Archaeological excavations in the area of the “Atashgah” gas source near Khinalig village, Azerbaijan by admin

(Extracted from a report by Dr Idris N. Aliyev who is the Head of the Khinalig archaeological expedition and research fellow of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences)

At the initiative of the World Zoroastrian Organisation and with the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Azerbaijan Republic, archaeological excavations were carried out in the area of the “Atashgah” gas source near Khinalig village in Azerbaijan.

“Atashgah” where the fire burns for centuries is located 5 km to the west of Khinalig village.

Khinalig’s inhabitants are very religious and prior to accepting Islam, had been followers of Zoroastrianism.

Even after the adoption of the Islamic religion and as per Khinalig legends, the locals still consider this shrine as most sacred.

One of the most important stages involved before the start of the foundation work was conducting archeological exploration and research work, in particular, around the gas source.

Work began on August 8, 2016. In particular, the pits were laid out both on gas outlets and the adjacent area. Dimensions of excavation pits were fitted to the planned altar foundation where the natural gas output was situated.

Excavations began on an area of 9 square metres. Stones laid over the main flame output were dismantled before the excavation work began. Then the earth ground, consisting of stone and clay was removed to a depth of 90 cm. It was observed that the soil and stones were exposed to combustion, and resulted in a reddish color. The structures which were identified were reminiscent of the remnants of the structure.

A few small pottery fragments dating towards the end of 19th -20th century were found; in fact they do not have values for the determination of the early dating of the building.

The area within the radius of 300 meters of the Atashgah was also examined. Exploration pits, as well as examination of soil sections on the slopes suggested that there was no archaeological material found in this area. However, a more extensive survey work needs to be carried out as presence of archaeological material in this area cannot be excluded.

As a result of the work carried out where the gas outlet is situated, ruins of the structures resembling the altar have been identified. However, it is possible with some caution to connect a stone pile with a simple primitive likeness of the altar. It is noteworthy that the plate mounted above the gas source, stacked neatly, and for centuries maintained its configuration virtually creating a kind of altar.

Following is a letter of appreciation and gratitude by Mr Vajif Aliyev, First Deputy Minister, Azerbaijan to the WZO chairman Mr Shahpur Captain for WZO’s initiative towards reconstruction of the “Atashgah Temple” in Khinalig, Azerbaijan.

permission-for-wzo-jpeg

initial-view-of-the-atashgah-1Initial view of the Atashgah

initial-view-of-the-atashgah-2Initial view of the Atashgah

site-for-laying-the-altar-foundationSite for laying the altar foundation

site-for-laying-the-altar-foundation-view-from-the-westSite for laying the altar Foundation (view from the west)

eastern-side-of-the-gas-sourceThe eastern side of the Gas source

western-side-of-the-gas-source-1

The western side of the Gas Source

the-foundation-of-the-altarThe foundation of the altar

foundation-of-the-altar-1

 The foundation of the altar

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