Gobustan Rock Art, AZERBAIJAN
- Keywords: Azerbaijan Cultural Landscape, Gobustan, Rock Art, Archaeological remains, paintings, engravings, petroglyphs, Boyukdash, Kichikdash, Jingirdag.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is defined as a Cultural Landscape by UNESCO, with date of Inscription: 2007, criteria: (iii), and ref: 1076rev. Gobustan was declared as Gobustan State Historical-Artistic Preserve (or National State Nature Reserve/ National historical) by the Ministers of Azerbaijan SSR in 1996, and in 2007 was announced as National Reserve.
- Tentative List of UNESCO
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape1
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape covers three areas of a plateau of rocky boulders rising out of the semi-desert of central Azerbaijan, with an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings bearing testimony to 40,000 years of rock art. The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The site, which covers an area of 537 ha, is part of the larger protected Gobustan Reservation. In 2007 Gobustan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, (more specifically, A Cultural Landscape) considered to be of “outstanding universal value” for the quality and density of its rock art engravings, for the substantial evidence the collection of rock art images presents for hunting, fauna, flora and lifestyles in pre-historic times and for the cultural continuity between prehistoric and medieval times that the site reflects, in the context of a natural environment. Med-O-Med subscribe to this designation, considering that there are enough cultural and natural components in the site to compose a mixed landscape: -Its Natural Heritage Components: Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is a hill and mountain site occupying the southeast end of the Big Caucasian Ridge in Azerbaijan, mainly in the basin of Jeyrankechmaz River, between the rivers Pirsagat and Sumgait. The territory of Gobustan is cut up with numerous, sometimes rather deep ravines and caves. In 1966 Gobustan was declared a National historical landmark in Azerbaijan in an attempt to preserve the ancient carvings, relics, mud volcanoes and gas-stones in the region. It’s estimated that 300 of the planet’s estimated 700 mud volcanoes sit Gobustan, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. The mountains Boyukdash, Kichikdash, Jingirdag, and the Yazili hill were taken under legal government protection. These mountains are located near the Caspian Sea, in the southeast part of Gobustan. All the area is the unequalled natural home of all the ancient art remains. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape consists in more than 6000 petroglyphs, shelters, ancient settlements, burial sites and sacred sites. Gobustan has outstanding universal value for the quality and density of its rock art engravings. The show how humans lived in this area by developing cultural and physiological behaviour adapted to the harsh climate, their vestiges date back to several hundreds of thousands of years. Most ancient petroglyphs are concentrated on the upper terraces of Beyukdash and Kichikdash mountains. Monuments of Neolithic and Eneolithic are located on the lower terraces. Bronze, Iron and Middle Ages monuments are mainly concentrated at the foot of the mountain. For all these reasons, Med-O-Med, using the UNESCO categories of Cultural Landscapes, classifies Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape as a Relict Landscape, and also as an Associative landscape, because the territory is strongly connected to human being history since Neolithic.
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape .
- Current denomination Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape .
- Original denomination Gobustan (Azerbaijani: Qobustan Milli Parkı).
- Popular denomination Gobustan.
- Address: Garadagh District and Apsheron District, Baku City Administrative Territory.
- Geographical coordinates: N40 7 30 E49 22 30
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is a mountain site occupying the southeast end of the Big Caucasian Ridge in Azerbaijan, mainly in the basin of Jeyrankechmaz River, between the rivers Pirsagat and Sumgait. It is located west of the settlement of Gobustan, about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of the centre of Baku on the west bank of the Caspian Sea. The property defined by UNESCO occupies 537 ha.
- Access and transport facilities: From Baku, easy connection.
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Azerbaijan Govenment.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Azerbaijan Govenment.
- Legal protection: With the aim of the protection of rock images, found on the territory of Gobustan, and having the historical-artistic and cultural importance, the territory of Beyukdash, Kichikdash and Jingirdag mountains was declared as Gobustan State Historical-Artistic Preserve by the decree of the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan SSR in 1966 and in June 11, 2007 was announced as National Reserve by the decree of the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.
