The Georgian-Australian Archaeological Investigations in Georgia

12 July 2016

The Georgian National Museum and the University of Melbourne have been cooperating for many years. The framework of this co-operation is the Georgian-Australian Investigations in Archaeology (GAIA), which was launched in 2008 with the excavations at Samtavro Cemetery located in Mtskheta.

Since 2012, fieldwork has focused on the mountain top site of Chobareti, located in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of southern Georgia. Situated at an altitude of 1650 meters the site extends along the southern slopes of the conspicuous peaks of Choberti Mountains, which overlook the corridor of the Upper Kura Valley.

In the Lower Operation the settlement belongs to the early Kura-Araxes period. Buildings are terraced, constructed of stone and dug into the limestone bedrock. The slope of the mountain is steep, with a gradient around 30 degrees, so about half of the structures are generally preserved. This year an exceptionally large and well preserved building was found. It has a back wall 2.2 meters high, and a floor covered with over sixty ceramic vessels, many complete and in situ.Together with a dominating circular central hearth embedded in the floor and portable hubs, Structure 6 provides a vivid picture of the spatial distribution of activities.

No radiocarbon dates are available yet for the deposits excavated in 2016, but the pottery typology, mostly red and black ceramics, a few bearing double spiral designs, suggest that structure was built in the early third millennium BC. The earliest building, excavated in 2014, can be attributed to about 3300 BC.

The expedition is headed by Professor Antonio Sagona (University of Melbourne) and Dr Kakha Khakhiani (Georgian National Museum). 

This year GAIA also began investigations at Rabati, a large site in the village of Zveli, not far from Chobareti, headed by the archaeologist Dr Giorgi Bedianashvili. Rabati is a large mound surrounded by a fortification wall, which appears to have been established in the Late Bronze Age and reinforced in the Medieval period. It is too early to be specific about cultural periods, but the copious quantity of material from the disturbed surface layers suggests that the site was occupied during several periods: the Early Bronze Age (Kura-Araxes period), the Early Bronze-Middle Bronze Age transition (Bedeni), the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages, and the Medieval.