The rock-carving Gobustan, a state-protected reserve situated 40 miles south of Baku, date back to the Stone Age. Gobustan, in translation, means "ravine land". The spurs of the Great Caucasus Range descend to the sea here along the river Djeiran-kechmez (in translation-"where the djeiran (saiga deer) will not pass"). The soft clay soil led to the formation of numerous ravines. The local rock surface has the following remarkable qualities: it lends itself to carving, while at the same time being extraordinarily weather-resistant. These factors were to play a role in primitive man's choice of this site for his open-air "picture gallery".
The rock carvings were first discovered in 1939 by the Azerbaijan archaeologist and ethnographer I. M. Djaffar zade. During the 25 years he spent exploring the area, the scholar found about 4,000 petroglyphs on 700 rock faces of the Beyukdash and Kichikdash ("Big Rock", "Small Rock") mountains. He took in rubbings and catalogued each of them. His work was continued by the archaeologist D. Rustamov who found another 2,000 petroglyphs. In 1966 Gobustan was declared to be a national reserve and put under the protection of the state.