- Public or private organizations working in the site: Beginning from 2003 Gobustan reserve has participated in international projects, particularly in CARAD (Central Asia Rock Art Database) project with support of UNESCO and the Directorate of the Cultural Heritage of Norway. The digital database of Gobustan preserve was created in MapInfo program, in which rock images were registered, description and physical state of petroglyphs were presented. The given map also let us reconstruct archaeological landscape of Gobustan since the end of Upper Paleolith up to Middle Ages.
Initial discoveries were made in 1939-40 and systematic explorations were conducted by I. M. Djafarsade from 1947 onwards. He recorded and analysed more than 3,500 images on 750 rocks. This early inventory was expanded by R. Djafarguly who made further discoveries and carried out excavations. Since 1965, excavations have been carried out in more than 20 prehistoric sites and numerous Bronze Age structures have been discovered. Excavations carried out by D. Rustamov of one cave uncovered a 2 m stratigraphy covering 10,000 years. This material included a fallen engraved fragment that gave a terminus ante quem for this anthropomorphic figure although no further details are given.
- Oldest initial date /building and inauguration date: 1939-40.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Archaeological
- Geography: High Mountain
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: The climate of Gobustan is a dry semi subtropical one, with rather mild winters and very hot dry summers. An atmospheric precipitation is small and so are the springs of Big Caucasus area.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: Gobustan occupies the south-eastern spur of the Great Caucasian Range and lies west of the Apsheron Peninsula in the basin of the Jeirankechmez between the mid-channel and lower reaches of two other river: the Pirsagat and the Sumgait. It is a monticulate semi-desert area dissected by numerous gullies and ravines. The soil is clayey and partly salinized. The first rock drawings in Azerbaijan were discovered in 1939-1940 in the southeastern part of Gobustan (Mts. Beyukdash, Kichikdash, and Jingirdag, and Yazily Hill) some 50 - 60 kilometres southwest from Baku in the vicinity of Sangachaly and Duvanny railway stations situated not for from the Caspian Sea. The mountains there are separate elevations straggling among mud volcanoes, which are called "pil-pile" by the local people. These volcanoes periodically erupted in ancient times throwing out millions of tons of mud and billions of cubic metres of combustible gases, which blazed up from every spark caused by a collision of flying stones. The sudden appearance of gigantic columns of flame, the deafening rumble, the clouds of smoke shading the daylight inspired the aborigines with awe and fear. These natural phenomena, which could not be explained in the remote past, favoured the emergence of many places of worship in this area. During the Middle Ages some of them were changed to the Moslem religion. The upper plateau of Mts. Beyukdash and Kichikdash is covered by a bed of shell limestone 10 - 15 metres thick, which is characteristic of the Apsheron rocks. The upper plateau of Mt. Jingirdag is also covered by shell limestone but only 1-2 metres thick. In the course of ages these limestone beds fractured and split into fragments under the action of natural forces, atmospheric precipitation, wind, etc., and covered the slopes (predominantly eastern ones) and feet of the mountains dotting them with numerous large and small blocks and piles of limestone. During the same period of time big scarps about 10-15 metres deep occurred round the tops of Mts. Beyukdash and Kichikdash. Later the tops of these mountains were used by local inhabitants as natural traps when hunting. Piles of stones looking like huge labyrinths appeared in some areas among the "sea of rocks" giving the stranger a sensation of mysterious fear. On the clumpy rocks one can see whimsical aeolian relief forms, hollow mushroom-like jointings, some of them with through openings, many of them even with smooth surfaces and lace and honey-comb patterns. They can all be rightfully regarded as classical specimens of geological and natural phenomena of this type. It was here, in the area of this fantastic destruction of mountains, in the 'sea of rocks', sometimes under the heaps of stones (e. g. in the vicinity of Mt. Beyukdash) that some 20 under rock caves and rock shelters were formed, which could protect people from bad weather. Since time immemorial and up to the beginning of the 20th Century the local population used to cover the stone blocks near the caves and the walls of the caves with images of human beings and animals and various signs. They hollowed semispherical bowl-like depressions to collect rain-water and sacrificed blood, and chopped holes to tether domestic animals. Now some of these stones are covered with lichen, greenish-gray, sometimes with large reddish-ochre or silvery white patches, under which vague drawings are barely visible in the slanting rays of the sun. Apart from petroglyphs, there is also this musical gemstone known as Gaval Dash. It makes a tambourine-like sound when it is hit in different points. Among the stone books there are a big flat stone formed out of 3 supports. Suffice it to touch the object with a small stone, musical sounds come from it. The Gaval Dash have been formed due the combination of unique climate, oil and gas which can be found in the region of Azerbaijan. The Gaval Dash can only be found in Gobustan, Azerbaijan.
