Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2006 (14.3)
Page 41

New Discovery: Baku Maiden Tower
Maiden Tower Marks Winter Solstice
by Ronnie Gallagher and Betty Blair

Ever wonder what that door is all about - the one that faces out to the sea about halfway up Maiden Tower? Obviously, one step out that Tower door would be fatal as it leads to nowhere - at least in the scheme of things as it exists today.

However, Abbas Islamov and Ronnie Gallagher have observed that at Winter Solstice (December 21st/22nd), the sun, rising in the southeastern sky, is framed precisely in this mysterious doorway when viewed from inside Maiden's Tower.

Azerbaijanis refer to this day - the shortest day of the year - as "chila". In olden days, it was commemorated much more than it is today.

Is it a coincidence that the sunrise is framed by this doorway once a year on this date? Perhaps. But not likely, if other Megalithic monuments constructed by Early Man and which are scattered across the Europe from England to Malta are any indication. Such monuments can be found from Stonehenge in England, the Neolithic mounds of Newgrange in Ireland as well as Maeshowe in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.

Many early constructions, the remains of which still exist today, have been found to mark the solar calendar very consciously and deliberately in their design. Passageways were calculated to capture the annual event of the Winter

Solstice when the sun arcs from its lowest position in the sky during its annual ellipse. The shortest day of the year in terms of daylight, this day marks the reversal of the sun's path and the beginning of the new year, especially for agriculturalists whose very survival depends upon understanding and appreciating nature's laws.

Above Left: Maiden Tower, Baku's most prominent landmark. Halfway up the Tower facing out to the southeast is a door that seemingly leads to nowhere. At Winter Solstice (between December 21 and 23), the sun can be seen rising directly through this doorway. Photo: Blair

Right: Sunrise at Winter Solstice, December 21st, 2005, as framed by the doorway half way up Maiden Tower. Clearly, the Tower was designed to highlight this annual phenomenon of the sun's path just like many monolithic monuments, which still exist in Europe, Scandinavia and many other parts of the world. Photo: Abbas Islamov

Above: Entrance to Maiden Tower on the northwest. One can climb up to the roof. Photo: Blair

In addition, the Spring Equinox (March 20-21), which is celebrated as Novruz in Azerbaijan is also marked in the design of Maiden Tower according to Islamov and Gallagher. Again, the sunrise marks the event, exactly aligning itself to the inner side of the buttress of Maiden Tower, which has been built in an easterly direction.

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