By Peter Tase
Although many European Union Institutions and other Cultural International Organizations have almost never let out a little squeal of archaeological, historical and cultural delight in reference to the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, such a cradle of human history – in the outskirts of Europe and heart of Azerbaijan’s historical conscience – continues to fascinate scholars and archaeologists with its heritage pertaining to the architecture school, history of fortresses, natural monuments, and a stable democratic government where the rule of law prevails.
Nakhchivan is the birthplace of Haji Mahammad Nagi who lived in the early 1700s and built the Haji Nagi Bridge located in the Vanandchay hovering from Tub Bazaar pasture in the east of Dasta Village in the region of Ordubad.
Nakhchivan was home of Amiraddin Masud Nakhchivani, a XII century architect who lived in the Palace of Eldanizlar in Nakhchivan and was a fervent student of Ajami Architectural Style. Amiraddin Masud played an important role in developing a religious architecture of Azerbaijan. Nakhchivan is a place with many ancient settlements such as Arabyengija, a very old site located 200 meters from the Araz River at the end of Araz Village in Sharur region with a size of 0.8 acres. Based on the items that were collected by local archeologists is evident that this village has existed since the Neolithic and Kur – Araz cultural layers. As the Neolithic ceramics prepared from clay consisted of little fragments which determine the tableware that was used. These ceramics are very similar to the items found in Kultapa I. According to N. H. Aliyev, a distinguished historian of Nakhchivan, there are even archeological remnants which take the life of this village back in the 4-3 millennium B.C.
Moreover, astonishing archeological artifacts, tableware samples, monochrome painted clay were found on a territory of five acres in Arafsa Village, Julfa region. Thanks to archeological studies led by V. Aliyev and A. Alakbarov it is evident that this location dates back in the second millennium B.C., there were founded black clay tableware, labor tools, grain stones, mortar and pestle. According to historical documents founded in 1590, in the ancient times, Arafsa village was named Arafsag, which was reflecting the name of Sak turks, the indigenous people of Nakhchivan who had been living there since the second millennium BC. According to studies led by L. N. Gumiliyev, I. M. Dyakanov, E. E. Kuzmina, it is scientifically confirmed that Sak Turks have moved from Nakhchivan towards the middle and central Asia and Siberia. Sak Turks are confirmed to be Turk-Azerbaijan tribes. Arafsa means the “land of Sak, courageous people”. In the territory of Nakhchivan there are twenty three settlements related to this ancient indigenous tribe, they are: Sakazur, Sigat, Sakli, Kansak and others.
Arafsa Village is also home of a sacred place that dates back in the Middle Ages, located atop of a hill on the left of Alinjachay. It has two big rooms and balconies in the north and south sides. The main pilgrimage destination is a grave at the center of the main room, in early centuries it was a well known center for Dervishes. Additionally, an archeological settlement with tremendous importance is Arazin field, which dates back in the ninth century B.C. and is a living testimony of a living tradition by Arsini people who have used labor tool pieces, pink color glazed and unglazed table ware as well as burned bricks.
Cultural layers have been found in two meters of thickness as well as a hook made of copper and black colored ash where commonly found during the excavations. Koroghlu Fortress in Sadarak region, another significant historic site, was built during the XVII-XVIII centuries, it recently has emerged as a hot spot for archeological excavations, expected to provide important historical data for this part of Nakhchivan. This fortress was named after Koroghlu who is a hero of Nakhchivani people and is a symbol of manhood, bravery and dignity. Another cultural monument is Dalma Fortress, a valuable archeological monument atop of the mountain. It is discovered 700 – 750 meters from the Dalma Necropolis and located in Ordubad region, nearby Sabirkand. The northern wall has a width of two meters. According to very few excavations in the area it is certain that the fortress was used only for a short period of time and forging furnaces were used inside this castle. Indeed, the same style of military fortifications have been used in other villages of Nakhchivan.
To conclude it is impossible not to mention the important role that XIV century Architect Ahmad Ayyub Oglu Hafiz Nakhchivani, has played towards further developing the architecture school of Nakhchivan and simultaneously exerting a high influence in the European School of Architecture.
Ahmad Ayyub is one of the distinguished members of Nakhchivan School of Architecture. He is the creator of Barda Tomb (1322) and Garabaghlar tomb. The symmetrical and half circle structures used by Ayyub are a tradition of the Ajami style. Incorporation of multi-glazed ornaments has made Ahmad Ayyub, an important contributor in the study of architecture not only in Azerbaijan but throughout Europe and beyond.
European historians and scholars, sooner or later will realize that the mosaic of Europe’s ancient and medieval history will remain forever incomplete for as long as they – together with Central Asian historians – will continue to turn a blind eye towards the monuments, archeological sites, architecture school of Nakhchivan and emblematic castles in the Republic of Azerbaijan.