The vegetative world of Gobustan has a character that is common for deserts and semi-deserts. It consists of ephemeris grasses and bushes, wormwood and similar long-term plants. Among heaps of stones and rocks a wild rose, a dwarfish cherry, Hibernian honeysuckle, a juniper, wild pear, wild fig, wild pomegranate, grapes and some other kinds of trees and bushes are rather often met decorating the stern landscape. In the remote past, the flora and fauna of Gobustan were incomparably richer. Its landscape represented a kind of savannah with corresponding climate.
The fauna of Gobustan has strongly grown poor for the last decades of years. The natural inhabitants of Gobustan now are rare foxes, jackals, wolves, hares and wild cats, mountain chickens, wild pigeons, larks alongside with numerous snakes and lizards and some others. In the remote past, the fauna of Gobustan were incomparably richer. Here were large herds of wild bulls, goats, deer, wild horses, donkeys, wild boars, and gazelles hunted by lions, wolves, wild cats and leopards.
Land uses and economical activities:Tourism.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
Gobustan is composed by hugh and beatiful mountains that make an unequalled landscape, home of thousands of paintings, engravings, petroglyphs and other ancient vestiges since Neolothic period. Also, Azerbaijan and its Caspian coastline are home to nearly 400 mud volcanoes, more than half the total throughout the world. In 2001, one mud volcano 15 kilometers from Baku made world headlines when it suddenly started ejecting flames 15 meters high. It’s estimated that 300 of the planet’s estimated 700 mud volcanoes sit Gobustan, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. Many geologists as well as locals and international mud tourists trek to such places as the Firuz Crater, Gobustan, Salyan and end up happily covered in mud which is thought to have medicinal qualities. Appart from petroglyphs, there is also this musical gemstone known as Gaval Dash that can only be found in Gobustan.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
There is Gara atly sanctuary on Kichikdash Mountain. The sanctuary is placed on the rock. On the lower terrace of Beyukdash Mountain, there is a stone with the deepening that was regarded as an imprint of Imam Ali’s foot. There are others sanctuaries, and many of them (Sofu Novruz baba, Sofi Hamid, Hury Gizlar and Gara atly) are visited even today.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
The archeological value of Gobustan was discovered when a group of men went in to mine for gravel in 1930. While the zone is abundant in boulders and stone formations, one mine employee noticed the sacred carvings on the rocks. They also discovered man-made caves wherein more of the drawings can be found. Gobustan is very rich in archaeological monuments. The reserve has more than 6,000 rock engravings dating back between 5,000 – 40,000 years. The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The site, which covers an area of 537 ha, is part of the larger protected Gobustan Reservation. Most of the rock engravings depict primitive men, animals, battle-pieces, ritual dances, bullfights, boats with armed oarsmen, warriors with lances in their hands, camel caravans, pictures of sun and stars. The images are distribute as follows: -In Beyukdash Mountain, “Kaniza” shelter: there are images of ox heads, early hunters and aurochs. It should be noted that here there were found separate stones with petroglyphs as well as a great number of bone artifacts. -In Beyukdash Mountain, “Ana-zaga” cave-shelter: images of aurochs, women and early hunters predominate here. -In Beyukdash Mountain, “Okuzler” site: mating themes chiefly predominate, aurochs, man and woman holding each other by hands, goats. -In Kichikdash Mountain, “Gaya arasi” site: the image of big fish, 423 sm. long, on stone No 5 on Kichikdash Mountain. Judging from approximate data, this is an image of dolphin, which is now an extinct animal in this region. Existence of dolphins in the Caspian Sea is dated to the Upper Quaternary period. -In Kichikdash Mountain, “Jeyranlar”site: various themes represented on the walls as gazelles, aurochs and women. -In Kichikdash Mountain, “Firuz- 2”site: very interesting is stone No. 19, which is at the same time the eastern wall of the shelter. On the western side of the stone images of women, early hunters, boats (3 of them with the symbol of the sun on the nose), animals (aurochs, wild boars, onagers, gazelles, be- zoar goats) and a trap were fixed. Images of women are dated to the epoch of early Mesolithic. Also here bones of extinct animals were found in the cultural layers: onager Equus hemionus Pall., mediterranean tortoise Testudo graeka L., gazelle Gazella Subgutturoza Guld., boar Sus scrofa L.
