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- 1 Gala, the State Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex
- 2 Foundations for the Medieval Dwelling Houses
- 3 Petroglyphs
- 4 Archaeological Gallery
- 5 Dolmen
- 6 Two-story House
- 7 Tent
- 8 Ancient Settlement in Zirya
- 9 Ethnographic Scene
- 10 Marketplaces in Dwelling Quarters
- 11 Tumulus in Tyurkan
- 12 Stone Chest Tombs
- 13 Khaki-khana
- 14 Smith
- 15 Tumulus in Dubendi
- 16 Grain Threshing Floor
- 17 Menhir
- 18 House
- 19 Potter
- 20 References
Gala, the State Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex
The State Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex Gala was founded according to the initiative and with the assistance of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. There have been collected and reconstructed constructions, dwelling places of the Absheron ancient inhabitants as well as reproduced scenes of their lives and occupations. There is also the rich collection of archaeological artifacts, petroglyphs and handicraft products. Located in the historical part of Gala Village, this open-air museum complex occupies the 1,5-hectare territory where are unique monuments of scientific, historic and artistic significance. Altogether there are 216 monuments in the territory of Gala Village. Among them are 5 mosques, 3 baths, 4 ovdans (water reservoirs), dwelling houses, agricultural premises, burials, tombs, tumuli, fortress ruins, etc.
Foundations for the Medieval Dwelling Houses
The foundations, which are to be found in the territory of the museum complex, prove the high level of the town-planning culture of medieval Gala. In fact, they evidently demonstrate the centuries-old town-planning traditions existing in the village. From structural standpoint, these fundaments are rectilinear and rectangular constructions. In the rooms, there are niches-jumakhatun and niches-takhcha, in the living-room – a hearth (kursu), in the kitchen part – tandir (a clay oven for baking bread); there is also a bathroom (suakhan). Each room had its own exit to the yard.
The systematic scientific study of the Eastern Absheron’s monuments was started in the 1960s and resulted in the discovery of petroglyphs dating back to the Bronze and Iron Age. There is a diversity of topics and scenes of the Absheron rock depictions. They reflect the ideology and world-view of ancient people, describe scenes of hunting, human sacrifice, sacred marriage, etc. The central place of some petroglyphs is occupied by the female deity depicted in detail. By the way they were depicted paintings of dog, lion and other wild animals are similar to the painting traditions of the ancient art of the Near and Middle East. Among these petroglyphs are many geometric symbols and khoncha-shaped (diamond-shaped) signs.
One of the most attractive parts of the Museum Complex is the archaeological gallery. There are demonstrated examples of the household ceramics dating back to the 3rd-2nd millennia BC, antiquity and the Middle Ages. Among other exhibits are a stone idol, grain threshers, woman’s ornaments (a copper bracelet, copper earrings, glass and clay beads), coins of the Azerbaijan khanates, fragments of books.
The production of building stone as the most widespread material on the Absheron has the ancient traditions. To prove the fact, there are the ancient stone quarries located in different parts of the Absheron. One of the main features of the Absheron ancient constructions is an accurate masonry and stones fixed in the northern part of the constructions, sometimes using big boulders set edgewise in the earth. The latter is to be explained by the climatic conditions of the Absheron, namely, heavy winds mainly blowing from the north. Discovered at the primitive nomadic campsite of Agdashduzu not far from Shuvelan Village, the dolmen dating back to the 3rd millennium BC is one of those constructions. Walls and a roof of the dolmen consist of big stone slabs.
According to the climatic conditions of the Absheron as well as to the local traditions, the medieval dwelling houses in Gala Village were enclosed by high stone walls. In the late 19th – early 20th century, timber started to be imported from the Transcaucasus and Russia that was followed by using the wood constructions when building dwelling houses. This practice resulted in the formation of new architectural compositions – two-story dwelling houses. The first story of the so-called Merchant’s House is dated back to 1810, while the second one – to the end of the 19th century. There is a stone reservoir in the small yard. The first story was used for everyday needs of a family and rooms of the second floor – for guests and as a bedroom. In these rooms, there are a kursu (a hearth), a takhcha (niches) and a jumakhatun (niches divided into shelves like a built-in closet), a lyama (shelves). Located in a yard, the detached kitchen had a tandir (a clay oven for baking bread) and a hearth for cooking, a suakhan (a bathroom), etc.
