Contours of petroglyphs on the upper terrace of Beyukdash Mountain in Gobustan (Picture 1). Petroglyph of aurochs or wild ox, which is considered extinct today. On the left it is possible to see some figures of headless women. These images are one of the most ancient ones in Gobustan, and can be dated back to the Upper Paleolith. The image of deer dates back to later period.
Petroglyphs on the upper terrace of Beyukdash Mountain (Picture 2). Petroglyphs on the upper terrace of Beyukdash Mountain. Upper Paleolith is the period of flourishment of artistic creativity in the history of mankind and formation of petroglyphic accumulations in many parts of the world. Some of the petroglyphs of Gobustan can be dated back to this period. Images of aurochs are one of the most ancient ones in Gobustan. The age of these images is 15000 years old.
Contours of the petroglyph on Kichikdash mountain in Gobustan (Picture 3). This is the image of a dolphin. The image of dolphin on Kichikdash Mountain. This petroglyph is with the characteristic "nose" of natural size. Today dolphins don't exist in the Caspian Sea. It is supposed that these animals existed in the Kvalyn Sea (today the Caspian Sea) and disappeared at the beginning of the last Ice age. This petroglyph is one of the most ancient ones in Gobustan and dates back to the period of the Upper Paleolith.
These are petroglyphs of two pregnant women on Beyukdash mountain depicted in profile (Picture 4). These figures have no heads, but their swollen bellies strike right into the eye. Petroglyphs can be dated back to the Upper Paleolith. Not only contours of these images, but also their full images executed with reversed bas-relief technique, were found on Beyukdash Mountain (Picture 5). Images of women engraved with knockout technique in Yeddi Gezal cave (“Seven beauties”) on the lower terrace of Beyukdash Mountain in Gobustan. There are belts on their waists, necklaces on their necks, executed with moulding technique. Mysterious objects or amulets hang down from their shoulders; these objects were probably used in religious rites and ceremonies. These petroglyphs were created in a timeframe between Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. Images of women are the most ancient petroglyphs among human images in Gobustan. These are very abstract images. Women are usually represented in profile, without heads and feet. Probably, these petroglyphs bore a symbolic character, peculiar to religious beliefs and rites. Probably, they personified a foremother, abundance or fertility.
Contours of several images of hunters on the upper terrace of Beyukdash Mountain in Gobustan (Picture 6). Probably, these images of hunters appeared in Mesolithic period.
Hunters armed with bows and arrows. (Picture 7). The first hunting weapon appeared at Mesolithic epoch. In petroglyphs of Paleolith images of men are rarely met, yet since Mesolithic epoch images of men start to prevail. The reason of this can be changes in the society, however, it is very difficult to guess the real sense of these petroglyphs and understand reasons of radical changes on their basis.
Contours of two boats on the fore part of which symbol of the sun is depicted(the lower terrace of the Beyukdash Mountain, Gobustan) (Picture 8). The technique of execution that was used by the artists for depicting boats is very similar to that of the petroglyphs of women, hunters and aurochs. Archeologists assume that the most ancient images of boats date back to Mezolithic epoch. In spite of the fact that this petroglyph can not be considered as the most ancient image of a boat, it is one of the most artistically and skillfully depicted images.
It is supposed that images of small boats are the most ancient ones in Gobustan. (Pictuyre 9). 2-6 persons could sail in one boat. Such images of boats can be met on the lower terraces of Beyukdash and Kichikdash mountains. Petroglyph of a long boat (Picture 10). In some of these boats of a crescent form more than 40 persons were schematically depicted. Images of boats in Gobustan are one of the most ancient petroglyphs, probably, they are the most ancient images of boats in the world. The meaning of petroglyphs of boats is still unclear – according to some, they display the other world and ancient ancestors, according to the others, these are real images of boats, which were used by the ancient inhabitants of the Caspian seashore. Anyway, these petroglyphs is the evidence of the fact that create an impression about the primitive people of that region possessed rich artistic imagination and technical capabilities.
Contours of a ritual dance (the upper terrace of Beyukdash Mountain in Gobustan). (Picture 11). This image is dated to the 6th milennium B.C. There are some petroglyphs in Gobustan where depict a group of human figures standing side by side as if a rite or dance was performed. This scene reminds of a modern dance Yally.
These are the most ancient images of dancing people in Gobustan, (Beyukdash Mountain, the upper terrace). (Picture 12). The dancers’ height corresponds to their natural size. Compositions consisting of several images of people are among the most amazing petroglyphs of Gobustan. In spite of the fact that it is impossible to precisely define their sense today, probably, these complicated images display some ritual dance. In any case, mysterious preparation for hunting, ritual ceremonies are widely spread at present tribes. For example, Australian aborigines before hunting, perform a ritual dance. Probably, Gobustan hunters also performed mysterious ritual dances to ensure successful hunting.
