism. These features increase in importance with the cultural assets that will be revealed through scientific archaeological excavations and the discovery of new places waiting to be discovered on the other side of Ani.