Cities&Places The Gobustan rock carvings cover a wide range of issues, all of them are unique and represent great artistic value
Gobustan is a region with the territory of 100 square kilometers between the south-eastern bottom of the Caucasian mountains and the Caspian Sea; the territory is covered with numerous river mouths and gully. The name Gobustan originates from the word Gobu meaning a gully.
There are rocky mountains 600-700 meters high covered with limestone layers, tectonic heights, semi-steppe. The Gobustan climate is too dry with hot and airid summers and soft winters.
Gobustan is a unique historical and archeological complex with cultural heritage representing the periods from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. These are mostly rock carvings, camps of primeval people and settlements. They certainly attract many researchers, travelers and history amateurs to the place.
Researchers learnt about the Gobustan petroglyphs in the 1940s. Prominent Azeri archeologist Iskhak Dzhafarzade was the first to study the Gobustan cultural monuments: he discovered and studied about 3,500 of rock carvings, inscriptions, cup-shaped cavities and other traces of people on the mountains of the area.
Study of the rock carvings has been systematically done since 1947. The surfaces of about 1,000 rocks have revealed contour and silhouette drawings of people, animals, signs and inscriptions dating from the Upper Paleolithic to the subsequent periods. The territory is fantastic ruins of rocks forming about 20 of small and large caves that people obviously used as shelters in bad weather. There are drawings of people, animals and signs found on the walls of these shelters and outside.
The Gobustan rock carvings cover a wide range of issues, all of them are unique and represent great artistic value. The drawings show male and female figures, wild bulls, deer, lions, horses, dogs and wolves. In some parts, researchers discovered many rock drawings on those parts of the rocks that were already deep under the ground; among the discoveries there were also working instruments, animal bones, decorations, domestic items and so on.
The Gobustan reserve has over 100,000 of archeological items. All of them and the Gobustan rock carvings form a unique complex of ancient history related to the earliest historic periods. They really help study the earlier periods in the history of the Azeri people.
There are paintings or etchings (petroglyphs) of what appear to be long boats in the style of the Viking ships of more recent times. Thor Heyerdahl was convinced that people from the area went to Scandinavia in about 100 AD and took their boat building skills with them, and transmuted them into the viking boats we know from digs in Northern Europe
In the ancient caves of Gobustan which date back at least 5,000 years, cave drawings depict two different kinds of boats that were used for early navigation. Heyerdahl is convinced that people living in the area now known as Azerbaijan settled in Scandinavia around 100 AD. Gobustan is located about 30 miles southwest of Baku.
In addition to the rock carvings, traces of Mesolithic period occupation are to be seen, with numerous burial mounds and graves, the most interesting at Firuz, where eleven skeletons were found. Don't miss the Gaval-Dashy, a resonant stone that rings like a gong when struck.
The local museum adjacent to the site houses the ornaments, flints, shells, ceramics, beads and primitive tools that were found inside the caves - often objects of non Caspian origin, evidence of links with Europe and the Indian sub-continent. At the museum you can also recruit the services of a guide.
Based on the archeological finds and on content of the petroglyphs, recently it has be theorized that a connection exists between the ancient Azeris and the peoples of Scandinavia, which is not surprising at all, since some of the original habitants of the region, the Medes, were not a Turkic people, but an Indo-European people.
Another notable find is a stone with an inscription left behind by one of Alexander the Great's cohorts.
One of the rocks bears a Latin inscription dating back to the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96 A. D.), which denotes the sojourn of the 12th Roman Legion led by Fulminate on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The roots of present day Azerbaijan trace back to the 4th century BC, with the emergence of the two kingdoms of Caucasian Albania in the north, and the Atropatena in the south. The latter takes its name from its founder, Atropat, a satrap of Alexander the Great. In fact, many historians believe the word "Azerbaijan" itself derives from Atropatan, whereas others think that it means "The country of fire".
Of the rocks mentioned above, 120 are represented in this book by 135 expositions comprising a total of more than 1,500 separate pictures. Each of these pictures has been described and tentatively dated. The expositions represent unique and valuable complexes of drawings distinguished for the variety of themes and content and are of great scientific, historical, and artistic importance.
The carefully selected expositions enable the reader to get acquainted with all types of drawings, their meaning, style of performance, design of human figures and animals, compositional solution, and carving technique. The contour lines (grooves) of the drawings are some 10 to 50 mm wide and I to 30 mm deep. Some of the drawings are bounded by scarcely visible contour lines, which have been smoothed off in the course of time. The silhouette drawings are about 2 to 10 mm deep. Certain silhouette pictures of men, some 20-30 mm deep, look like a kind of relief depressions in the rock.
Besides being famous for the petroglyphs the Gobustan are also has some amazing landscape, particularly an area filled with mud volcanoes, which provide a quasi-lunar horizon. You can find the most spectacular mud volcanoes about 7km south of Gobustan near the road to Alat.
If you are travelling alone from Baku you can reach Gobustan on the bus to Alat. The main petroglyphs site is about 5km west of Gobustan itself, after the jail. Plan your journey carefuly as currently there is no hotel in Gobustan!