The Quaternary fauna on Apsheron peninsula

The paleontology and archaeological excavations show that Apsheron peninsula was populated with various fossil animals in Quaternary (about 100 000 years ago). Numerous fossil vertebrates were found in the vicinity of Baku, i.e. in Keshla, Binagadi, Digakh, Khurdalan and other settlements. In a quarry near Keshla bones of fossil horses, hyena and rhinoceros were discovered. The skull of a primitive ox was found near Digakh settlement. During the construction of Baku metro, the fossil antler of a gigantic deer was found in a clay layer 33 m beneath the surface.

Binagadi kir lake, which contains unique samples of the Quaternary fauna and flora, has become the most important and valuable source in the ancient history of the Apsheron peninsula and the whole Caucasus. Tens thousands years ago the area was rich in fauna and flora, characteristic of the savanna. The climate of Apsheron was damper and colder than at present. In that epoch a freshwater lake was formed not far from Binagadi. The edge of the lake was covered by thick oil. Wild animals and birds came to the lake for water but viscous oil sucked them in. With time the lake has evaporated and all remains of the animals were buried in a kir layer for years.

In the first half of XX century a countryman extracted kir for his house roof's repair. By chance he found the gigantic bones of an unknown animal and informed the municipal administration. The remains of some prehistoric animals were discovered as a result of undertaken excavations. Unfortunately, that history was forgotten very soon. A detailed study of Binagadi kir lake with a large burial place of samples of ancient fauna was resumed in year 1938 when A.S. Mastanzadeh discovered a skeleton of a rhinoceros. Rhinoseros from Binagadi lake As a result of an investigation, more than 50 000 bones were found and classified including 41 species of mammals, 110 species of birds, 2 reptiles, 1 amphibian, 107 insects, 22 vegetative remains, etc. Among them the nearly intact skeletons of fossil horses, red deer (binagadinian subspecies), jeiran and saiga (not found on Azerbaijan territory at present) are of scientific interest. The remains of predatory mammals such as Pleistocene wolf (Canis lupus apscheronicus R. Ver), cave hyena (Crosuta-crocuta spelaea Colaf), binagadinian primitive ox (Bos Mastanzadei Bur), bear (Ursus arctos binagadensis R. Ver), etc., skeletons of eagle owl (Bubo-bubo L.), pelican (Pelikanus crispus paleo-crispus Serebr), raven (Corvus corax L.), swans (Cygnus olor Bergmanni Srebr), etc. can be marked out. The material collected in Binagadi created the necessary prerequisites for scientifically reconstructed pictures of animal and vegetable kingdoms of Apsheron peninsula of the Post-Pliocene period.

While comparing the Quaternary fauna and flora of Binagadi deposit and the similar natural phenomena in North America ("Racho la Brea", California) some researchers came to the conclusion that the first one (75 thousand years) is older than 40 thousand years. Collection of samples of Binagadi Quaternary fauna are widely presented in Natural-Historical Museum after G. Zardabi.

Did people inhabit the area in that epoch? Rich fauna including horses, ox, deer and others was indispensable for survival of human beings. Discovered fossil vertebrates show that primitive people could have live on Apsheron peninsula in Paleolithic Age.