Monday, September 24, 2012



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Cabala is one of the oldest and distinguished towns of ancient Azerbaijan. Its name in the form of Cabalaca is firstly mentioned in the written sources of the second half of the I-st century in the "Natural History" bearing the character of the encyclopaedia by Gaius Plinius the Elder.

The archaeological investigations confirmed that the ruins of the ancient town of Cabala were located near the Chukhur-Cabala village, Gabala district, Azerbaijan, at the height between Kara-chai (Cabala-chai) and Jourly-chai (Kala-chai) rivers. The area of the ruins of ancient town is 25 ha (250.000 sq. meters). The ditch, which was digged in ancient times, divides the ancient town into two parts. The local people call the territory of the ancient town, which is to the north of the ditch, Selbir, and to the south - Kala.

Later on at the so called Chaggaly talasy (Jackal's glade) the third part of the town was found and then the following territories were revealed: Kyamal-tepe, External town and the Block of the Artisans.

Selbir is the most ancient and important territory of the town, it existed from the III-rd century up to the XII-th century A.D. The overland parts of the fortress walls are preserved till now. The history of Kala covers a period of approximately from the I-th to the middle of the XVIII-th century. During the last years the materials of antique time are revealed here. In our days we can see the overland part of five larae semicircular towers and the fortress walls between then, which sorrounded Kala from the south. The foundation of the tower and the walls are built of the finished quadrangular soft motared stones, and the tipper part is of burnt bricks. Kyamal-tepe is a hill situated opposite the south gates of Kala. In the Middle Ages a religious center of the town Juma-mosque was erected here. The so called Bayir shahar (External town) territory is at the south foot of Kyamal-tepe. Here at the area of approximately 10 ha the ruins of settlements were found. Kala, sited approximately 50 m of the south walls, is a territory of the inseparable part of the town.

Chaggally is 3-4 km to the east of Cabala ruins between Jourly-chai and Gochalan-chai rivers. Some scientists consider Chaggally area to be a part of the ancient town, where the temples, market square were situated, the others suppose Chaggalty to be the ruins of the town itself. The last point needs to be seriously justified. The Block of the Artisans is approxiniatelv 1 km to the north-west of Selbir and Kala, at the district called Yanyg yer (Burnt land). The area of this territory is about 10 ha. In the course of the archaeological excavations two large production furnaces were found here. One of them was used for burning the bricks, another one - for pottery. One can find a lot of such production furnaces in Yanyg yer.

A large part of the archaeological investigations was conducted at Selbir and Kala territory. The cultural stratum of Selbir is 3 m thick. There are three cultural strata here: the first one refers generally to antique age and is dated to the III-rd century B.C.-V-th century A.D., the second one - to the VI-X-th centuries, and the third one - to the XI-XII-th centuries. The thickness of the cultural stratum at Kala territory is not less than 5 m. Life in Kala was not interrupted. It niav be confirmed that beginning from the I-st centurv and up to the middle of the XVIII-th century the habitable beds of four historical ages were found. These four beds refer to the ancient period, early Middle Ages, Middle Ages and late Middle Ages.


Gaius Plinius Secundus in his "Natural History" calls Cabala as C a b a l a c a. The Poman author writes that Cabalaca is a predominant town of Albania. No doubt that Cabala was a fortress at that time. The fortress walls of Selbir, excavated by the archaeologists are dated from the A.D. eve or at least the I-st century A.D. This is justified bv the word "oppidum" (the fortress, the fortification place), which was used bv Plinius conformably to Cabala. In the antique sources both forms-Cabalaca and Chabala are met. Cabala was probably a capital up to the second half of the V-th century. In the course of excavations in Selbir in the lower beds of the I-st cultural stratum the fragments of the crossed walls and many large (length-67, width-45-36 cm, weight-12-15 kg) roofing tiles, the bath sepulchre on the remains of the foundation of the dwelling house (1-st century B.C. - I-st centurv A.D.) and others were found. This information makes us to refer the first constructional beds of the town to the A.D. eve.

The main part of the archaeological material found in Selbir dating from the ancient period consists of the fragments of the earthenware. They are one-handle jugs (black, rose and red in colour), vessels on one and three legs, a milk-can, vessels for various use and so on. The analogical vessels were firstly discovered in Yaloilutepe, 7-8 km from Kala. These vessels are considered to be the most characteristic material of Yaloilutepe culture (III-rd - I-st centuries B.C.) The discovery of a great number of such vessels evidences that in the III-rd - I-st centuries B.C. Cabala was a busy town. The fortress walls around Cabala justify that it was really a town.

The ancient inhabitants of Cabala were acquainted with money and used them beginning from the third century B.C. Both foreign money and many local coins were found here. Rests of grains, iron ploughs, millstones, mortars, fruit stones, large jugs for storage of grain, fruit and wine, many fragments of various earthenware, bones of neat and small cattle, many decorations, iron weapons (arrow and spear heads, knives, daggers, ancient coins, bulls and other rests of material culture) evidence that the antique period in Cabala was characterized by agriculture, cattle-breeding, gardening, crafts and trade. The religion views of the ancient inhabitants of Cabala were closely connected with fireworshipping.


In the sources of the early Middle Ages Cabala was called as Kapalak, Kapaga, Khuala and so on. Beginning from the IV-th century Christianity was widely spread in Cabala, here was situated the episcopal pulpit (episcopacy).

