8:38 pm - Saturday April 19, 2014

Karabakh’s cult Architecture

The architectural heritage of Azerbaijan, including karabakh, has become one of the memory forms of its autochthons. Thanks to this the country’s architecture permanently expands the values society possesses as a social organism. Monuments of Azerbaijan’s material culture are an illustration of the fact that great architectural masterpieces are not so much the result of individual work as they are a product of the entire society, the result of creative efforts of a whole people.
The  Karabakh  architecture  deserves special mention. While reviewing the development of architecture in this historical region of Azerbaijan,  we should  point  to the fact that it covered a large area. Karabakh’s  ancient  land  was  a center of civilization not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the entire Caucasus and beyond. The architecture  of  a  significant  artistic and historical value evolved here for millennia.
The exceptionally favorable natural and geographic  conditions of Karabakh preconditioned  the development  of farming and cattle breeding. Numerous settlements were established here which eventually transformed  into  large  and well-fortified cities linked to many countries of the  East and West by caravan roads.  The  natural wealth of the Karabakh land and the abundance of construction materials facilitated   extensive   landscaping work in ancient cities. Various natural rocks and clay led to the development and spread of a number of construction methods and architec- tural forms, which played a major role in the subsequent  development of construction art.
Karabakh’s architectural monuments,  partially preserved or lying in ruins, represent invaluable factual evidence  of people’s  rock chronicles. These monuments provide the opportunity   for   ascertaining  the peculiarities and specificity of construction methods  and techniques, compositional solutions, architectural forms, thus establishing the identity of Karabakh’s  architecture and its place in the history of Azerbaijani architecture.
Back at the dawn of the of the 20th  century Academician N. Vavilov characterized the spread of ancient centers of cultivated plants and established  their  role in the  history of mankind. In essence, N. Vavilov wrote, only a narrow strip of land played an enormous  part in the development of mankind. The territory of historical Azerbaijan is one of such centers [ref]V. Vavilov, Origin centers of cultivated plants. Works on applied botany and selection, L.,  1926, Vol. 16, part 2[/ref]. Subsequent  researches fully confirmed both the general conclusions of the scholar and his separation of specific early agricultural centers [ref]G. Mellart, Ancient civilizations of the  Middle East, M., 1982[/ref].
The appearance of long-term resident settlements may be viewed as a beginning of human architectural and construction activities based  on  consistent  organization of the habitat, reasonable and task- specific use of construction materils and structures.
Ancient settlements emerged in Karabakh in the  Neolithic era. The discovery and interpretation of ancient settlements shed light on the earlier stages in the development of architecture and the cultural identity of the settled agricultural society which evolved in the 5th-3rd  centuries BC.
Karabakh’s Neolithic monu- ments have a lot in common and perhaps even the same roots with Northern Mesopotamia.
The  architectural and  archaeological researches of Ilanlitepe, Chalagantepe and Kamiltepe (Agdam District) settlements   of  Karabakh have   revealed   stratified  occupation layers, which has significantly enriched the database for studying the Neolithic culture of Azerbaijan. These settlements  are evidence of the  great  skill  with which ancient architects and construction workers erected their buildings.Karabakh’s first settlements  did not have defense fortifications. Such settlements  were inhabited not by farmers but by hunters. However, in the  period of transition from Neo- lithic to  the  Bronze  ages  fortified settlements started emerging in Karabakh: Garakepektepe (Fizuli District) and  Uzerliktepe (Agdam  District) [ref]M. Useynov, L. Bretaninskiy, A. Salamzade, History of Azerbaijani Architecture, M., 1963;  O. Abibullayev, Studying the Kultepe Hill, Works  of the Institute of History and Philosophy of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, Vol. 9; V. Kerimov, Early Ag- ricultural Architecture on the  territory of Azerbaijan, Baku, 1989[/ref].
A cluster of houses was surrounded  by a fortress wall. This  is evidence of strong cultural and eco- nomic relations of local tribes with countries of the Middle East in the Bronze and early Iron ages.
The  start of the  Bronze Age in Azerbaijan  was  marked  by  major socioeconomic transformation that dramatically changed  people’s  life- style. The materials used in Bronze Age architecture point to the ex- panding  relations  between   tribes and  frequent military stand-offs. Wars, as well as cattle-breeding and farming, became  key activi- ties and occupations  for ancient tribes inhabiting  Karabakh.  This is confirmed by the remains of de- fensive structures around the settlements which quite often represent- ed formidable forts, e.g. settlements near the village of Khojali attributed to the 2nd  millennium BC.
