The Azerbaijan State News Agency

CULTURE

Awesome Absheron: Gobustan, Gala and Yanardag

Baku, July 3, AZERTAC

Azerbaijan is a country with an ancient history and rich culture, and its lands keep imprints of human development at all stages. Time has preserved for us many archaeological and architectural monuments of the past. And the Absheron Peninsula in this regard is of particular value. Proof of this are the unique stone age stone petroglyphs in Gobustan, exhibits of 3,000 years old in the historical and ethnographic complex “Gala”, as well as the phenomenal burning mountain Yanardag, like the embodiment of the second name of Azerbaijan - the Land of Fire.

Gobustan - a trip to the Stone Age

The State Historical-Artistic Reserve Gobustan, located 60 km south of Baku, is a unique monument of world significance, in 2007 included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

On the territory of the reserve with a total area of 537 hectares, one of the world's largest collections of ancient rock paintings is concentrated - there are more than 6000 petroglyphs here. In The State Historical-Artistic Reserve Gobustan, one can also see the sites of the first people, remnants of a large prehistoric cromlech and other testimonies about the inhabitants of the region of the Stone Age and subsequent periods.

The Gobustan petroglyphs were investigated by the famous Norwegian explorer and traveler Thor Heyerdahl, who recognized the rock carvings of the boats here, the oldest of the ship images known in the world. These ships, similar to the ancient Scandinavian ships, prompted him to put forward a sensational hypothesis about the relationship between the Norwegians and Azerbaijanis. Thor Heyerdahl came to the conclusion that the ancestors of the Scandinavians are immigrants from the territory of Azerbaijan.

The subject of interest of tourists is also a stone slab with a Latin inscription dating from the 1st century, left by the XII Roman legion of Emperor Domitian, which testifies to the presence of this legion here.

As a rule, the tour to Gobustan begins with a visit to the magnificent interactive museum, located here, after which guests can stroll through the territory of the reserve.

The museum's collection contains over 100 thousand archaeological materials. Many unique artifacts, tools relating to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic, animated representations, video materials allow tourists to see the extent of natural changes in Gobustan, the geography of human settlements, to get acquainted with the culture and ideas of ancient people.

The "Gala" reserve - from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages

Scientists have found evidence that the first settlements on the site of the Absheron settlement Gala were formed at least 5 thousand years ago. Here, 40 km from Baku, more than 200 various archaeological and architectural monuments were discovered - mysterious burial mounds, centers of ancient settlements, millennial burials. Archaeological excavations in this area have been carried out since the 60s of the last century, and in 2008, the Historical and Ethnographic Museum Complex was founded at the site of excavations on the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Many monuments and exhibits were transferred to the “Gala” complex from different parts of the Absheron Peninsula, restored or exactly reconstructed. Together they help to imagine the life of people in this territory at different periods of history.

Today, the museum, with an area of 1.5 hectares, presents rock paintings, pottery, household items and jewelry, weapons and coins, preserved ruins of an ancient settlement, dating back to the period from the 3rd-2nd millennium BC to the Middle Ages. Interest is caused by two underground passages relating to the X-XV centuries, going in the direction of the Caspian Sea and the city of Baku, and the tandoor of the XVIII century. Here you can see old dwellings - portable tents made from animal skins and, later to replace them, stone and clay-thatched houses with domes, an old forge, a market, pottery workshops, a bakery, a thresher and other interesting buildings. All this can be touched and photographed. You can even try to bake your own bread in a traditional oven, weave carpet, smear with clay in a pottery workshop, or feed camels, horses and donkeys, peacefully resting in stalls. For this interactive tours are provided.

Here, on the territory of the Gala museum, there are several exhibitions where ancient household objects, dishes, ceramics, as well as gold coins, remnants of gold bracelets from the 10th-16th centuries, and other interesting exhibits are displayed to the tourist.

There are three museums on the territory of the Gala Museum Complex: the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum (under the open sky), the Museum of the Fortress ("Ghasr" - partly under the open sky) and the Museum of Antique Objects.

Interestingly, for the movement in the vast territory of the reserve you can rent electric cars. Excursions in the museum complex are conducted in several languages - Azerbaijani, Russian, English, German and French.

Yanardag - Flaming Mountain

Azerbaijan, replete with underground sources of oil and gas, since ancient times has been called the Land of Fire. In some places, natural gas seeps to the surface, forming islands of fire that are not extinguished.

One of the most famous and popular tourist places of the "eternal flame" in Azerbaijan is Mount Yanardag (literally "burning mountain"). It is located 25 km north of Baku in the village of Mehemmedi. The slope of this hill from ancient times engulfed in flames. The fire is about a meter high and ten meters wide rises from the crest of a limestone hill.

Today there are few such natural sources of gas burning in the world and most of them are in Azerbaijan. The natural eternal flame of Yanardag is caused by the leakage of combustible natural gas from a large field near the Absheron Peninsula. Obviously, this fire ignited in antiquity. What also reported the Italian merchant and traveler Marco Polo.

Yanardag is still in the center of attention of both locals and travelers. Today, many tourists from all over the world - from Russia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Norway, come to see the burning mountain. Often, people sit on benches around the mountain in the evenings to look at the burning hill, because in the dark this sight looks the most impressive.

But the flames spewed by this mountain is not the only thing that is interesting about Yanardag. At the very top of the mountain there is a cave, which is called the “Wolf Gate”. Locals say that a pack of wolves really once lived in this cave. And the rock paintings on the walls of the cave indicate that one of the ancient sites of primitive people could be here.

Since 2007, Yanardag has been taken under state protection, and its territory has been declared a State Historical, Cultural and Natural Reserve. Today, shuttle buses run from the city to Yanardag, which quickly and inexpensively takes visitors to the reserve.

Emil Eyyubov

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