By Peter Tase
In early May 2016, on my second visit to the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, I could not escape from appreciating the historical monuments of Julfa Region. Some of these archeological sites are: Berdi Fortress, Boyahmad Necropolis I, Boyahmad Necropolis II, Dilak Sacred Place and the emblematic Julfa Necropolis.
The historical and archeological monument of Berdi Fortress is located to the south east of Gazanchi Village in Julfa Region. The name of ‘Berd’ in the old Turkish language means ‘fortress,’ it also has the same meaning in modern Yakut language. This noun still maintains the same meaning in Barda city of Azerbaijan. Over time, Berdi Fortress has been named by Turkish leaders with various names including Berdi fortress and Berdi Bey to honor the Ottoman and Turkish rulers. According to research and the works written by F. Rashidadd its significance is ‘gurd;’ moreover in the old Turkish language, its first meaning is ‘boru’. On both cases, the meaning of the word in Turkish language is ‘gala’ (fortress), in some writings the word “gurdlu dik” (the hill of a wolf) has been used. The fortress is located above a natural rock; it is surrounded by precipitous cliffs on both sides. The fortress’ defense walls are only observed in the eastern section. In its central courtyard there are the remnants of animal stables in square-shaped buildings. The housing settlement has only one room. During the archeological investigations in Berdi Fortress, international scholars have encountered ceramic products of the Middle Ages and this castle has been operational during the period of the I-XVIII Centuries.
On both sides of Darachay River, in the South Western side of Boyahmad Village is located the archeological monument of Boyahmad Necropolis I, in Julfa Region. It is surrounded with high mountains on both sides. The territory of this monument stretches on 5,000 square meters and was discovered during the construction works of 1989. A number of archeological materials were gathered from the site’s destroyed cultural monuments. In 1991 an archeological expedition conducted a study on the two destroyed and two intact grave monuments in Boyahmad Necropolis; they gathered a wide array of information from the local population and archived them at the museum of History and Ethnography in Julfa Region. Many unique items were found from the stone graves including decorative sculptures, bronze daggers, pitchforks, metallic chain, arrow points etc. Based on the investigations there was reached a conclusion that over ground features are absent. Starting from one meter of depth of construction area there are encountered the remnants of human skeleton, two skulls around the Western Wall, on the direction of east – west. With their head looking downward but facing upwards and underneath a few daggers were discovered; the third skull was installed at 20 cm distance upright, the fourth skull was discovered near the south wall together with a bronze bandage. Around the skeleton were observed the decorative items such as: bracelets, necklaces, rings, pendants, beads, etc. From the grave can be observed a number of grey color clay products: pot, glassware, pots, bowl, plate, pail. According to the discoveries conducted in Boyahmad Necropolis I, we have a cultural treasure of the first millennium BC.
Boyahmad Necropolis II, is an archeological monument that belongs to the Early Bronze Age, in the Southern side of Boyahmad Village, in Julfa Region. The cemetery is encircled by a deep valley that stretches from the North to Southeast and is situated on the slope of a high mountain. This necropolis was investigated in 1991. None of the Graves have over ground sections. During the road construction there were found two bronze bracelets, bronze knifes and clay plate samples that were discovered from the stone graves that were destroyed nearby. The scientific analysis made on the indigenous archeological materials ensures us that this monument goes back in the early period of the first millennium.
Another archeological site that caught my attention was Dilak Sacred Place a sanctuary in the south of the Gazanchi Village, Julfa Region. The sacred place is one room built by stones. The entrance is from the South and there is one window facing towards the East and one square shaped indentation in the inside part of the west wall. The interior section of the building is ordinary and plastered with lime. On the façade of the building there is a three angle formed recess in the inside of the west wall. The recess has turned black from the smoke. There is no lamp or candle on the recess. Inside the building there are decorations with faces of Holy Islamic figures and their portraits as well as other pictures of religious importance. Though the constructions are kept up to date the structure dates back in the XIX Century; the glazed and unglazed materials found around this site provide an opportunity to confirm that that it has been active since the early Middle Ages. Dilak Sacred Place may be related to the VIII-XI Centuries.
The highlight of my visit to Julfa Region was my brief visit and research conducted at the emblematic Julfa Necropolis; an archeological monument that was established during the Bronze Age, near the City of Julfa and discovered by accident in 1939-1940 as the railway construction was taking place in the Julfa Region (Nakhchivan A. R.). This archeological monument is home of various stone cages that were destroyed. The uniquely colored clay plates of monochrome and polychrome (pots, bowls, and many glass types) are testimony of the rich archeological treasures that Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic embodies in Eurasia and throughout the Caucasus. Different bronze decorations prepared by highly skilled ancient masters (bracelets and necklaces decorated with carved ornaments), metal items (daggers with flat blade, and latticed handles, four daggers of forefront Asian type, arrows and spear points, pins, bronze mace, etc), have been discovered in this area; all of these hand craft items date back in the XIII-XIX Centuries B.C.. The archeological materials that were discovered in this site of Julfa Region are kept at the National Historical Museum of Georgia. In the next two years, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, is planning to host numerous international leaders in the fields of history, archeology, science, diplomacy and theology, there is no doubt that Julfa Region will very soon emerge as an attractive province of Azerbaijan that embodies important archeological features and cultural characteristics.