Dr. Abesalom Vekua (1925-2014)

20 February 2014


Dr. Abesalom Vekua, a distinguished Georgian paleontologist, Full Member of the Georgian Academy of Sciences and Head of the Georgian National Museum Institute of Palaeobiology passed away.

It is very hard for me to write about him in the past tense as the last twenty years of my life had been closely connected with Abesalom Vekua, who was a bright example of the human and professional commitment. At the age of 88, he was still actively involved in his professional activities. It is said that age is a relative concept, and it would be very difficult not to agree with this statement when remembering Abesalom Vekua.

He made a great contribution in the development of Georgian paleontology by discoveries and studies of some unknown before animal species. He is the author of over two hundred scientific publications and ten monographs. His works were published in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, and were part of the world's leading scientific journals, including Nature and Science. Dr. Abesalom Vekua was awarded with several honors and prizes, including the Medal of Honor, the State Prize in the Field of Science and Technology and the Leo Davitashvili Award.

He had made a major contribution in the studies of the Dmanisi hominids and fauna. "In 1983, during the excavations of the Middle Ages holes in Dmanisi, he discovered a tooth of rhinoceros together with other fossils that enabled him to identify the geological age of the lower layers at the Dmanisi site with the Early Pleistocene" - this phrase is included in numerous paleontology manuals and the fact marked the beginning of the Dmanisi discoveries that gained the worldwide recognition, absolutely changing the well established notion of hominids first migration from Africa.

Nowadays, we frequently use a phrase "self made man" or "a man who created his own life". Abesalom Vekua fully complies with these characteristics.

As a participant in the World War II, he began his studies at the university in his late years, but had fully compensated the time that he missed. Meeting with Dr. Leo Gabunia, while still being a student, had strongly determined his future,  as he  became a lifelong faithful friend and a professional companion for Dr. Gabunia.

Today, I am happy that I have had an amazing opportunity to participate in the research and studies together with these two great persons and to hear Dr. Leo Gabumia's high opinions of Abesalom Vekua during the research and allocation process of the new species of hominid -Homo Georgicus. Dr. Gabumia, together with many Georgian and foreign paleontologists had acknowledged Abesalom Vekua's surprisingly keen eye and the solid knowledge of anatomy. Many new species of extinct animals were discovered because of this talent and the great efforts of Dr. Absalom Vekua.

There are two main types of paleontologists: the ones who wait for clean and prepared bone materials in order to start their scientific research and the others who prefer the field work at archaeological sites and finding materials themselves. No doubt that Dr. Abesalom Vekua belonged to the second group of scientists. All major excavations of the last years were carried out with his participation, and we can say with confidence that there is no paleontological site in Georgia that has not been researched without the direct involvement of Abesalom Vekua.

His organizational skills and faithfulness to his profession had been always exemplary for young researchers. I wish that Georgia could have more such faithful servants to science as Dr. Absalom Vekua was.

David Lordkipanidze