The history of ancient settlements goes back to the distant past. Emerged at the beginning of the civilization, the first settlements of the primitive people differed from each other in their household activity. In Azerbaijan, the temporary dwellings of the nomadic tribes engaged in stockbreeding had different shapes. Ethnographic researches reveal that the Azerbaijan nomad-stockbreeders preferred a tent-shaped dwelling along with other temporary dwellings. The temporary dwellings were mostly placed in pastures and were easily assembled and disassembled. They had either an oblong or a round form; straw, reed, animal skins and any wood were used as a building material.
Ancient Settlement in Zirya
The architectural style of the Absheron ancient settlements features a round shape of buildings. One of those constructions is the ancient settlement of Zirya. The settlement reinforced on the north side by big stone slabs has a hearth in its centre. There are small detached constructions located outside, near the walls. The inner side of the walls is traditionally covered with topical petroglyphs depicting various scenes of religious rituals of the Absheron ancient inhabitants. Additionally, there are depictions of people, animals and different geometric symbols. The eastern side of one of the walls bears a depiction of a deer while in its upper part there is a depicted man with a staff in his hands. According to the ancient people’s interpretation, a deer with branched horns symbolized the sun and a figure of a man with a staff in the religious pantheon – one of the gods. The settlement dates back to the late 3rd – early 2nd millennia BC.
The territory of Azerbaijan has an abundance of copper deposits which were insufficiently discovered. Ancient and multiform art of copper work continue to be appreciated by several generations of the antique lovers. “The ethnographic scene” demonstrates all kinds of copper utensils, which, besides being practical and useful, have high-level artistic features. Here, one can see artifacts dating back more than 300 years. Among the most known Azerbaijan copper wares are items produced by craftsmen from Lagij, the world-known craft and trade center, which have achieved worldwide fame. In the late 19th – early 20th century, the works made by Azerbaijan craftsmen were highly valued in the regular Caucasian exhibitions. The copper wares of Azerbaijan coppersmithes were awarded the top prizes in the Vienne International Exhibition held in 1873. Nowadays, the examples of copper wares produced by Azerbaijan craftsmen are kept in museumsof Russia and Europe. Genre diversity, original skilful approach, adherence to the copper smithing traditions and national roots demonstrate the close connection between everyday life and our people’s traditions.
Marketplaces in Dwelling Quarters
People always needed to obtain food that was mainly provided by agriculture and stockbreeding. Later, the requirement for everyday foodstaffs was satisfied on bazaars located in all small quarters. In the territory of the Museum Complex, there was reconstructed a small covered market where a number of different balances are exhibited. On those small quarter bazaars, one could buy dairy and meat products, vegetables, fruits, etc.
Tumulus in Tyurkan
The tumulus located between Govsani and Tyurkan Villages was explored in 2005. Before being cleared, the mound was 15 m in diameter and no more than 1 m in height, and was surrounded by stones. Currently, it looks like a 9-m-diameter circle of stones. In the center, there is a chamber constructed of a number stone blocks. Discovered in the mound, an anthropomorphous stele dating back to the early Bronze Age (3rd-2nd millennia BC) is one of the most interesting finds. This unique archaeological monument has no analogues. On the stele, there are discerned a head turned to the south-west, a neck and a chest. The upper part of a body is decorated with perforations. A small oblong hollow was made in the belly area. The height of the stele is 245 cm, the width of its base is 80 cm. Among other artefacts found in the tumulus are human bone fragments and small-sized pale red crockery.
Stone Chest Tombs
Numerous burial types differ from each other either in a geographic location, building materials, a social status of the deceased or in his ethnic origin and religious beliefs. The abundant existence of limestone in Azerbaijan caused this stone to be widely used and produced. The gorgeous and exquisite ornaments of stone plastic art were revealed both in civil, sacred architecture and on tombstones. The medieval tombstones and shrines serve as an example for the aforesaid. Unlike other territory of Azerbaijan, the Absheron tombstones are notable for their original forms. They imitate a stone sarcophagus decorated with geometric and floral ornaments stylistically similar to the architectural décor of the Shirvan architectural school.
The Absheron ancient settlements date back to the period BC. It can be confirmed by the tumuli discovered during the archaeological excavations, the remains of hearths and burials. One of the dwelling types – Khaki-khana is such a monument dating back to 2000-1000 BC. Khaki-khana in Azerbaijani means “a clay room” (khak – clay, khana – a room). Visually, its shape resembles a tent. The inner part is located below ground level while the other one slightly towering above the ground consists of a mix of clay and straw.
