Megalith monuments in the historical Borchali region
Karam Hetem oglu Mamedov
Department of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Baku State University
Assistant professor, Doctor of Philosophy in History.
Coined by a French archaeologist A. Herbert the term Megalith (a Greek word for «big rock») first appeared in scientific literature in 1867. By megalith monuments, mostly menkhir (men — stone, Heer — long), dolmen (Tol — tables, men — stone), cromlechs (chrome — circles, Lex — rock) and stone graves are meant. Sometimes Cyclops is also referred to megalithic monuments.
These types of monuments are mostly found in historical Borchali region populated mainly by Azerbaijanis. Unfortunately, despite of getting the status of the Sultanate at the end of medieval centuries, there isn’t any exact source about the administrative boundaries of Borchali. Ottoman travelers visiting Borchali in medieval centuries limited their information to the tribes living there, and medieval European travelers called Borchali Turque Georgia, which means Turkish Georgia. Medieval Arab author, Yagut Hamavi wrote:»… Bershaliya, mentioned in the chronicles of Iran rulers , is the name of the place in Arran».2(It should be noted that in the Arabic alphabet there isn’t the letter «C», so it was written like this). Borchali wasn’t studied well historically, so its exact administrative boundaries were determined after the invasion of Caucasus by Russia.
However, soon after the invasion of South Caucasus by Russia, given a status of “a special Tatar district” in the 30s of XIX century, Borchali became a district within the Tiflis province in the administrative division of 1880. Russian officer A.D.Eritsov determines the boundaries of the district as: «Including Borchali plain, Loru and Archivan (Trialet) mountains, the region is situated between 40 degrees 47 seconds north and 60 degrees 22 seconds south longitudes in the south-eastern part of Tiflis province. The highest point of the district, Halab, is 9918 verst high from the sea level. The district is bounded by Gazakh district of Yelizavetpol province and Aleksandropol district of Iravan province. The sounthern boundary is Goshadag Mountain and Pambak valley. The area of Borchali stretches to the north-west to Chubuglu on the right, and then to the bozabdal mountain chain called Aglagan. The western Garaxach boundary reaches Leyli Mountain. Here Yemlikli, Ayriqar, Davagiran, Qoyundag, Simsar, Shahnababel tops separate Borchali from Akhalkalak. Cam-cam and Archivan mountains separate the district from Gori and Sari Mountain in Manglis from Tiflis. Including Yaglica plain, the boundaries of Borchali reach the Red Bridge in this area. The whole length of the boundaries of Borchali is 480 verst out of which 100 verst is with Aleksandropol, 80 verst with Akhalkhalak, 55 verst is with Gori, 145 verst is with Tiflis and 100 is with Gazakh.” Comparing the area of Borchali with the neighboring districts A.D.Eritsov wrote: “Being twice as big as Akhalkis, Akhalkhalak and Telav, Borchali leaves Tiflis, Tianet and Dushet behind according to its area. There isn’t any district as big as Borchali in provinces like Kutais, Iravan, Yelizavetpol and Baku.” In 1885, in Caucasus calendar Borcali’s area is stated as 111.96 miles or 5.417 square verst, that is 564 472 acres. As a result of this we can come to a conclusion that the area of Borchali district covered the current south-eastern part of Georgia – Dmanisi (Bashkechid), Bolinisi (Choruk Gamarli), Marneuli (Sarvan, Candar, Gizilhacili), Gardabani (Garatapa), a part of Zalga (Barmagsiz), Rustavi (Bostanshahar or Gara Ay city in some sources), the northern part of the Republic of current Armenia – Noyamberyan (Baranli), Spitak (Hamamli), Amasiya (Agbaba), Stepanavan (Calaloglu), and Kalinino (Dashir). However, either in tsarist Russian period or Soviet period the Turkish names in Borchali region dating 1000 years back were artificially changed and renamed with fake names. Firstly, this process was applied to the central town and then to the villages.
Archaeological researches began in the late nineteenth century in Borchali. Mass settlement of the population in this district was at the end of the Neolithic. It is also proved Sulaver-Shomutepe culture which is considered to be one of early farming cultures. Copper-Stone Age monuments have been met only in Arixli village in Borchali so far. Arixli I and II discovered by Georgian archeologists as a result of excavations prove the existence of a high culture of cultivation. Scientists specially stressed getting harvest 2 times a year. Current excavations in Marneuli prove the availability of irrigation in ancient Borchali during the Eneolithic period.
During the excavations the artifacts reflecting the religious views were also found. The ancient people in Arıxkhlı worshipped the goddess of fertility. This is proved by the picture of a woman in childbirth on clay dishes. According to the Georgian archaeologists Arikhli culture belonging to VI and V millennium of BC is the same with the Hassun and Khalaf cultures found in Asia and Shomutapa found in the western part of Azerbaijan.
