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Visit the Gobustan petroglyph reserve in Azerbaijan

In a magical hilltop landscape of giant boulders with views across the opal blue Caspian, the Gobustan petroglyph reserve is home to rock drawings
dating back almost 15,000 years. These remarkable open-air ‘gallery’ and interactive museum provide a veritable archive of mankind’s cultural evolution and attracts visitors and researchers from across the globe.

The Unesco-listed Qobustan Petroglyph Reserve protects thousands of stick-figure stone engravings dating back up to 12,000 years. Themes include livestock, wild animals and shamans.

The images were carved into what were probably caves but over time they have crumbled into a craggy chaos of boulders. Even if you have no particular interest in ancient doodles, Qobustan’s eerie landscape and the hilltop views towards distant oil-workings in the turquoise-blue Caspian are still fascinating.

A visit starts 3km west of Qobustan at a state-of-the-art museum, which gives context to what you will see on the mountain ridge 2km above. 

Comparing this with similar ancient designs in Norway led ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl to speculate that Scandinavians might have originated in what is now Azerbaijan.

Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape covers three areas of a plateau of rocky boulders rising out of the semi-desert of central Azerbaijan, with an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings bearing testimony to 40,000 years of rock art.

The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The site, which covers an area of 537 ha, is part of the larger protected Gobustan Reservation.

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