- Traces in the environment of human activity: Ancient remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: Ancient way of life, beliefs and rites are expressed inteh vestiges and engravins or painting found in the area.
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:The legal protective measures for the property are adequate. There is a need to complete the documentation, put in place active conservation measures and improve the technical competence of staff to carry out necessary urgent conservation work.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:SIlence and solitude are total in this site when night comes.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:
-The mountains Boyukdash, Kichikdash, Jingirdag, and the Yazili hill. -The mud volcanoes. -All the sites with rock engravings, paintings and petroglyphs, described on this file.
Authenticity:The richness of the cultural heritage of rock art and archaeological vestiges, together with the natural diversity of the ecosystem, fauna, flora and wetlands, fully reflect Outstanding Universal Value. It is vulnerable to deterioration caused by climatic phenomena, and to damage caused by visitors.
Universality:Gobustan has outstanding universal value for the quality and density of its rock art engravings, for the substantial evidence the collection of rock art images presents for hunting, fauna, flora and lifestyles in pre-historic times and for the cultural continuity between prehistoric and mediaeval times that the site reflects. In addition to criteria iii, described by UNESCO, Med-O-Med considers to include others (i, vii, viii) : i) The impressive array of paintings and rock engravings of various periods gives world recognition to the property. The representations of ancient religious practices and social life are a masterpiece of human creative genius. iii) The rock engravings are an exceptional testimony to a way of life that has disappeared in the way they represent so graphically activities connected with hunting and fishing at a time when the climate and vegetation of the area were warmer and wetter than today. vii) With the eroded stones, the mountains, and the mud volcanoes, the property is of remarkable scenic interest. viii) The geological conformation of Gobustan and all the fossils found in the area including animal's bonesm are of great paleo-geographical and paleo-ecological interest.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:-Historical: There are images from the Middle Ages and later period (I-XVIII c.c.), as hunters armed with spears, riders, tribe signs, Roman inscription, inscriptions and images with religious Islamic themes, Arabian and Persian inscriptions. -Religious: The sanctuaries of Gobustan, as Sofu Novruz baba, Sofi Hamid, Hury Gizlar or Gara atly sanctuary, on Kichikdash Mountain. On the lower terrace of Beyukdash Mountain, there is a stone with the deepening that was regarded as an imprint of Imam Ali’s foot. The practice of engraving rock carvings on the rocks of Gobustan mountains was connected with the conception of not only mountain cult, but also stone cult.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
*** Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Azerbaijan which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1076 http://www.eco.gov.az/en/milliparklar.php http://www.eco.gov.az/en/b-xm-tb.php http://www.protectedplanet.net/ http://donsmaps.com/gobustan.html http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/62_folder/62_articles/62_gobustan.html http://gobustan.si.edu/subject_matter http://azerbaijan24.com/tours/tour/14.html http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/gobustan.html -Abbaszade, N. (1998). The Ancient Petroglyphs of Gobustan. -Farajova, M. (2011). Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape. -Farajova M. (2004). The Images of boats in Rock Art of Azerbaijan. In Rock Art Research: Changing Paradigms.RASI Congress.Simposium I., Agra, p.2-56,18. -Farajova M. (2009). Rock Art of Azerbaijan. -Leroi-Gouran, A. (1965). Préhistoire de l’art occidental. Paris. -Leroi-Gouran, A. (1967). Treasures of Prehistoric Art. -Otte, M. (2006). The Aurignacian of the Caucasus. In Towards a definition of the Aurignacian/ Proceedings of the symposium held in Lisbon,. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy.
Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.