A lot of archaeological monuments of the Bronze Age were found in the region. In academic books the culture belonging to the early Bronze Age (IV-III millennium BC) is called the Kura-Araz culture. Monuments of this period were found in Bashkand (Dmanisi) prefecture, Hunia settlement of Barmagsiz (Zalqa), Marneuli prefecture, Tetriskaro (Agbulag) prefecture. The settlements belonging to the Kur-Araz culture are met in the territories of Turkey (Erzurum, a settlement near the Karaz, Malatya), in South Azerbaijan (Goytapa settlements near Lake Urmia, Khamadan), in the northern regions of the Republic of Iraq, in the basins of Loru-Tashir and Goycha lakes in the territory of the Republic of Armenian (Muxannat hill, Senqavit, Sanain etc.). Taking into account that Kur-Araz culture is mostly widespread in the area of North Azerbaijan some researchers state North Azerbaijan the center of this culture. Kur-Araz culture that lasted for thousands of years was replaced by the culture of Barrow in Middle Bronze Age (III-II millennium BC).This period is called Trilaeti (Archivan) in Georgian history. Megalith monuments appeared in the South Caucasus during the Late Bronze-Early Iron ages. Alongside with Cyclopes different animal figures carved from stone and stone burial boxes occupy an important place in these monuments. I. I. Mesaninov was the first researcher of Cyclopes in Azerbaijan. He states that such kinds of constructions were built as a result of new generations and the division of groups. Futhering this research I.Jafarzadeh states that these buildings were built related to the religious beliefs of people. However, the archaeologists studying the buildings state that they were built for protection.
Stone box graves are found in the territory of Dmanisi (Bashkechid until 1947) prefecture (Gantiadi, Deer Valley, etc.), as well as in Southern Borchali annexed to the present day Republic of Armenia. According to the Georgian archaeologist V, Aslanashvilini such grave types that began to occur in the middle Bronze Age (III- II millennium BC) may be associated with indigenous people from Central and Northern Asia.
As for stone sheep, horse and camel statues, they spread in the territories extending from Anatolia to Korean peninsula. This kind of graves was first introduced to Europeans by a French researcher Monpere Dubois and by a German archaeologist Arthur Milkhoffner who conducted a research in Muslim cemetery in Yerevan. I.P. Rostomov was the first researcher of the findings in the territory of the present-day Georgia.
Most of the time people on the grave stones, weapons (arrow, bow, axes, etc.), household items (shears, comb, bludgeon, etc.), deer or pictures of fylfot were carved. Deer and “Life tree” were engraved on the gold and silver glasses and silver coppery buckets related to Middle Bronze Age (III-II millennium BC) found in Archivan (now Trialeti) mounds.» Life tree» occupies a special place in the art of the ancient inhabitants of South Azerbaijani territories Hasanli, Marliyin, Zaviyan and North Azerbaijan (Caucasian Albania). There are also pictures of animals on the “Life tree” standing around it or kneeling. On the seals found in Marlik there is a picture of mountain goat in front of the tree and on the glass there is a picture of winged bulls, there are goats on debris found in Hasanli, and on the necklace found in Zaviya there are goats and oxen. The discovery of “Life tree” from Asia to America is a special phenomenon. Such images are also found Pazırık mounds in Altay and in Mayans. B.B.Pyotrovski relates life tree to Skits. Ethnographic materials found show that cult of life tree is mostly spread among the Turkish peoples. For example, the Altai Turks believe that «in the middle of everything, there is the largest tree in the world at the heart of the earth, hitting the place where Ulga bay is sitting». Yakuts say that «in the midst of the earth, there is a tree reaching the sky which has an energy source in its roots». For Mannans life tree reflects the idea of death and resurrection of nature. For Siberian Turks the world tree has the same meaning. According to them, «With the help of its body and branches reaching into the heaven it plays the role of a ladder taking the spirit of the dead towards achieving the God.
Mostly there have deer or their horns been described on the stone ram monuments in Borchali. In the Central Asia a picture of deer and oxen is attributed to the late Stone Age, which was later associated with Scythian. Deer totem was also wide-spread among the Central Asian people. The images of deer horns found in the domes of the Manna castles in South Azerbaijan and Caucasian Albania that are considered to belong to A.D VIII century have close similarity to the “tree-shaped” ones belonging to Scythian period were found in Tuva. According to A.D. Qrac these images are related to totemism. Linguists claim that the word deer which means «branch», «shoots» in Persian languages, and the name «saka» given to Skits are related to taboos. However, Y. Zuyev has denied saks and scythians’s are belong to Persian language as an irrefutable facts. Substantiating his ideas, the scientist declares “So” kith to be the ancestors of turks. The pronunciation of «So» hieroglyph sounds like “saka” which means «deer». V.I.Abayev has the most interesting researches about the “Deer” zoonim. The scientist wrote: «The word boq, baq in Indian-Iranian language was taken from the word “buqay” (oxen, deer) in Turkish-Mongolian languages. The word being used in South Russia and Ukraine as “bukay”, in Russian Literary language as “bik” and Caucasian speaking nationalities as “Buqa” was taken from ancient Turks.
