Khojaly-Gadabay is a culture in the archeological literature of the Republic of Azerbaijan that was first recognized in the Khojaly region of this country. Chronologically, it dates to the Late Bronze and the Old Iron Ages in the Caucasus area, and the Iron Ages I and II in the northwest of Iran. In addition to Khojaly-Gadabay, this culture is known with the names such as Central Zagafia, Ganja-Garabagh in the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Lechashen-Metsamur in the Republic of Armenia. Most archeological data of this culture have been obtained and studied from the cemeteries of non-residential cites. This descriptive-analytical study analyzes the main characteristics, based on archaeological data and with a comparative approach. In this study, it is tried to answer two main questions. First, what are the most important archaeological attributes of this culture in the studied geography? Second, how the origins and ways of expanding this culture can be explained? This paper can provide a clear understanding and an appropriate background for the study of this culture in the northwest of Iran. The main features of this culture have been the use of gray pottery, various burial shapes, semi-nomadic lifestyle, and the use of structures and temples in the spiritual and religious range.
This study aimed at investigating the archeological data obtained both in the South Caucasus and in the northwest of Iran. The main objective of this work is to explore the most important cultural features of Khojaly-Gadabay culture and its distribution areas, as well as clarifying some unknown and dark features and commonalities and differences of this culture in the two mentioned geographical locations.The main questions of this study are as follows: 1) What are the most important archaeological features of this culture in the studied geography? 2) How the nuclei of formation, origin, and dissemination of this culture are explained? The answer to these unknowns can provide a clear horizon and a suitable background for studying this culture in the northwest of Iran (Azerbaijan).
Reviewing previous studies show that the main features of this culture are the use of gray pottery, burials of different shapes, having a semi-nomadic life, and the construction and use of temples (in terms of spiritual and religious aspects). Based on the obtained archaeological data of this culture, Azerbaijani archaeologists attribute the formation, origin, and spread of this culture to the west of this country in 1450 to 900/800 B.C. This culture has spread from the South Caucasus to the northwest of Iran (Azerbaijan) between tribes that have been peacefully connected.
The present study was conducted based on a descriptive-analytical method with a comparative approach. The authors of the article try to study this culture in the two geographical areas of the South Caucasus and northwest of Iran using different designs, species of pottery, and metal objects through a comparative approach and provide a clear understanding of this culture. Toward the end of the second millennium BC, tribes and communities engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry emerged in the western part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. All archaeological and cultural data related to these communities are known in the Azerbaijani archeological literature as “Khojaly-Gadabay culture”. Based on the obtained archaeological data of this culture, Azerbaijani archaeologists attribute the formation, origin, and spread of this culture to the west of this country in 1450 to 900/800 B.C. This culture has spread from the South Caucasus to the northwest of Iran between tribes that have been peacefully connected. Khojaly-Gadabay culture has been studied in terms of burial method, as well as archaeological and cultural aspects in the geographical area of the northwest of Iran, especially on the banks of the Aras River in sites or cemeteries such as Jafarabad Khodaafarin Cemetery, Larijan Cemetery, Tuali Sofla Cemetery.
One of the main features of Khojaly-Gadabay culture is gray pottery (Figurs: 5,6,7,8) decorated with carvings and bronze objects (Figur: 3). In terms of shape and form, tombs come in a variety of shapes, including box-shaped and stone-shaped tombs in mountainous areas foothills whereas simple graves, earthen tombs, pit, plain-like, and brick graves in plain-like areas. Burials have been performed both collectively and individually. Burials in the residential area of the Caucasus basin were mostly collective and secondary, except that burial with a brick structure has not been obtained from the Caucasus region. Kurgani burials (Figur: 15) and stone-shaped boxes (Figur: 9) are located in two geographical areas in non-residential areas while cemeteries and have been reported from the foothills and around the castles. Khojaly-Gadabay culture pottery includes portable and removable utensils. Commonly used geometric patterns in the study area include horizontal recessed stripes, lace-shape patterns, horizontal lines, dot-like patterns, mushroom-shaped appendages, rhombus-shaped patterns, spring-shaped patterns, and stamped patterns. Animal motifs used in this culture include motifs of goats, rams (Figur: 6), cows, or birds. The resulting pottery is technically divided into two categories of wheel maker and handmade. Interestingly, according to the present study, pottery species show resemblance in two geographical areas, both in terms of pattern and form.
One of the interesting points about these cemeteries is the secondary burial and having an altar or temple. The use of sacred sites and religious activities in the residential area obtained from layer VIII of Kul Tepe-I is related to the Chalcolithic period. Also, indemnification of a temple that has cow-horn and horseshoes shaped stoves is related to the Early Bronze Age of Kul Tepe-I and II. The use of sacred sites in residential or burial area in the region is suggestive of the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age in the South Caucasus basin. In some of these cemeteries, including Muncuqlu Tǝpǝ/Munjuglu Tepe, each tomb has its own altar, and the altars were built right at the entrance and in front of the tombs. The depth of the altars is 50 cm and the depth of the graves is 70-100 cm. One of the religious sites related to this culture is obtained from the Gegarut site of Armenia, which was named temple (Figur: 10) by an excavator.
Another important element in the subject of spirituality and religion is the construction and use of the temple. In this regard, the use of the temple is one of the major features of Khojaly-Gadabay culture. The reason is that some squirrels, dogs, and horses have been found in these tombs. Furthermore, finding an altar platform from the cemeteries and the mixture of soil covering the upper part of the tombs, along with pieces of pottery, has been recognized by archaeologists as a sign of the burial rite with the reception. Sometimes, the temple is built in the settlement area and sometimes in cemeteries and non-settlement, indicting worships in both parts.
One of the important features of this culture is the decoration of pottery with animal heads, including ram heads, which were obtained from the Goy Tepe (Figur: 20) and belongs to the Iron Age II. The decoration of the utensils with the heads of animals such as cows, horses, and other animals, in addition to pottery, is also reflected in bronze objects. Pottery with embossed decorations with animal heads (ram or cow heads) from Zayamchai Cemetery of the Republic of Azerbaijan, is seen in this culture. These potters have two holes near the edge and the crescent sign inside the bowls. Like this type of earthen bowl, some potteries were detected in Dinkhah Tepe (Figur: 22) and Kordlar Tepe (Figur: 23).
Based on the discovery of uninhabited cemeteries in the foothills and mountainous areas along with the settlement in the lowlands, archaeologists have concluded that the livelihood and lifestyle of the Khojaly-Gadabay culture were semi-nomadic and the inhabitants in mountainous areas had been engaged in livestock and agricultural activities.