Maiden Tower of Baku Old City «İcheri Sheher»
The symbol of Baku, Maiden Tower was included into the list of World Cultural Heratage of UNESCO in December of 2000. Maiden Tower, erected at the coast of the Caspian Sea preserved its magnificence till our days. The Tower, which was included into the fortification system of Baku, was called “Maiden Tower” for its inaccessibility. Maiden Tower is a cylindrical shaped tower built at the coast rock. From the sea side the oblong prop (counterfort) adjoins the tower. The height of the tower is 31meters from the north and 28meters from the south. It should be noted that there are some versions concerning the figure “28”. The facts that Caspian Sea is below the world sea level by 28 meters, there are 28 blocks in Icherisheher, the Fortress walls connect 28 semicircular towers, indicate the symbolic character of this figure. The diameter of the Tower is 16meters on the ground floor, and thickness of wall is 5meters on the ground floor. The Tower consists of 8 floors. Each of the eight floors is covered with the stone cupola with round hole in the center. The holes of the cupolas are arranged in such a way that it is possible to see the floor of the ground floor when looking through the openning in the central part of the ceiling of the eighth floor. The single entrance into the Tower is the arched doorway on its western side. The ground floor of the Tower is 3meters high, the height of the other floors is on the average 2,5meters. The connection between the floors is supported by staircases built in the thickness of the south-eastern wall of the tower. At medieval times there was no staircase on the ground floor and therefore the access to the first floor was possible only by lowering the rope or ladder through the circular hole on the ceiling. The door of the tower was also made of several firm layers. This fact is proved by the remains left on top of the arched door way, the length of which is equal to the width (5 meters) of the Tower wall. In order to keep under control the sea and southern and south-eastern sides of the Tower, special loopholes were made on the walls. These loopholes were intended for the circulation of fresh air, as well. In 1962-63 archeological excavation works were carried out on the ground floor of the Tower. As a result of the digging down to a depth of 5 meters, it was found out that the foundation of the monument was built on a huge rock with slope to the sea. We can come to a conclusion that the counterfort adjoining the monument from the sea side plays the role of a main prop of the Tower in front of this slope.
During the archeological research works carried out in 1964, from the foundation of the Tower there were found big logs 14 meters high, which stretched to the interior of the monument. Even today, the main function of these logs is not known. It is possible that, these logs relate to a special construction inside the counterfort, or protect the building against earthquake. There are various suppositions and legends about the date of construction and function of the tower. Some of the scientists suppose that the Tower was built in two different periods. According to this supposition, the lower part of the tower with smooth wall up to 12 meters is older and dates back to the VIII-VII centuries BC. The upper part surrounded with stone stripe is supposed to be built later. Accurate calculations defined that the width of the Tower wall is 5 meters at the bottom and 4.5meters at the top. This fact shows that the lower and upper parts of the monument were not built in different periods as stated by some scientists, but in the same period. Because, the wall 5 meters wide helped the both parts of the Tower stand on firm foundation. The secret of preservation of the Maiden Tower till our days is its construction on such a firm foundation. One of the interesting features in the construction structure of the Maiden Tower is a well dug out on a rock. From the level of the ground floor to the depth of 5 meters the well was built out of well hewn stones. This well 21 meters deep is in the thickness of the south-eastern wall of the Tower, and its diameter is 0.7 meters. Excavation works were carried out in this well. Material cultural remnants found in the well show that it was used starting from the XII century. According to the calculations it was determined that the well has no connection with the sea level.
Chemical analysis also proved that water in the well is good for drinking. The mouth of the well starts from the level of the third floor and goes down 13meters along the wall of the Tower. The well was hidden inside of the Tower walls for security reason. On the northern and southern walls of the well there are foot-places 10-12cm deep for going up and down. The diameter of the well widens at the depth of 12 meters.
There is a supposition that the underground passage between Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs’ Palace starts from the bottom of the well. The first underground passage was discovered as a result of the large-scale archeological excavations carried out at the eastern part of Icherisheher in 1982. This passage is located on the eastern part of the main street leading from Shamakhi Gate, which was the central trade street of Baku at medieval times, to Salyan Gate. It is interesting that this way passes under Multani caravanserai of the XIV century and goes in the direction of the Maiden Tower.
There are different thoughts about functional purpose and date of construction of the Maiden Tower. This tower is called a temple of fire worshippers, defensive tower, observatory, Zoroastrian hut and so on.
One of the arguments to fix the date of construction of the Maiden Tower is a stone inscription with dimensions of 0.4×0.6 meters, located on the exterior of the tower, over the entrance, at the height of 14meters. The inscription runs: “Qubbe – Masud ibn Davud”. Some scientists suppose that Masud ibn Davud is the name of the architect who built the Tower. In their thoughts they are based on the inscription on the circular tower of Mardakan fortress. The inscription on Mardakan tower reads: “architect Abd-Al-Majid ibn Masud”. These researchers consider that the architect Abd-Al-Majid is the son of the architect Masud, who erected Maiden Tower. Till the recent period this inscription has been the main argument for relating this monument to the XII century. But, later on it was found out that this inscription was built into the Tower long time after its construction. It was inserted roughly into the part of the wall surrounded with stone stripe. According to the supposition of other researchers this stone inscription was placed on the Tower wall after its construction. As far as the origin of Masud ibn Davud is concerned, according to the medieval sources he is the grandson of Seljuk sultan Mahmud. Sultan Mahmud was the ruler of Azerbaijan in the early XII century. His grandson Masud is likely to have ruled over Northern Azerbaijan in this period and had this inscription inserted into the Tower wall in order to immortalize his own name.