Contours of the petroglyphs of aurochs were found with the line around the neck reminding that of a rope. (Picture 13). The drawing can be interpreted as a proof that these animals were already domesticated at the Neolithic epoch. There are some petroglyphs of domesticated animals in Gobustan. This petroglyph is on the upper terrace of Beyukdash Mountain. Neolithic period is the period of cattle breeding and domestication of animals by a human-being. It is difficult to define exactly the process of domestication of animals, but aurochs which are the ancestors of huge herds of domesticated animals, were probably one of the first animal species used in agriculture by primitive people.
In many cultures of the world goat is considered to be an ancient symbol of the sun. It also is a symbol of abundance and was often used in magical ceremonies. "Kos-kosa" game, which is still played today, is one of such ceremonies. The image of a goat acting in theatrical performancs under the name "Kosa" is a positive character in the Azerbaijani folklore, that brings life, light and kindness to people. Petroglyphs with images of two goats are met on Yazyly hill In Gobustan (Picture 14)
Contours of bezoar goat. Remains of bezoar goats were found in the settlements of Gobustan, Apsheron, Gemigaya and Kelbajar in Azerbaijan and date back to Neolithic epoch and Bronze Age.
Petroglyph of a goat on the Jingirdag Mountain (Picture 15).
Although people hunted on bezoar goats, they were to a certain degree, also worshipped by them. In spite of the fact that at that period a considerable part of animals was already domesticated, hunting was still very important occupation for the inhabitants of Gobustan and other territories.
Petroglyph of goat on Jingirdag Mountain in Gobustan. Rock carwings of bezoar goats (Capra aegagrus) are one of the most widespread images in Gobustan. Since ancient times a goat has had cosmological meaning in Azerbaijan. At the Bronze Age the image of a goat was at the same time a symbol of the sun. Later the image of goat turned into a symbol of goodness and abundance.
It is supposed that these signs called tamgas, date back to the Middle Ages. But after similar tamgas were found on the monuments of Mesolithic epoch in Mongolia, it is possible to assume that some tamgas in Gobustan can also be dated to a more ancient period. The history of the most ancient signs-tamgas, found in Gobustan, originate in the Bronze Age (Picture 16). According to archeologists, these images symbolized property, and to some extent, could have played the role of signatures.
On the gravestones found in Gobustan, it is possible to meet tamgas, carved with metal tools. A sign of "seal" or tamga is characteristic of rock art of Azerbaijan. Apparently, these signs were considered to be totemic symbols of clans and tribes. Probably, the idea of tamga appeared at the end of Paleolithic epoch. Stone plates and similar images of tamgas on the rocks are main types of signs that date back to Mezolithic epoch in Mongolia. Archeologists found similar symbols among ancient Chinese pictograms and graphic depictions.
The hunting scene on Yazyly hill (Picture 17). Still at the early period of the development of petroglyphic culture, hunting was one of the most widespread themes of rock drawings. Probably, these images had a definite role in ancient hunting beliefs and rites. On this petroglyph horsemen are hunting on a red deer. One of the hunters had already thrown the three-headed bludgeon on the animal, and the second one aimed his spear at the deer. The drawing of the artist is very vivid and dramatic.
Contours of a petroglyph that depicts a cart (Gobustan, Jingirdag Mountain). (Pictures 18). It dates back to the end of the II milennium B.C. Researchers interpret petroglyphs with images of vehicles in a different way. Some associate them with rites – for example, the rite of driving a cart in the battle or in soil processing. Others consider them to be calendars for farmers.
Images of vehicles in mountainous and hard-to-reach spots of Azerbaijan is explained by the fact that at the Bronze Age "cart" was one of the most important vehicles, respectively, ancient inhabitants of Azerbaijan depicted vehicles, which were used in flat territories. The Iron Age was the period of technological innovations. petroglyphs have also changed in style and technique.
They became more sketch-like. Today it is hard to say, in what degree these images were used for religious and magic purposes. Anyway, they are useful as an important historical source and help us to imagine Azerbaijan as it was in ancient times.
Contours of a petroglyph which depicts camel caravan (the lower terrace of Beyukdash Mountain in Gobustan) (Picture 19). Camels are rarely met in petroglyphs. These images date back to the end of the Middle Ages. Some researchers assume that camel-breeding came to Azerbaijan from Central Asia and its development is dated back to the end of the II and the beginning of the I millennium B.C. The skeletons and bones of camels revealed in Mingechevir and Fizuli regions, also prove this hypothesis.
The image of mehrab or a sign of Islamic arch, indicating the direction of Mecca, is on the lower terrace of Beyukdash Mountain (Picture 20). Gobustan is a unique place where it is possible to meet petroglyphs that were created during a long period of time, since 15 000 years – the end of Early Paleolith - up to the second half of the XX-th century. During this period people have endured sharp changes for several times in the environment, cultural sphere, technological, political system, and geography. Despite all these changes, there have always been the people believed that Gobustan is a special and magical site.