Social Studies

Azerbaijan in the Stone Age

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First settlements: People settled in Azerbaijan 700,000 years ago. They settled down in places that were rich with natural resources. At that time, they were looking for places that were abundant with caves and were close to water supplies.

One of Azerbaijan heritage sites – Azikh cave is closely associated with Stone Age. Azikh cave is located in Fizuli district in Karabakh, on the bank of Guruchay River. In 1968 during the archeological dig, Mamadali Huseyn’s expedition, excavators came across the jaw of a woman who lived in Azikh cave 350,000 to 400,000 years ago. The approximate age of that woman was 18-22 years old. That woman was considered old for that time, as humans used to have really short life spans.  This type of human that inhabited Azikh cave is known as Azihantrop of Azikh human. This was the fourth excavation exploration find that proved the existence of the Stone Age and because of that Azerbaijan is part of the Ancient peoples’ map.

Life of ancient people: Ancient people during the Stone Age period wore animal skins. They hunted down the animals and used their meat for food and skins to create items of clothing. They were able to make household items out of animal skins, too. They had their own blankets out of animal skins, too.

Ancient people created their own hunting weapons. They used those weapons to hunt the animals for food and for clothing items. Stone Age people in Azerbaijan hunted for wild animals, such as hogs, deer, cave bears and horses. They did not hunt alone, but in groups as this ensured the successful hunting process. This was the first, for the early humans, collaborative hunting process.

During the excavation works in Azikh cave, a bear’s skull was found with human paintings that signified how many animals were hunted down. The paintings were made in the shapes of crosses and ritual signs right on the skull of the bear. Ancient humans ate what they hunted and cooked it over the fire as they were ash traces found in Azikh cave.

Climate: For the Ancient people to settle down in a certain area, they looked for a mild climate with more or less warm winters and summers that were not scorching hot. This and the closeness to the clean water supplies, of course, ensured the good harvest. Ancient humans were not only hunters, but gatherers, as well. So, ancient people collected berries and nuts. This was primarily a woman’s job. Woman also collected plants and seeds. Men were busy with the hunting but did not venture to go too far as most of the areas were unknown to them.

There were different types of animals that lived in Azerbaijan. Early people hunted those animals down and depicted them on the cave walls. There were such animals as deer, cave bears, hogs, wild horses and wild sheep. Those animals grazed on the grass on nearby fields or forests and the early   humans hunted them down collaboratively.

What do the Gobustan petroglyphs say: In Gobustan there is a famous cave with rock paintings that is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The petroglyphs portray the unity of ancient people, as the cave art shows collaborative hunting scenes. Humans gathered around the fire to stay warm, to cook and to perform certain religious rituals. Those petroglyphs serve as a window for modern people to glimpse into the everyday life of early people that inhabited Azerbaijan around 40,000 years ago.

How did people live and die? Early humans had their own rituals that were considered to bring good luck while hunting, ward off the evil spirits and to bring rich harvest. Fire was one of the resources that was very difficult to obtain, that is the reason why early people thought of it to be sacred and they tried to keep it burning, never extinguished it. Usually the fire was protected by the females of the tribe, who were the most significant people, among the tribe members. People not only performed religious ceremonies, but also danced around the fire and gathered to stay warm.  Simultaneously, they worshipped it and it became one of the first sanctities in Azerbaijan.

People worshipped fire, earth, wind, water and the sun, and they were afraid to bury their dead in the ground. There were burial procedures, such as burial mounds, jar burials and catacomb burials. Burial mounds were mainly for the chiefs and important people of the tribe. The late early humans were buried in the ground and there was a hill-like mound on top of the grave. Jar burials were meant to keep the soil pure of the decaying bodies and were used for commoners of the tribe. There were different everyday items placed in jar, such as food, clothes item, sometimes even the wives were murdered to join their husbands. Catacomb burials were created to make sure that all of the objects were next to the deceased. There were such objects as tools, weapons, clothes items, food and sometimes relatives.

 

Recommended classroom activities

Focus on vocabulary

Some keywords to remember: abundant, bank, hunting weapons, collaborative, mild, scorching, graze, ward off, extinguish, simultaneous

 

 

Focus on understanding

Discussion: Watch videos of stone age period in history and learn about the people’s way of life, how they interacted with each other,  their marrige customs and traditions; and their burial customs.

Questions

Discussions on the topic can be structured around the following questions.

  • What were the shelters and habitats like?
  • What was the climate like during the Stone Age in Azerbaijan?
  • What animals lived on Azerbaijan territory during that time?
  • What are the Petroglyphs? Why did the early humans in Azerbaijan express themselves through the cave art?
  • What are the Petroglyphs? Why did the early humans in Azerbaijan express themselves through the cave art?
  • What was Stone Age like in Azerbaijan and globally?
  • Which tools did the early humans have?
  • How do we know about what the early people were like?
  • What were the rituals and beliefs of the early people?

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