Gobustan Nature Reserve is widely known for its cave paintings, monuments of primitive culture, not only in Azerbaijan, but also at the world level. These monuments: ancient drawings, cup recesses for preparing liquid food and collecting rainwater, double holes for tethering animals, signs, tamgas, ancient inscriptions, etc. Discovered and recorded on more than a thousand rocks and stones, these monuments were created by an ancient man and are a reflection of their agricultural and intellectual activities.
Petroglyphs of Gobustan - an art chronicle of the past. They are of great importance, both for studying the primitive history of mankind, and for studying many branches of ancient art: graphics, music, dancing, the art of stone processing. The monuments of Gobustan reflect a period of approximately 20 million years, from the end of the Upper Paleolithic to the beginning of our era.
The first cave paintings of Gobustan were discovered in 1939. Their discoverer and researcher was I.M. Jafarzade. A systematic study of cave paintings began in 1947. Before the formation of the Gobustan reserve in the mountains of Beyukdash, Kichikdash and Jingirdag (Mount Jingirdag is located behind Mount Kaniz), Jafarzade discovered about 4 thousand rock paintings on more than 700 rocks. After the formation of the Gobustan reserve in 1966, the archaeologist S. Rustamov discovered more than a thousand ancient cave paintings. Research work on the territory of the Gobustan reserve is continued by candidates of historical sciences F. Muradova and M. Farajeva. Currently, more than 6 thousand rock paintings and more than 100 thousand objects of archaeological material are registered in the collections of Gobustan.
Starting from the 60s of the XX century, archaeological excavations were carried out on the territory of the Gobustan reserve in the caves of Anazaga, Ovchular, Chardag at the sites of Kaniz, Okyuzler, Gayaarasy, Dashalty, Firuz, Shongar, Dzheyranlar, on Mount Beyukdash, in places of round dwellings and in more than forty funerary structures. As a result of excavations, more than 105 different archaeological materials were included in the archaeological fund of the Gobustan Museum-Reserve. Among them, sinkers, scrapers, cores, stone tools of the Stone Age were mainly made of river stone, silicon and bone. Silicon products found in the shelters of Gobustan are microlithic in nature. They consist of arrowheads, awls, scrapers made of microplates, knife plates and individual fragments. Rough cutting and grinding tools, graters, handles, ballasts and percussion instruments are made of river stone. Tools made from bone include awls, arrowheads, and needles. Decoration items consist of drilled seashells, beads made of small river stones and bones, animal teeth, stone and other materials.
During archaeological excavations conducted in the shelters of Gobustan of the Stone Age, the remains of natural ocher paint were also found, which are stored in the reserve's fund. Perhaps the ancient inhabitants of Gobustan, adding fat or oil to it, made paint with which they decorated their bodies and filled the cavities of ancient cave paintings.
During archaeological excavations, cultural layers found in shelters were formed during various historical periods and small stones stored in the foundation, as well as ancient cave paintings found on separate parts of walls covered with cultural layers, are of great importance for establishing accurate dating of history cave paintings. Since the dating of ancient rock paintings found on the stones of residential shelters was established from an archaeological point of view, and due to the fact that they were found in a cultural layer whose age is the same and even older than the archaeological layer and, taking into attention to the importance of these stones, they were included in the reserve fund.
During archaeological excavations in Gobustan, a large number of animal bones were found, which served as a hunter for ancient people. For example, in the Anna Zaga cave alone, more than ten thousand remains of bones were found. Special tools were made from these bones to stun fish and weave fishing nets. Some of the animal bones found from shelters and caves are kept in the collection.
In 2007, the cultural landscape of the rock paintings of Gobustan was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after which the funding of the reserve increased significantly, and in 2012 a new building of the administrative and museum complex was opened. The building was constructed in such a way as not to disturb the archaic landscape.
At the disposal of the museum appeared new exhibition halls, which made it possible to demonstrate exhibits in more detail. Museum workers selected the most interesting and presented them in a new exhibition. In 2011, the entire leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, headed by Minister Abulfas Garayev, visited the Gobustan Reserve. At the meeting, consultation recommendations were given regarding the improvement of excursion routes, and the design of the museum, in particular, the design of the exhibition halls, was discussed in detail with designers who specially came from Latvia. Special programs for children have been developed. Excursion programs in the Gobustan Reserve are divided into 3 categories - for primary school students, high school students and for students.
The new museum building is equipped with touch screens, laser images, 3-D panoramas and videos. In addition, the exhibition presents the figures of ancient people, animal effigies, models of dwellings, individual copies of cave paintings.
The museum is two-level, in the lobby all typical samples of local petroglyphs are collected. Almost in all the halls of the museum there is an interactive panel on which tourists can find out additional information on the theme of the hall.
Detailed maps indicate in which part of Gobustan which monuments are found. A digital database and a digital map that meet modern standards were created with the goal of documentation, management and conservation of the monuments of Gobustan. The Map-info program compiled a map of the reserve with cave images recorded on it via GPS. The coordinates of the monuments were also established and the stones were photographed. Currently, more than 6,000 rock paintings on 1,000 rocks, more than 40 funerary structures and about 20 ancient housing settlements have been registered; 105,000 valuable cultural sites have been scientifically studied in the Gobustan Nature Reserve.
At a symposium held in Valkamonica, Italy, the model of the Rock Cave Database of the Gobustan State Historical and Artistic Reserve was approved by UNESCO program manager Miss Nuria Shanz.
The museum conducts research and scientific-educational work, publishes literature on the reserve.
In the museum you can take an audio guide. There you can buy a ticket for exploring the reserve, which is 1.5 kilometers from the museum, as well as book an excursion for an additional fee. Tours are conducted in Azerbaijani, English and Russian.