The oldest ram figures were found from the temples Baba Dervish and Saritepe located in the territory of Azerbaijan Republic and from the complex Uruk which is shumerian one and belongs to the II half of the IV millennium BC. Especially, the ram figures found in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan are revealed to be related to the moon and the sun, more precisely, to the astrological cults. This relationship was also found in the «Ustbir Caatas coach» and «Axmarcin coach» monuments that are located in the south of Siberia. Thus, in all three of findings there have fylfot and tongues of flame been painted which are considered to be the symbol of the sun. Since the end of the second millennium BC, head of ram monuments have been used as a capitol (the upper part of the column) for the columns of temples and palaces. Since the beginning of the first millennium BC, the heads of rams were set on the graves of famous Turkish rulers and heroes. Chinese sources indicate that ancient Huns buried their deceased in «Gutlu Mountain», and they raised ram statues on the graves which they called «Hun Goat». During the archaeological excavations ram statues found in the territory of the Huns Kengol (B.C Third century), Cheetah (B.C II — the first centuries), Derestunsk (B.C first century), Atbası (I — II century) prove that Chinese sources wrote. Ram statues raised on the graves of famous Goyturk statesmen Kul- Tigin and Tonyukuk are still preserved in the history and culture museum in the capital of Mongolustan in Ulan Bator.
Russian researcher V.M. Sisoyev gives of such kind of information about the stone ram statues in Azerbaijan: “Considering rams holy, local people worship them”. They sometimes put the rams found in the cemeteries on the graves of their relatives as a sign of respect. Women who can’t have children in Nakhchivan believe that if they can crawl through the legs of the ram statue carved from red stone from one side to another they will have children». Stone ram statues are not only met in the territory of the modern Republic of Azerbaijan, but also in the territories which were part of Azerbaijani states ruled by Baharly (Garagoyunlu) and Bayandurlu (Aghgoyunlu) dynasties (present-day Republic of Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, Georgia, south and south — eastern part of Turkey the east, Iraq to the north — east). In South Azerbaijan (north of present-day Iran Islamic Republic), the cemeteries that have graves with stone sculptures of rams on them remain in the villages of Pir and Bisnadeh. Local people in the Camlihasan region of Turkey call these graves with rams “Kuman (Gipchag) graves”. At the end of the twentieth century, the ram statues in the territory of the Republic of Armenia statues were violently destroyed and a part of them was sold to the Republic of Turkmenistan. Azerbaijanis living in Irag and Khorasan still put separate stones with ram horns on the graves of their deceased alongside with the tombstone.
Putting a stone ram statues on the graves was widespread in Central Asia, as well as in the eastern part of Altay – in the Korean Peninsula. Although there are a lot of such kinds of graves in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) they have not been studied yet. In South Korea (Republic of Korea) these stone ram statues are found in Kyeonqqido Kumkgondakı Hyuen — Reunq and Moc – Reunq cemetery. Without difference from the graves in Azerbaijan this kind of stone statues were raised on the graves of Coson kings, Munjo who ruled from 1450-1452 and Sencjo (1567-1608).
Having a ram on the graves show that Turkic peoples were loyal to one single totem. Although later they adopted a different religion, Altai people preserved their faith on rams and continued having them on graves. It should be noted that in the Korean language, as well as in Azeri the word the «ram» have the same meaning with the words «brave», «fearless».
Alongside with the stone sheep, horse and camel paintings of the people on the stones are also in Borchali. L.R.Kızlasov referred similar monuments found in Siberia and Central Asia to the ancient Turks. Another researcher – V.D. Kubarev also refers such kinds of monuments to Turks and divides them into different groups: 1.skit-Sarmatian; 2.gıpchag-cuman. According to N.I.Veselovsky these graves refer to gipchags. Y.A. Sherr states that the stone monuments with human pictures engraved on them were created in ancient times and belong to Turks. It is amazing that these kinds of stones are called Caspian stones in Altai .
Settled by Skits in the seventh century BC, by Barsil-khazars in the early Middle Ages, and by Gipchags in the twelfth century, current Borchali is still keeping alive the cultures of these ethnos.