Archaeology

Georgia recently made the headlines with the discovery of the 1.8 million year old Dmanisi hominoids in the hills just south of Tbilisi. Providing the missing link in human evolution between Africa and Europe, it also enables us Georgians to claim the first outbound tourists for Europe. Stone, Bronze and Iron Age settlements pepper our landscape – leading to the fine archaeological discoveries of gold and pottery in the ancient Colchis area near the Black Sea. Fine gold artifacts were found in Gonio, and figurines and jewelry at nearby Vani continue to provide a wealth of new exhibits for our museums.

DMANISI

Dmanisi – is located 94 km southwest of Tbilisi in the Kvemo Kartli region, in the valley of the river Mashavera. The site was first inhabited as long ago as the Pleistocene, 1.85 million years ago. Whereas previously it was thought that humans first moved out of Africa about a million years ago, the discoveries at Dmanisi push that date much further back. Also, it was thought that the first humans to make the trip were Homo erectrus, but the fossils found at Dmanisi are closer to the more primitive Homo habilis. The Dmanisi fossils, as well as over 1000 crude stone tools found with them, have made archaeologists rethink the story of mankind’s journey out of Africa. This makes Dmanisi, the oldest discovered human site in Eurasia, an important, and a controversial place.

GONIO

The Gonio -Apsaros Fortress in Adjara, on the lush subtropical Black Sea coast, is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman forts anywhere in the world. The fortress, which guards the mouth of the Chorokhi River, is just fifteen kilometers from the city of Batumi. In ancient times this area was part of Colchis, famed as the home of the legendary Golden Fleece. Archaeologists have discovered objects dating back as far as the 8th century BC, but it was later, during Hellenistic and Roman times, that the area became a strategic, cultural and political centre for the whole of the eastern Black Sea coast. The fortress itself was built in the latter half of the first century AD, and many important historical events are connected with it. Legend has it that it was here that Christ’s Apostle, Andrew the First-Called, became the first to preach the gospel in Colchis. The fortress is also the last resting place of St. Mathias, the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot. According to ancient chronicles, he spent the last years of his life in Adjara and was buried within the walls of Gonio.

VANI

Vani – today is just a small town in the green foothills of the west Georgian region of Imereti. Back in the Bronze Age, however, it was an important religious and cultural centre, and may have been the capital of the legendary ancient kingdom of Colchis. Over the last hundred years archaeologists have discovered a treasure trove – thousands of objects made of gold, jewelry and sculpture in a unique local style, objects imported from Greece and a vast array of funeral pieces – and still just a third of the site has been surveyed.

Much of the world-class collection of objects can be seen at the Vani archaeological Museum-reserve. The museum includes the site itself, where the excavations took place and are still ongoing, as well as the majority of the archeological materials discovered there. In 1987, after discovery of a rich burial site, a special Gold Fund was opened at the museum, which preserves unique examples pieces gold sculpture and jewelry from Vani.

Other archaeological sites of note include ancient Greek colonies Anaklia and Nokalakevi, the Hellenistic bath house and palace ruins at Armazi, as well as Tsnori, Urbnisi and Lak.