Have you watched an adventure movie where there are mysterious paintings of ancient images on rocks and stone walls? Most of the drawings show stick figures of hunters running after animals, while some show unexplained geometric shapes. Rock drawings and engravings are called petroglyphs and to see some for real, visit the province of Gobustan in Azerbaijan.
The Azeri province is home to the Gobustan National Park, a.k.a. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape. The entire province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Azerbaijan’s national historical landmarks for its breathtaking stone formations, huge stone blocks, caves of different sizes, natural rock canopies, gas stones, and man-made caves bearing petroglyphs and sacred carvings. The site comes straight from a sci-fi Hollywood flick.
Exactly how many mysterious carvings are there? If there are less than a hundred, then this is one of those parks that gravely disappoint visiting guests and don’t live up to the expectation. Well, there are more than 6,000 rock engravings scattered all over the park and each engraving dates more than 5,000 to 40,000 years old. Gobustan does not disappoint.
Some of the intriguing ancient etchings include saddled horses and aurochs, which are ancestors of the domesticated cattle; several boats, some of which look like Viking ships; and a series of unexplained holes or cupules on megaliths.
Some images may be less thought-provoking but to see them high up on a huge rock is already mind-blogging regardless of what the image depicts. The most common images are those of primitive men holding tools, animals (specifically aurochs), weapons, boats, caravans, the sun and stars, and dancing images that hint ancient rituals.
In addition to the petroglyphs, excavated relics and tools also reveal tell-tale signs of how the early settlers used to live. Discovered in the area ancient burial sites, settlements and caves that served as homes.
These engravings and relics are snapshots of how ancient Azeri people lived. Clearly, there used to be much more water in the area based on the many drawings of boats and ancient people fishing. The images also suggest that there used to be a savannah where wild bulls, goats, wild horses, donkeys, wild boars, deer, and gazelles freely roamed except when they were stalked and hunted by lions, wolves, leopards, and wild cats.
Today, there are not many animals in the area, except for lizards, snakes, wild pigeons, larks, and mountain chickens, as well as the rarely appearing wolves, jackals and wild cats.
Finally, apart from all that has been mentioned already, there are two other unique features that will truly convince you that you are inside a sci-fi Hollywood film. These are the mud volcanoes and Gaval Dash.
There are not more than 800 mud volcanoes in the whole world and about 400 of them are found in Gobustan. What are mud volcanoes? They are volcanoes that eject flames and spew out tons of mud covering the surrounding area. A few people believe that volcanic mud has healing qualities.
And what in the world is a Gaval Dash? These are musical gemstones that produce tambourine-like sounds when struck by a smaller stone. Where else in the world can you find Gaval Dash? Nowhere, but in Gobustan.