Azerbaijan - Land of Mud Volcanoes
Here are some fragments from the popular-science brochure "All About Mud Volcanoes" by Ibrahim Guliyev and Akper Feizullayev. Used by kind permission. More details about this book and authors you can find at the Web-site of Geology Institute of Azerbaijan.
Mud Volcanoes and Zoroastrism.
Azerbaijan is exeptionally rich in surface gas seeps, some of which are alight. This gas flares which accompany the eruption of mud volcanoes are particulary impressive.
The burning flames have attracted people's attention since time immemorial, and they became an object of worship. This is shown by the numerous fire temples at Nush-Dzhan-Tepe, Adurgushnaep, Surakhany, Pirallahi, Hovsany, Shakhdag and elsewhere. The history of fire worship in Azerbaijan and the neighbouring regions of Iran has its roots deep in the past, at the beginning of the first millenium A.D.
The cult of fire worship was of paramount importance throughout the history of pre-Islamic Iran. The name of the first monarch of that country was Atrapata, which means "Protected by Fire". Fire worship played a particularly important rple during the Sasanid period, when Zoroastrism was prevalent. The founder of Zoroastrism, Zaratushtra, is considered by some scholars to have been born in Southern Azerbaijan.
Zoroastrism continued to play an important role for three of four centuries even after the Arabian conquest. Many examples of Zoroastrian literature date from this time. Great men of Azerbaijan such as Nizami, Khagani and Nasimi dedicated words of inspiration to Zoroastrism. And while Nizami and Khagani warned against fire worship, Nasimi glorified fire in almost every poem he wrote.
We have every reason to suppose that burning gases from mud volcanoes played no small role in the foundation of one of the great religions of the world.
But What Are Mud Volcanoes
The greatest mud volcanoes in the world, Boyuk Kyanizadag, Touragai, Boyuk Kharamy and Kaimas, rise majestically above the surrounding landscape. Mud volcanoes usually form mounds of varying size. They take the form of a truncated cone, from 5 to 500 m high, outwardly resembling a magmatic volcano.
...Mud volcanoes are essentially instruments for taking gas and mineral waters, sometimes with traces of oil, together with the associated mud, from great depths (8-12 km) and depositing them on the surface. During eruptions, angular blocks of rock of various ages and sometimes reaching several metres in diameter may also be expelled. They may be perfectly free of the surrounding agrillaceous material, to which they are usually subordinate in volume....
After eruption the breccia undergoes rapid erosion, and the mud flows are reworked into a complex system of gulleys and ridges, fanning-out from the crater margins. Mud volcanoes at sea from distinct islands, banks and submarine mounds...
Mud Volcanoes - Where Are You?
Mud volcanoes are natural phenomena which occur throughout the globe. They are found at a greater or lesser scale on Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, on the Kerch and Taman peninsulas, on Sakhalin Island, in West Kuban, Italy, Romania, Iran, Pakistan, India, Burma, China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zeland, Mexico, Colombia, Trinidat and Tobago, Venezuela and Ecuador.
Mud volcanoes are most well-developed in Eastern Azerbaijan, where more than 30% of all the volcanoes in the world are concentrated. More than 300 mud volcanoes have already been recognised here on land or at sea, 220 of which lie within an area of 16, 000 km2. Many of these mud volcanoes are particulary large (up to 400 m high). The volcanoes of the South Caspian form permanent or temporary islands, and numerous submarine banks....
And What's Your National Name, Volcano?
...A widespread local name for mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan is "pil'pilya", or a term derived from it: "pil'pilya crater". In addition to the onomatopoeic "pil'pilya" (which reflects the sound of gass bubbles bursting in liquid clay), the names "mud lake", "bozdag" (grey mountain) are used. The latter is applied by the local population to certain volcanic cones which rarely erupt, and are covered by a sratic mass of mud-lava which is whitened by a salty efflorescence. The name "akhtyrma" (white cover) is used for a group of volcanic centres of the bozdag type which have blanketed a wide area with their mud. Names of volcanoes containing the suffix "-batan" may be encountered(from the word "batmag", meaning "stuck"). These include Lok-batan, At-batan (i.e. places where camels or horses become stuck), and may be used for an extensive field of viscous mud breccia. The name "gainarja" (boiling place) is applied to gas gryphons which vent into a liquid environment (mud, water or oil)...
Mud Volcanoes Cure People
At present day preparations of mud, obtained mainly from slit deposits, peatbog or sapropelic muds, are used extensively around the world for curative purposes in the form of injections, baths, washes, compresseses etc. From this viewpoint attention has been directed at the eruption products of mud volcanoes, and particularly the solutions from mud domes, which contain both inorganic and organic components. The solutions from volcanic mud appears as a transparent liquid with yellowish coluration, odourless, and salty to the test. The mineral content of the solution from mud volcanoes compared with that form slit deposits (150 - 350g/l ) is low ( 10 - 40 g/l ).
...Experimental studies on animals indicate that toxic substances are absent from the volcanic mud. In addition, the results of these experiments show that the mud solution may be recommended as a new form of mud preparation, used in electrophoresis for curing various diseases: diseases of the joints and vertebrae, osteochondrosis, diseases of the periperal nerves, initial forms of atheroscerosis and hypertonic disease, gyna-ecological diseases etc....
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