Gobustan

Beginning from Gobustan, the Absheron peninsula gradually changes into Shirvan. Shirvan is the historical name of a geographic area that includes Gobustan, Shamakhy, Agsu, Goychay, Ismayilli, Kurdamir, Ujar, Zardab and Agdash districts. The area from northwestern Baku to the southeastern foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains was ruled by the Shirvanshah state which left its mark on the medieval history of Azerbaijan. Until the second half of the 19th century, Shamakhy was the capital of the Shirvanshahs. Later, Shamakhy, which was destroyed by an earthquake, was gradually replaced by Baku, which started to revive as a result of the development of capitalism. The most attractive tourist areas of the region are located in Shamakhy and Ismayilli districts. Shirvan hosts hundreds of important historical-archeological monuments, including the Gobustan rocks which are regarded as the most ancient page of Azerbaijani history.

Gobustan

The distance between Baku and Gobustan is 101 km. It is one of the most ancient settlements. As an administrative district, it was established in 1990. It hosts low mountainous areas and is situated at the southeastern tip of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It borders on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Ridge in the north, the Pirsaat River in the west, Mounts Harami and Misov in the south and the Caspian Sea, Absheron peninsula and the Ceyranbatan swamp in the east. Gobustan’s climate is very arid, and it has very hot and dry summers and moderate winters. It has poor vegetation and fauna. Nature revives only after spring and autumn rains and the area becomes green. Trees and perennial shrubs grow mainly between rocks. Its center is the town of Maraza.

Maraza

There is a story about the name of this town, which is located in the center of the Maraza plateau and on the edge of the main road. It is said that in the past, the wife of an influential person settled here and recovered from a disease, and after that event, the territory became known as “maraz”. The water in a mineral spring near the town is salty and bitter and is good at treating some gastrointestinal diseases. Carpet-weaving is one of the most ancient handicrafts known here. Carpets are still woven in the villages of Maraza, Cuxanli, Cemcemli and Nabur. The Christian graveyard in the center of the town belongs to Molokans who used to live here. In general, although the area is short of water, the famous Six Duzu barrows (8th-1st centuries BC), the remains of ancient human settlements in the village of Dag Kolani, huge caves in rocks in Narimankand, the Diri Baba sepulcher near the town (15th century) and the Shah Abbas caravanserai in the center of the town testify to the ancient history of this place.

Narimankand

Cave mazes are very interesting here. These mazes, which are connected by underground passages and tunnels, resemble whole gallery systems built in the Middle Ages. There is a wonderful view of the surroundings from the cave, and the place is always windy. No scientific research has been carried out in the area.

Diri Baba mausoleum

If you happen to visit Shirvan one day, you should definitely see this amazing piece of art which is regarded as one of the wonders of Azerbaijani architecture. The monument was built on rocks in front of a hill with an ancient cemetery. The surrounding area is rich in caves. It is believed that dervishes lived here. The two-storey sepulcher was built from limestone in 1402. A question arises.

Who was the sepulcher built for?

There are many assumptions and legends. According to one of them, the architect of this monument was buried in the sepulcher. But this does not seem accurate and convincing.

Why Diri Baba?

Locals say that the body of the saint has not decomposed yet. It is called Diri Baba because it has remained as it was since it was buried.

View of history

According to stories about the first arrival of the Arabs in the Caucasus, after Muhammad was declared a prophet, his uncle and cousins decided to kill him. After that, the Abtar sura came down to earth. His cousin Amir converted to Islam. Amir had two sons called Atam and Akam who were close to the prophet. After the messenger of God returned from Mecca to Medina, Atam headed for Shirvan with his detachment.

Villages of Arab origin

There are many villages and place-names of Arab origin in Shirvan and Gobustan. Arabqadim is one of them. Atam ibn Amir took the path of Muhammad’s religion. He was a representative of the Khalvatiyyah denomination of Sufism which was founded by people who belonged to the prophet’s family and was very common. According to Khalvatiyyah traditions, he retired into a cave near the area where he lived in order to pray. Once he died during a prayer, and in order not to separate him from the place where he stayed face-to-face with God, he was buried right there. After that day, this area turned into a shrine.