In the VI-VIII-th centuries the region of Cabala was frequently raided bv Khazars. They ruled here during almost a century and made Cabala their administrative centre. The Arabians, who invaded the town later on, knew it as Cabala-Khazar. In 737 at the time of caliph Mervan's rule the Arabians repulsed the Khazars for the last time and announced their domination here.

In the period of the early Middle Ages Cabala consisted of Selbir and Kala. Both parts of the town were defenced by a common wall. The cultural strata of Selbir and Kala of the VI-VII-th centuries are not rich in archaeological materials. But in the habitable bed of the VIII-th century many constructional rests and other archaeological materials were revealed. The secret water-lines consisting of earthenware water-tubes were discovered. In the course of the archaeological excavations various hearths, tendirs, pits, sewerages were found here. All these help to imagine the mode of life of the ancient Cabala inhabitants.

Beginning from the end of the VII-th century the inhabitants of Cabala made the bread in tendirs. In the town cultural stratum of the early Middle Ages many bones of neat and small cattles, grains of rye and wheat, stones of cornel, alycha, shells of nuts and fyndyk, jeweller's instruments (moulds for earrings, rings, medallions, crucible for melting metals, blow-lamp, jeweller's spoon and others), hearth and instruments of pharmaceutist, decorations, metal objects, residues of iron and glass articles production, spindles, metal coins and others were revealed. These rests of the material culture evidence that in the economic life of the early Middle Age town inhabitants an important place took pottery, jeweller's art, pharmaceutics, glass-blower work, weaving, metal and stone articles production and the trade along with agriculture, cattle-breeding, gardening.

At the end of the VIII-th century a new step was made in the pottery: a potter's wheel appeared and the production of the first glazed earthenware started. Beginning from the VIII-th century Arabian coins appeared in Cabala. The Arabian coins, widely spread at the Near and Middle East, made easier the foreign trade relations of Cabala. As it was mentioned, beginning from the IV-th century Cabala was a centre of Christianity. In spite of this the Sasanids with a special zeal propagated here the Zoroastrianism. From the VIII-th century Mohammedanism began to spread here. This is justified by Juma-mosque built on Kyamal-tepe.


At the end of the IX-th-beginning of the X-th century Cabala became an independent feudal state. It was ruled by Anbasa al-Avar. The boundaries of his country were strengthened by fortresses. At the time of Abd al-Bar's (the son of Anbasa al-Avar) rule (981-1025) Shirvanshah struggled for Cabala during many years. At last after Ezid ibn Ahmad had taken Gurzul (Kurzul) fortress -the last asylum of Abd al-Bar, Cabala was vassalaged by Shirvanian rulers. This state was preserved till Mongolian invasion.

Ibn al-Asir mentions that in the period of Mongolian invasion Cabala was raided by Kipchaks. The archaeological investigation in Cabala showed that till the end of the X-th century it still consisted of Selbir and Kala. Both territories were surrounded by the safe fortress walls. But the Mussulman sepulture, which was found in Selbir and dated from the XI-th century, and a rich habitable bed above it evidenced that in the XI-th century life in Selbir was stopped and recovered onlv in the XII-th century. But the town life in Kala was not interrupted.

In general in the IX-XIII-th centuries Cabala flourished as a feudal town. At this particular time the External town and the Block of the Artisans appeared and prospered. In the economical life of the town along with agriculture and gardening, potterv, jewelier's art, glass-blower work, manufacture of silk, weaving and trade plaved a great role.

At this time behind the fortress walls such Mussulman grave yards as Shehidlyar, Mujeohur piri, Sarylyg piri appeared. Juma-mosque still remained on Kyamal-tepe.


The written sources mention that in 1385 Cabala became a military camp of Timur. The poet Badr Shirvani (1387-1450), who lived and worked in Cabala for a long period of time, wrote that at the beginning of the XV-th centurv Shujaeddin Ardashir ruled in Cabala. At the time of his rule Cabala prospered.

In 1500 Shah Ismail Safavi entered Shirvan, Cabala became an asylum of Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasar. In the XVI-th centurv and the beginning of the XVII-th century Cabala became one of sanjags (regions), established in Shirvan as a result of wars between Turkev and Safavids. At this time the fortress walls of Cabala were thoroughly restored.

Cabala didn't lose its economical, political and military importance in the first half of the XVIII-th centurv. The ruler of Cabala at this time was Surkhai-khan. In the struggle against Surkhai-khan Iranian shah Nadir twice (1734 and 1742) conquered Cabala. These actions absolutely destroyed the town.

In the XIV-XVIII-th centuries the ancient town Cabala included mainly Kala, Kyamal-tepe and External town. Selbir and the Block of the Artisans stopped their existence.

The archaeological materials confirmed, that the life in Cabala (Kala) stopped in the XVIII-th century. The life was concentrated only on the territory of the External town. At that time the External town was called Chukhur-Cabala due to its geographical position. Here the life stopped in the 30-s of the XIX-th centurv. Bewaring of Kara-chai river flooding the inhabitants left for the place, where they stay now, and called it also Chukhur-Cabala.

Text by Igrar Aliev & Firidun Gadirov

I noticed that your page bestquotes.html refers to the fortress Kabalah (Cabala, Qabala) which was once called "Khazar" (or so they say). I heard that this was inhabited by Khazars or Turks in the 7th century, but only temporarily. Some Khazar-Turk soldiers were buried there. It is briefly mentioned in Altstadt's History of Azerbaijan (Hoover Press) and on a website hosted in Azerbaijan (I think it's at, but I can't find the specific page right now). Findings from Kabala are contained in the History Museum of Azerbaijan, according to Where else can we learn about Kabala?

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