The exceptionally favorable natural and geographic conditions of Karabakh preconditioned the development of farming and cattle breeding. Numerous settlements were established here which eventually transformed into large and well-fortified cities linked to many countries of the East and West by caravan roads. The natural wealth of the Karabakh land and the abundance of construction materials facilitated extensive landscaping work in ancient cities. Various natural rocks and clay led to the development and spread of a number of construction methods and architec- tural forms, which played a major role in the subsequent development of construction art.
Karabakh’s architectural monuments, partially preserved or lying in ruins, represent invaluable factual evidence of people’s rock chronicles. These monuments provide the opportunity for ascertaining the peculiarities and specificity of construction methods and techniques, compositional solutions, architectural forms, thus establishing the identity of Karabakh’s architecture and its place in the history of Azerbaijani architecture.
Back at the dawn of the of the 20th century Academician N. Vavilov characterized the spread of ancient centers of cultivated plants and established their role in the history of mankind. In essence, N. Vavilov wrote, only a narrow strip of land played an enormous part in the development of mankind. The territory of historical Azerbaijan is one of such centers [ref]V. Vavilov, Origin centers of cultivated plants. Works on applied botany and selection, L., 1926, Vol. 16, part 2[/ref]. Subsequent researches fully confirmed both the general conclusions of the scholar and his separation of specific early agricultural centers [ref]G. Mellart, Ancient civilizations of the Middle East, M., 1982[/ref].
The appearance of long-term resident settlements may be viewed as a beginning of human architectural and construction activities based on consistent organization of the habitat, reasonable and task- specific use of construction materils and structures.
Ancient settlements emerged in Karabakh in the Neolithic era. The discovery and interpretation of ancient settlements shed light on the earlier stages in the development of architecture and the cultural identity of the settled agricultural society which evolved in the 5th-3rd centuries BC.
Karabakh’s Neolithic monu- ments have a lot in common and perhaps even the same roots with Northern Mesopotamia.
The architectural and archaeological researches of Ilanlitepe, Chalagantepe and Kamiltepe (Agdam District) settlements of Karabakh have revealed stratified occupation layers, which has significantly enriched the database for studying the Neolithic culture of Azerbaijan. These settlements are evidence of the great skill with which ancient architects and construction workers erected their buildings.Karabakh’s first settlements did not have defense fortifications. Such settlements were inhabited not by farmers but by hunters. However, in the period of transition from Neo- lithic to the Bronze ages fortified settlements started emerging in Karabakh: Garakepektepe (Fizuli District) and Uzerliktepe (Agdam District) [ref]M. Useynov, L. Bretaninskiy, A. Salamzade, History of Azerbaijani Architecture, M., 1963; O. Abibullayev, Studying the Kultepe Hill, Works of the Institute of History and Philosophy of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, Vol. 9; V. Kerimov, Early Ag- ricultural Architecture on the territory of Azerbaijan, Baku, 1989[/ref].
A cluster of houses was surrounded by a fortress wall. This is evidence of strong cultural and eco- nomic relations of local tribes with countries of the Middle East in the Bronze and early Iron ages.
The start of the Bronze Age in Azerbaijan was marked by major socioeconomic transformation that dramatically changed people’s life- style. The materials used in Bronze Age architecture point to the ex- panding relations between tribes and frequent military stand-offs. Wars, as well as cattle-breeding and farming, became key activi- ties and occupations for ancient tribes inhabiting Karabakh. This is confirmed by the remains of de- fensive structures around the settlements which quite often represent- ed formidable forts, e.g. settlements near the village of Khojali attributed to the 2nd millennium BC.
Monuments of Karabakh’s defensive architecture suggest that such structures were strategically located in places of troop concentrations to prevent enemy incursions.
Uzerliktepe (Agdam District), a structure dating back to the 2nd cen- tury BC, is one of Karabakh’s earliest Bronze Age monuments. It fact, it can serve as a reference standard for the period under examination. The presence of raw blocks on the ground floors of buildings is evi- dence of the socioeconomic situa- tion and the high level of culture in the Bronze epoch [ref] V. Kerimov, Azerbaijan’s defense structures, Baku, 1998[/ref].
Of the fortresses discovered in Karabakh, particularly remarkable have been Aladag, Galali and Galatepe. They are attributed to the
1st millennium BC (Gubatli District). These are neck-shaped fortresses that became more diverse in subsequent periods. An overview of the development of design techniques shows that the evolution of such techniques was preconditioned not so much by the diversity of social conditions but by the changes brought about by the overall de- velopment of the military and engineering art.
In the late 1st millennium BC, Azerbaijan experienced a transition from archaic architectural forms that used to express the ideas of despotic Eastern states to new ideological concepts of “Hellenistic powers”. New town- planning techniques were ob- served now. The Hellenistic period includes the Shergala settlement (1st century BC – 1st century AD) and the Partav fortress (3rd century AD) in Barda District. Town-planning tra- ditions of Karabakh’s defensive ar- chitecture of the Hellenistic period carried on living in the feudal era as well. Also developed in Azerbaijan were the main principles of fortifi- cation architecture that formed the basis of architecture in subsequent centuries.
Written sources and archaeologi- cal materials point to the develop- ment of cities as centers of craft and trade in this period. Particularly ac- tive in Karabakh in this respect were Barda (Partav), Amaras, Khanakert (Khunarakent), Paytarakan and Beylagan. The development of these cities was marred by a fierce struggle against foreign invaders, first of all the Byzantine Empire, Iran and Khaz- aria. After the fall of Kabala fol- lowing a Khazar invasion, Barda (Partav) became the center of the Caucasian Albania (G. Ahmedov, The medieval city of Beylakan, Baku,
1979; K. Mamedzade, Azerbaijan’s construction art, Baku, 1983).
First a residency of Sassanid governors and then of the Alban Catholicos and prince, the city of Partav became the residency of Arab governors in the 8th century. Another large city of Karabakh is the fort city of Beylagan which emerged on the site of a more ancient settlement Paytakaran. The elaborate layout of the city’s walls connected with a system of ditches filled with water is evidence of a high level of defensive construction art.
The data on Karabakh’s architecture, as well as observations and conclusions made, provide a much broader picture of Azerbaijan’s medieval architecture. This is also important from the standpoint of studying the history of the country’s town-planning traditions.
A peculiar combination of traditional and newly-created architectural forms is manifested in the 12th century Gulistan (Goranboy District) and 11-12th century Giz Galasi fortresses (Jabrayil District). This is where ancient traditions of local architecture are combined with new types of structures in response to new requirements of society.
Twenty independent khanates emerged in Azerbaijan in the middle of the 18th century, including the khanates of Baku, Shirvan, Guba, Karabakh, Ganja, Sheki and Talysh. Such division did not contribute to the country’s overall development (Mirza Javanshir Karabakhskiy, The History of Karabakh, Baku, 1959).
Feudalists were largely preoc- cupied with strengthening the old and building new fort cities in which they established their own residencies. Thus, a new fort city of Shu- sha became the capital of the Karabakh khanate[ref]V. Potto, Monuments of the time when Russian rule was established in the Caucasus, First Edition, Tiflis, 1906; E. Avalov, The Architecture of Shusha, Baku, 1977; The History of Azerbaijan, vol.
1, Baku, 1958[/ref]. The appearance of Shusha is closely associated with the military and political situation in Azerbaijan in the mid-18th century. It was built by the founder of the Kara- bakh khanate, Panah Khan, as an unassailable fortress on a mountain. The almost vertical rocks served as boundaries of the fortress on three sides. Karabakh’s cult Architecture 2