Monuments of Karabakh’s defensive architecture suggest that such structures were strategically located in places of troop concentrations to prevent enemy incursions.
Uzerliktepe (Agdam  District), a structure dating back to the 2nd cen- tury BC, is one of Karabakh’s earliest Bronze Age monuments. It fact, it can serve as a reference standard for the  period under  examination. The presence of raw blocks on the ground  floors of buildings is evi- dence  of the socioeconomic situa- tion and the high level of culture in the Bronze epoch [ref] V. Kerimov, Azerbaijan’s   defense   structures,   Baku, 1998[/ref].
Of    the   fortresses   discovered in Karabakh, particularly remarkable have been  Aladag, Galali and Galatepe. They are attributed to the
1st  millennium BC (Gubatli  District). These are neck-shaped fortresses that became more diverse in subsequent  periods. An overview of the development  of design techniques shows that  the  evolution of such techniques    was    preconditioned not so much by the diversity of social conditions but by the changes brought  about  by the  overall de- velopment of the military and engineering art.
In the late 1st   millennium BC, Azerbaijan experienced  a transition from archaic architectural forms that  used  to  express  the ideas  of despotic  Eastern states to new ideological concepts of “Hellenistic powers”. New town- planning techniques were ob- served now. The Hellenistic period includes  the  Shergala  settlement (1st century BC – 1st century AD) and the Partav fortress (3rd  century AD) in Barda District. Town-planning tra- ditions of Karabakh’s defensive ar- chitecture of the Hellenistic period carried on living in the feudal era as well.  Also developed  in Azerbaijan were the main principles of fortifi- cation architecture that formed the basis of architecture in subsequent centuries.
Written sources and archaeologi- cal materials point to the develop- ment of cities as centers of craft and trade in this period. Particularly ac- tive in Karabakh in this respect were Barda (Partav),  Amaras,  Khanakert (Khunarakent), Paytarakan and Beylagan. The development of these cities was marred by a fierce struggle against foreign  invaders,  first of all the Byzantine Empire, Iran and Khaz- aria. After the  fall of Kabala fol- lowing a Khazar invasion, Barda (Partav) became the center of the Caucasian  Albania (G.  Ahmedov, The medieval city of Beylakan, Baku,
1979; K.   Mamedzade,  Azerbaijan’s construction art, Baku, 1983).
First a residency of Sassanid governors  and  then  of the  Alban Catholicos and  prince, the  city of Partav  became   the   residency  of Arab governors in the  8th   century. Another large city of Karabakh is the fort city of Beylagan which emerged on the site of a more ancient settlement  Paytakaran. The elaborate layout of the city’s walls connected with a system of ditches filled with water is evidence of a high level of defensive construction art.
The data on Karabakh’s architecture, as well as observations and conclusions made, provide a much broader picture of Azerbaijan’s medieval architecture. This  is also important from the standpoint of studying the history of the country’s town-planning traditions.
A  peculiar combination  of traditional and newly-created architectural forms  is manifested in the 12th century Gulistan (Goranboy District) and 11-12th  century Giz Galasi fortresses (Jabrayil  District).  This  is where ancient traditions of local architecture are combined  with new types of structures in response  to new requirements of society.
Twenty independent  khanates emerged  in Azerbaijan in the middle  of the  18th   century,  including the khanates of Baku, Shirvan, Guba, Karabakh,  Ganja, Sheki  and Talysh. Such division did not contribute to the  country’s overall development (Mirza  Javanshir Karabakhskiy, The History of Karabakh, Baku, 1959).
Feudalists  were  largely preoc- cupied with strengthening  the old and building new fort cities in which they established their own residencies. Thus, a new fort city of Shu- sha became the capital of the Karabakh khanate[ref]V. Potto, Monuments of the time when Russian rule was established in the Caucasus, First  Edition, Tiflis,  1906; E.  Avalov, The  Architecture  of Shusha, Baku, 1977; The History of Azerbaijan, vol.
1, Baku,  1958[/ref]. The  appearance  of Shusha  is closely associated  with the military and political situation in Azerbaijan in the mid-18th century. It was built by the founder of the Kara- bakh  khanate, Panah  Khan, as an unassailable fortress on a mountain. The almost vertical rocks served as boundaries of the fortress on three sides. Karabakh’s cult Architecture 2
Filed in: Architecture, Karabakh Culture