Place-name

The vast semi-desert foothill geographical area between the southwestern foothills of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea, which has a diameter of 100 km and is bisected by multiple river-beds and ravines (gobu), is called Gobustan. The place-name means a place full of ravines or a land of ravines. The area hosts hills with a height of 600-700 meters, mountains with rocks covered with limestone, tectonic heights and mud volcanoes… Azerbaijan hosts 70 per cent of the world’s mud volcanoes and 90 per cent of them are in the Absheron peninsula. It is possible to arrange cycling tours and treks to these mud volcanoes. The Gobustan rocks are ideal for mountain sports and mountaineering competitions.

Gobustan state historical and arts reserve

The area hosts numerous primitive camps, ancient settlements and barrows that date back to the period from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. The discoveries made here show that the Gobustan area had favorable living conditions in the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages and was inhabited by hunters and fishermen in the Mesolithic-Neolithic age and by farmers and cattle-breeding tribes in the Bronze Age. The ancient cave paintings have been known to science since the 1940s. Studies showed that local monuments were created in a lengthy historical period of 15,000 or 20,000 years from the end of the Upper Paleolithic Age in the 18th-15th millennia BC to the Middle Ages. During all this period, life in Gobustan never stopped. In 1966, the Gobustan state historical and arts reserve was created on the territory of Mounts Boyukdas, Kicikdas and Cingirdag and the Yazili hill in Gobustan.

Note

The distance between Baku and Gobustan is 54 km. About 4,400 cave paintings and petroglyphs are the main exhibits at the reserve, which is located south of the capital at the rocky and stony foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains that stretch as far as the Caspian. The Gobustan mountains include Boyukdas, Kicikdas, Cingirdag, Sonqardag and Sixqaya. It is impossible to see history without them. These rocks reflect the 15,000-year lifestyle of the region.

Cave paintings

They have been discovered in Gobustan for the first time in Azerbaijan. In 1939, the archeologist I. Cafarzada started to research the Gobustan petroglyphs. The fact that these pictures cover a vast historical period ranging from the 10th-8th millennium BC to the Middle Ages makes them more valuable than other world collections of cave paintings. The pictures are mainly related to the human lifestyle. Collective labor, hunting, harvest, yalli dances, animal pictures, meals around a bonfire, women’s and men’s pictures, etc. Pictures of boats and the sun are compared to cave paintings found in Sweden, Urals and Egypt. The famous Norwegian traveler and scientist, Thor Heyerdahl, visited Gobustan several times and carried out research here. Comparing cave paintings found in Norway with those in Gobustan, Heyerdahl came to the conclusion that the ancestors of ancient Vikings reached Scandinavia by sailing from the Caspian coast by boats.

Epigraphic monument – an inscription in Latin

One of the youngest, but at the same time most interesting monuments in Gobustan is a Roman epigraphic monument written in Latin. It is located on the last flat rock at the southeastern foothills of Mount Boyukdas and is listed as a document of great historical importance. The stone document which says “The time of Emperor Domitianus Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Lucius Julius Maxim, Centurion XII of the Lightning Legion” shows that the 12th Roman lightning legion visited the territory of Gobustan in 84-96 AD. Other sources do not provide any information about the Romans’ visit here. It is known that an ancient road which ran from eastern countries to the north along the Caspian coast lied between this inscription and the Caspian Sea. The Latin author Eutropius, who lived in the second half of the 4th century, recorded that Domitianus carried out four military campaigns and it is known from rocks inscriptions that he was defeated during one of his military campaigns in the Absheron peninsula. The rocks have signs proving that Roman legionaries visited this place in the 1st century AD.
(Gavaldas) Tambourine

It is the most ancient music instrument. Since every stone in this unusual music instrument has its own timbre, they are called gaval das. Two tambourines found in Cingirdag and Boyukdas represent interesting monuments about the life of the ancient inhabitants of Gobustan. They are likely to have been used as music instruments in the past and accompanied the ancient population with their rhythmic tunes during their yalli dances. The secret of the sound of the gaval das is that it rests on an air cushion. When you strike with a small stone, the hum that comes from inside does not stop for a moment. When you strike different parts of the stone, various sounds are produced, and using these tones, it is possible to play different tunes with the gavaldas. Famous drummers have played their own music here.

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