The territory of Azerbaijan is rich in archeological monuments that prove it to be one of the most ancient settled areas in the region. With continuous human habitation, Azerbaijan has a wealth of monuments from every evolutionary period. The history of human life on Azerbaijani territory goes back about two million years. Azikh, Taghlar (Khojavand district, Garabagh), Damjili, Dashsalahli (Gazakh district), Gazma (Nakhchivan) are in the list of the world’s most ancient archeological monuments. The Azikh cave (azikh in ancient Turkish means “bear”) is the biggest cave in Azerbaijan. The cave, 230 metres long, has six interconnecting chambers. In 1968, Azerbaijani paleontologist, Mammadali Huseinov, (1922-1994) discovered a lower jawbone of Early Man from Azikh cave, which turned out to be one of the Neanderthal type. It has been since analyzed independently in the West and confirmed to be between 350.000-400.000 years old. It was named after the place where it was found “Azikhantrop” (Azikh Man).
According to a French paleontologist, Lumlee, the Azikh jawbone is the fourth oldest human relic ever to be found in history. The first was discovered by Richard Leakey in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The second, in Kenya; and the third, in France.
In the cave where the jawbone was found – Azikh Cave – tools chipped and carved out of stone were found dating back to the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods which would make them between 1-1.5 million years old.
First Fire places in the history of mankind
One of the most important findings in the Azikh Cave dealt with the history of making fire. Five fire places were discovered in different strategic levels. One was surrounded by a crescent-like stone wall foundation 30 metres thick. This wall was built to protect the living area from sparks. It is the first-known construction in the history of humankind and first known fire place. It most probably dates to the period 700.000-500.000 years ago. Of particular interest is the fact that the hearth exists during different periods of the same site, important evidence for the continuity of traditions. This find demonstrates that Azerbaijan is a place where the human life emerged. Because of this find, the territory of Azerbaijan has been included in the map of “Europe’s ancient inhabitants”.
Why is it impossible to see the Azikh Cave today?
Azikh Cave is located in southwestern Azerbaijan close to the Iranian border near the town Fuzuli, in the Kuruchay Valley on the southeastern slope of the Little Caucasus mountains. It is in a region which was captured in 1993 by Armenians and which is being held militarily. Currently, 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory in the western part of the country has been captured by Armenian forces.
The period of the discovery of the bow and arrow is rich and archeological heritage. As a result of excavations in Gemigaya, Nakhchivan and Gobustan, pictures of fauna and flora as well as daily life have been discovered, contributing a fine collection of drawings to world culture.
Archeological finds in Kultepe, Nakhchivan, in the valley of Ganjachay, the plains of Mil and Mughan, the regions of Gazakh and Aghdam proved that there were rich agricultural and cattle-breeding traditions in 6.000-4.000 BC on the territory of Azerbaijan.
In the early Bronze Age the Kura-Araz culture, situated between the two rivers, spread over the borders of the territory of Azerbaijan. Black ceramics, unique in the regions, are characteristics of this culture. The weapons of the period, bronze axes and the most ancient samples of classics Caucasian weapons, are fascinating.
The cultures of Khojaly-Gedebey, Talish-Mughan and Nakhchivan emerged in the late Bronze and early Iron Ages in Azerbaijan. They can be seen in items dug from graves and Kurgan treasures. Many vessels and luxurious garments, as well as decorative items made out of bronze, copper and agate, have been discovered in the Kurgans. The civilizations that emerged during the Iron Age, 1.000 BC, in Azerbaijan lasted until the period of Caucasian Albania in Azerbaijan. The gold and silver items found in the graves of this period are especially fine.
The abundance, variety and quality of archeological finds in Azerbaijan prove once more that it has played a particular role in the evolution of world civilization.