The Megaliths on Apsheron Peninsula

Ancient stone formations or megaliths (from Greeks megas - big and lithos - a stone) are prehistoric monuments, which were made from huge boulders. The megaliths can differ from each others by way of construction, however in general they can be subdivided into dolmen, menhirs and stone circles - cromlech (see below). These kinds of stone formations can be met in many places but mainly on Caucasus, along the coast of Black Sea, in Western Europe and Northern Africa. Recently megalithic constructions were even discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, 40 kilometers from Bahamas.

Megaliths appeared around the world in various historical epochs. Some of them were erected thousands of years ago, and some, for example, were built on the islands of Polynesia only several centuries ago. The riddle of the origin of megaliths has excited people for a long time. Who was the first builder? Why were they built? A mystery. No one knows for sure, and there seems to be very little evidence available to make any sort of judgment. Sometimes, even with modern tools and means, it is difficult to erect such grandiose constructions. It is known still, that megaliths obviously gravitate to sea, and the further from sea, the smaller the size of the stone constructions.

Dolmen near the Gobustan

Stone circle in Mardakan

Azerbaijan is one of the earliest areas where human beings are known to have dwelled. On its territory, and in particular on the Apsheron peninsula, some stone structures are disposed constructed by the ancient inhabitants of these places. The dwelling and ritual samples of megaliths architecture on Apsheron dated back to the Neolith Age and Ancient Bronze. These megaliths are, for the most part, represented by stone circles (cromlech) - almost round structures made of stone slabs. Ancient stone monuments on the Apsheron Peninsula were discovered in several places - in Mardakan (3000-2000 BC), in Zira (3000-2000 BC), in Turkan (the end of 2000 BC), in Shuvelan (2000 BC) and not far from Apsheron in Gobustan (3000 BC).

Near the village of Mardakan there are some fascinating stone formations. At one site, an almost round construction erected from large boulders is attached to several foundations, consisting of smaller square and rectangular rooms. These stone circles typically have a diameter of approximately 35m and stand about a meter high. Some archeologists suspect that the foundation was devoted to a cult of the sun. If you examine the boulders closely, you can find petroglyphs – cliff carvings, especially depictions of goats, deer and other animals. The petroglyphs on the inner surfaces of the stone circles in Mardakan and Shuvelan have some similarities with the rock drawings in Gobustan Reserve.

Stone circle in Mardakan

Stone circle in Mardakan

Some megalithic archeological monuments lie unprotected, virtually unknown and unacknowledged not far from the Apsheron near the Gobustan. One of the stone constructions, which was obviously erected by human beings, belongs to a dolmen type. The huge stone plate is based upon a vertical block. The turned out construction is surrounded with huge stones. The internal wall of the construction is covered with figures made by the hand of an ancient person.

Dolmen near the Gobustan

Dolmen near the Gobustan

In general the given constructions have still been poorly studied. Much research needs to be done to determine the purpose of these ancient monuments. Prehistoric monuments of the Stone Age meet analogies in many parts of the world. If the ancient inhabitants of the Apsheron peninsula were involved in construction of the megalith structures then only future research could reveal the relations between our stone formations and megaliths in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately, some these ancient monuments of the past are in serious danger. Despite the efforts of archeologists, the property near these monuments is being subdivided, and summer homes (dachas) are springing up everywhere. At this rate, the entire site will soon be cleared away and leveled for housing developments and thousands of years of history will be erased from the face of the earth. It will be irreparable loss to world knowledge about how early man lived in this region. Clearly, Azerbaijan's megalithic monuments must be put under immediate protection, before it is too late.


DOLMEN – a megalithic construction like a stone box with a large flat plate laid on upright ones. The weight of the top stone plate could reach tens of tons and the size is up to ten meters. Authentic purpose and a way of erection are not known. These kinds of constructions are around Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, on Caucasus and in Crimea.

MENGIR - a prehistoric monument which represents a vertically erected stone column. It could be big or small in size and sometimes covered with mysterious signs and inscriptions. These kinds of constructions can be seen in Brittany, England and Scandinavia.

STONE CIRCLE (Cromlech) – one of kinds megaliths dated back to the Neolith Age and Ancient Bronze. A Stone circle usually consisted of huge separate stabs, which form one or several concentric circles. Inside the circle there can be another construction as dolmen or mengir. Stone circles have been discovered in Asia, America and Europe (France, Great Britain, Scandinavia, in Transcaucasia). The most famous are Stounhenge and Avebury in Great Britain and at Carnac in France.

Photos are courtesy of Abbas Islamov

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