Gobustan State Reserve, otherwise known as Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, or just Gobustan, is a hill-and-mountain site on the southeast end of the Big Caucasian Ridge. It mainly occupies the basin of Jeyrankechmaz River, situated between the rivers Sumgait and Pirsagat. Located west of the Gobustan settlement and about 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Baku’s center, it is cut up with a number of rather deep ravines, which in Azerbaijani is “gobu,” the suggested origin of the place’s name.
Under harsh exposure to the sun, wind, and seismic activity throughout many centuries, blocks of stone has broken away from the edges of a layer of limestone. These rolled down the slopes and pressed against each other to form about twenty caves and canopies of varying sizes which serve as shelter for the natives. Gobustan State Reserve’s archeological value was then discovered by accident when a group of men came there in 1930 to mine for gravel. There was an abundance of boulders and stone formations but one miner noticed the carvings on the rocks which then led to the team discovering man-made caves which had even more of the rocks engravings within.
Gobustan State Reserve was declared one of Azerbaijan’s national historical landmarks in 1996 to preserve the ancient carvings, mud volcanoes, gas stones, and other relics that have become tourist attractions in the region. Taken under legal protection were the mountains Kichikdash, Jingirdag, and Beyukdash, and the Yazili hill situated in the southeast portion of Gobustan, near the Caspian Sea. It was declared in 2007 as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) due to the place’s rock art engravings which reflect substantially the hunting lifestyles in prehistoric times and the culture which continued to develop until the medieval times.