Ancient Tbilisi

Date: 12 Nov. 2009 – 12 Dec. 2009

Museum: Tbilisi History Museum

On November 12th, at 6pm, Georgian National Museum invites you to the opening of the exhibition "Ancient Tbilisi", Crossroads of Eurasian cultures.  Adress: Tbilisis History Museum (Karvasla), 8 Sionis str.


On the opening of the exhibition Georgian National Museum together with Tbilisi City Assembly represents the project Ancient Tbilisi.


Inventorisation of the archaeological findings unearthed in Tbilisi, creation of their data and perfection of the archaeological museum-depot's infrastructure is going to be fulfilled within the frames of this project.  The Georgian National Museum's huge scientific experience and Tbilisi City Assembly's policy aimed to develop the Capital will guarantee the future success of the project.

Today we have two Tbilisi: Old and New Tbilisi. Though, the third, the Ancient one also exists. This part of Tbilisi is not unearthed yet and covers the earliest periods of its history. We do believe that their exploration will bring the great success not only to our City, but to the whole County also.


Conception of the exhibition "Ancient Tbilisi"   

Tbilisi is the capital with one of the oldest settlement history. The history of continuous habitation  on its territory counts more than 6,000 years. Today over 250 archaeological monuments are known in and around Tbilisi, which can be explained by an exceptional position of the city and its environs. It was here that the trade routes from the East to the West, as well as the South to the North crossed, connecting Asia and Europe from ancient times.


Among the archaeological sites studied on the Tbilisi territory, the Delisi Chalcolithic settlement is the oldest. It was discovered during the construction works near the present-day Delisi underground station. The remains are dated with the end of 5th and the beginning of 4th mil. BC. Apart from ceramics and stone tools, the digs yielded some bronze artifacts. Bronze is a man-made alloy of copper and tin, which began to spread in the ancient world only from 3rd mil. BC, marking the start of the Bronze Ago when tools and weapons from the alloy became widely used. In this respect, the Delisi settlement testifies to the leading role of the local inhabitants in initiating bronze production.


On the Digomi territory, at the start of the Georgian Military Highway, there is the Treligorebi settlement. Located on natural hills, it reveals continuous human habitation starting with the mid 4th mil. BC well into the Early Middle Ages. During the Late Bronze -Early Iron Age it is the largest settlement in the Caucasus.


The earliest Treligorebi layers belong to the Kura-Araxis culture, which later spread from the Caucasus to Anatolia (Turkey) and on to Syria and Palestine. The ancient settlements of the Kura-Araxis culture were also discovered in Didube, Kiketi and Avchala (Tbilisi suburbs).

 The cemetery of Treli near Treligorebi yielded extremely significant material about the everyday life, rites and traditions of the ancient people inhabiting the area of present-day Tbilisi. 

The pottery and burial rites of the Middle Bronze Age cemetery of Treli testifies to the close links of Georgia with Asia Manor and the Aegean world in the first half of 2nd mil. BC. Other evidence likewise supports the theory, e.g., the rapier unearthed in the Lilo kurgan (burial mound) in the eastern part of Tbilisi, is considered to be the prototype of the Aegean rapiers. The bronze battle axe found in Ghrmaghele also belongs to the same period, arguably being the common prototype of the Late Bronze Age Irebian and Colchian battle axes. 


Tbilisi especially abounds in the Late Bronze Age monuments. It was here that the two most powerful archaeological cultures met - the so-called Samtavro, bearing characteristics of the European cultures and that of Lchashen-Tsitelgorebi, originating from the Caucasian and the Near East roots. The co-existence of these two archaeological cultures in Tbilisi and its environs once again highlights the significance of the city's geographical position, namely that the territory was seen as paramount for controlling the trade routes connecting Asia and Europe and establishment of hegemony on the entire Caucasus.


Near the suburb of Didi Dighomi lies the Sajoge settlement - a multi-layered large settlement of the Bronze Age, covering the period of c. 1850-1250 BC. The deepest layers belong to the Middle Bronze Age Trialeti culture, hitherto known only by its kurgan burial mounds, while the upper layers are attributed to the early period of the Late Bronze Age. It certainly is a unique case in the South Caucasus that these two historical period layers appear in one stratigraphy. Further study of the Sajoge settlement will definitely assist in creating a more precise chronological scale, which can ultimately serve as the basis for the chronology of the Bronze Age Caucasus.


Another important aspect of the Sajoge settlement is that its upper habitation (1500-1250 BC) with large-sized buildings and fortification wall reveals a proto-urban elements. It enables one to put forward a tentative opinion that the statehood history of Georgia, as well as that of the Caucasus in general, can be at least one millennium older.

Contemporary with Sajoge cemeteries likewise testify to an advanced social differentiation. Among various other artifacts, one of the Treli cemetery graves, apparently belonging to a prominent warrior, has yielded a silver-inlayed bronze buckle showing a male rider. The object is of particular importance not only due to its highly artistic value, but also because it is the oldest image of a rider in the whole Caucasus, indicating that cavalry existed in the area as early as the 13th century BC. The steel knife discovered in the same grave proves that iron metallurgy and steel production was already well-known in and around Tbilisi at the time.