The blacksmith's work was one of the most popular crafts in many regions of Azerbaijan, including Baku. According to the intended purpose of the products, the blacksmith’s production was subdivided into three parts: - agricultural tools; - household utensils; - tools for using in other crafts. There were specialized craftsmen involved in each of these three sectors. As a rule, 3-4 men worked in the blacksmith’s shop: a master, journeyman or journeymen-in-training. Their products were sold in the town and country markets. Among the blacksmith’s shops, those specialized in making horse-shoes were widely spread. Mainly located along roadsides, they were engaged in horseshoeing and minor repairs. Horseshoes were divided in three types: a local horseshoe – Lagij nali, a Russian horseshoe – Gazakh nail and Garabagh nali.
Tumulus in Dubendi
This is a stone construction 8.60–8 m in diameter. The outer enclosure was composed of one or two horizontally placed stone slabs. In the south-western part of the cromlech (a prehistoric structure usually consisting of several upright processed and unprocessed oblong stones forming one or more concentric circles), there is an outwardly placed anthropomorphous idol for worshiping and sacrifice which is attached to the walls of the cromlech. The ‘box’ altar was composed of stone slabs of different sizes, some of which have lost their initial position. One of the ‘box’ altar’s sides is formed of the aforesaid stone idol. According to the prehistoric people’s religious ideas, the South and the West had different meanings. The South symbolized the Paradise-eternity and calmness, while the West meant the Hell-chaos and impossible catharsis of the soul. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the grave of the dead and the anthropomorphous stele of the God of Death were directed towards the south-west. Accompanying and departing the soul of the dead to the Paradise or the Hell depended on his activities while being alive. Located in the center, the burial chamber was composed of four solid plates. There were discovered bones of the dead, fragments of clay crockery and beads. The tumulus in Dubendi is not only a sepulchral monument but also a Bronze Age original architectural structure dating back to the 3rd millennium BC.
Grain Threshing Floor
Azerbaijan is one of the ancient agricultural countries. Agriculture was one of the main occupations of the local people, including inhabitants of Gala Village. By the popular etymology, the name of the village means “a bread place”. After mowing, wheat was delivered to a grain threshing floor and was ground using the wood threshers. Wheat was spread around on the surface of the circle, where rotating threshers were dragged by horses or donkeys. The grain was separated from the loosened chaff and rolled down into the hollow in the center. After being threshed, the grain was brought to a mill for grinding. For these purposes, there were used millstones driven by draught animals. Grain thrashers were also used for grinding.
Due to their original forms, some stones were considered by the prehistoric people to be idols and deities. From this standpoint, the menhir (a large upright standing stone) was believed to be sacred. The local people worshiped the menhir, said their prayers here, offered gifts and sacrifices.
The two-domed classical one-story dwelling houses date back to the 17th-18th century. The dwelling houses consisting of two or more rooms were built according to a social and economic status of the family. Most of the dwelling houses built in the territory of Gala were the two-domed constructions. The key reasons for building such type of dwellings were climatic conditions, lack of wood and abundance of limestone deposits. The one-story house consists of two rooms. On the flat surface of the roof, there are two dome-shaped chimneys and a stone drain. The roof surface was clayed. The utility room has a tandir and a hearth for cooking. There is a suakhan (a bathroom) in a corner of the kitchen part. In the living room, there are a takhcha and a jumakhatun (niches for different goods), as well as a lyama (shelves). In the center of the room, there is a kursu (a hearth).
One of the most ancient crafts in Azerbaijan is the pottery. The ceramics discovered during the archaeological excavations testify again the centuries-old history of the pottery. According to different resources, the history of the pottery development in Azerbaijan dates back to the 2nd millennium BC. The main stage of the pottery is the clay preparation (its selection, extraction, transportation, preparation for production and storage). Traditionally, there were two types of a potter’s wheel in Azerbaijan: manual and pedal-powered. Among the main potter’s tools were a comb, pottery knife, gelem (a pen), wire, paddle, etc. Another important process of the pottery is firing the ceramics in hearths, pits, tandirs, open and closed kilns. Much attention was devoted to glazing and decorating the ceramics. Diversity of everyday household activities caused to the production of numerous types of ceramics.