Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi

04 December 2014

Excavation at Nokalakevi resumed under the collaboration of Dr. Davit Lomitashvili from the Georgian side and Prof. Ian Colvin from the British side.

Typography of the settlement:

Nokalakevi is located in the west part of Georgia at the province of Samegrelo, 15.5km

North-East of Senaki. It sits in a loop of the River Tekhuri at the edge of the Colchian plain with hills on its northern and western perimeters. The site consists of an upper citadel, a high hill and a lower town on the river terrace, linked by strongly fortified walls.

Nokalakevi settlement once was the center of the kingdom of Colchis.

Site Chronology





pre-8th century BC

Late bronze/early iron age

'Qulha' mentioned in Urartian sources: including West Georgia & Tao-Klarjeti.

1st 'heroic' age ca. 12th c. BC: Jason & the Argonauts' mythical quest for the Golden Fleece in Colchis; Aeetes, his daughter Medea & his capital Aea, captured the imagination of later Greeks & Georgians.

8th-7th centuries BC

Pre-antique (end of early iron age)

Cimmerian and Scythian invasions of East & West Georgia destroy central authority.

Double-headed animal figurines; ritual hearths/squares; bead & metal workshops. First large scale ceramic finds-all produced locally.

6th-4th centuries BC

Early antique

Settlement of Ionian Greeks on East Black Sea coast. Kingdom of Colchis mentioned by Greek geographer pseudo-Scylax.

First imports of amphorae, black slip ceramics, jewellery and glass, from Attica, Ionia and Aegean. Local ceramics strongly represented in finds.

3rd-1st  centuries BC


Begins with Alexander the Great's semi-legendary contemporaries Parnavaz & Kuji last third of 4th century BC; ends with the Mithridatic wars, Pompey's invasion of the Caucasus 67/66 BC, and the subsequent Roman settlement of the East.

Continued imports & new styles of local production. Clay timber buildings; furnished pot burials, cremations & inhumations.
Kuji founds Tsikhegoji (Nokalakevi). 
2nd Georgian 'heroic' age. 10th c AD Kartlian sources describe a legendary 'liberation' of Georgia from Alexander's Greeks & the unification of East & West Georgia under King Parnavaz & his deputy the West Georgian Eristavi (ruler) Kuji.

1st c. BC - 3rd c. AD


Pompey the Great's invasion through to Diocletian (284-305AD)/ Constantine (308-337) & the conversion of the Caucasus & Roman worlds to Christianity.

Largely absent from Nokalakevi; in West Georgia as a whole the vast majority of finds come from the coastal regions or the Kartli-Iberian borders. Literary sources (Arrian) describe four kingdoms in  West Georgia: Lazika, Apsilia, Agasgia & Saniges.

4th-8th centuries AD


From Constantine the Great & Christianity to the first Arab invasions of West Georgia 735-7 AD (Murwan ibn Muhammad).

Majority of the visible standing architecture in upper & lower town is dated to 4th‑6th cc. AD. Byzantine literary sources describe Byzantine-Sasanian wars in unified Lazika-Egrisi, & in the South Caucasus in the 6th century. Armenian & Kartli-Iberian sources provide info on wider South Caucasian world. Later Georgian sources' interest in a 3rd 'heroic' age of 'unification' under Vakhtang Gorgasali.

8th-10th centuries AD

Abkhazian kingdom

From latter part of 8th century AD to Bagrat III's unification of Georgia in 978.

Very few finds in Nokalakevi from 6th century until 16th century.

10th-15th centuries AD

Bagratid period

From Bagrat III's unification of Georgia in 978 until the breakup of this first unified Georgian kingdom in second half of 15th century.

Possible 11th century additions to 40 Martyrs Church.


15th-19th centuries AD

Mingrelian principality

From the breakup of the first Georgian kingdom until Russia's protectorate of the Georgian principalities at the early 19th century.

A branch of the princely Dadiani family lived at Nokalakevi, constructed folly & church bell tower;  repaired 'palace' and some earlier walls and towers. Work typified by mixed use of robbed stone from earlier walls and river cobbles.

19th century to 1973


From Russian annexation to the beginning of modern large-scale archaeological work.

Dubois du Montpéreux suggests (1833/9) that Nokalakevi may be Aeetes' 12th c. BC Aea and the Archaeopolis of the 6th c. AD Byzantine sources. Growing interest leads to 1930-1 expedition under Schneider & eventually to modern excavations, 1973-today.


Archaeological Expeditions:

1930-1931 Head of the expedition was Dr. Alphonse Maria Schneider.

1973 - 2002 Nokalakevi expedition was formed under the leadership of Parmen Zakaraia. 

From 2001, excavation at Nokalakevi formally resumed under the Anglo-Georgian Expedition and is growing from strength to strength with committed research agendas.

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