Category Archives: GEORGIA

A 1.8-million-year-old skull reveals information about our evolutionary history

A 1.8-million-year-old skull reveals information about our evolutionary history

The discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor buried under a medieval Georgian village provides a vivid picture of early evolution and indicates our family tree may have fewer branches than some belief, scientists say.

The fossil is the most complete pre-human skull uncovered. Other partial remains previously found at the rural site, give researchers the earliest evidence of human ancestors moving out of Africa and spreading north to the rest of the world.

The skull and other remains offer a glimpse of a population of pre-humans of various sizes living at the same time-something that scientists had not seen before for such an ancient era. This diversity bolsters one of two competing theories about the way our early ancestors evolved, spreading out more like a tree than a bush.

Nearly all of the previous pre-human discoveries have been fragmented bones, scattered over time and locations-like a smattering of random tweets of our evolutionary history. The findings at Dmanisi are more complete, weaving more of a short story. Before the site was founded, the movement from Africa was put about 1 million years ago.

When examined with the earlier Georgian finds, the skull “shows that this special immigration out of Africa happened much earlier than we thought and a much more primitive group did it,” said study lead author David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgia National Museum. “This is important to understanding human evolution.”

For years, some scientists have said humans evolved from only one or two species, much like a tree branches out from a trunk, while others say the process was more like a bush with several offshoots that went nowhere.

Even bush-favoring scientists say these findings show one single species nearly 2 million years ago at the former Soviet republic site. But they disagree that the same conclusion can be said for bones found elsewhere, such as in Africa. However, Lordkipanidze and colleagues point out that the skulls found in Georgia are different sizes but are considered to be the same species.

So, they reason, it’s likely the various skulls found in different places and times in Africa may not be different species, but variations in one species. To see how a species can vary, just look in the mirror, they said.

“Danny DeVito, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal are the same species,” Lordkipanidze said.

The adult male skull found wasn’t from our species, Homo sapiens. It was from an ancestral species—in the same genus or class called Homo—that led to modern humans. Scientists say the Dmanisi population is likely an early part of our long-lived primary ancestral species, Homo erectus.

Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley wasn’t part of the study but praised it as “the first good evidence of what these expanding hominids looked like and what they were doing.”

Fred Spoor at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, a competitor and proponent of a busy family tree with many species disagreed with the study’s overall conclusion, but he lauded the Georgia skull discovery as critical and even beautiful.

“It really shows the process of evolution in action,” he said.

Spoor said it seems to have captured a crucial point in the evolutionary process where our ancestors transitioned from Homo habilis to Homo erectus—although the study authors said that depiction is going a bit too far.

The researchers found the first part of the skull, a large jaw, below a medieval fortress in 2000. Five years later—on Lordkipanidze’s 42nd birthday—they unearthed the well-preserved skull, gingerly extracted it, put it into a cloth-lined case and popped champagne.

It matched the jaw perfectly. They were probably separated when our ancestor lost a fight with a hungry carnivore, which pulled apart his skull and jaw bones, Lordkipanidze said.

The skull was from an adult male just shy of 5 feet (1.5 meters) with a massive jaw and big teeth, but a small brain, implying limited thinking capability, said study co-author Marcia Ponce de Leon of the University of Zurich. It also seems to be the point where legs are getting longer, for walking upright, and smaller hips, she said.

“This is a strange combination of features that we didn’t know before in early Homo,” Ponce de Leon said.


Spectacular Ancient tomb treasures from the Republic of Georgia kingdom of Colchis

This exhibition is the first showing in Britain of spectacular tomb treasures from the Republic of Georgia, known in ancient classical times as Colchis and familiar to every schoolchild as the land to which the Greek hero Jason led the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece.

Recent archaeological excavations have thrown much new light on the rich culture of this region, including their lavish gold-adorned burials and ritual practices in which the local wine played a central role. These finds offer a unique insight into a fascinating and little-known ancient culture on the periphery of the classical world.

The magnificent gold and silver jewellery, sculpture and funerary items displayed here derive from tombs and sanctuaries of the 5th to the 1st centuries BC at the site of Vani.

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Most of the more than 140 treasures have never been seen outside Georgia before this exhibition tour. They offer both a spectacular array of exquisite works of art and a valuable window onto the interaction of indigenous Georgian and classical Greek culture in antiquity.

Land of the Golden Fleece

The region known to the ancient Greeks as Colchis now lies within modern Georgia. This placed it to the east of the ancient Greek world, north of the Assyrian and Persian empires and south of the nomadic Scythians.

This region is protected on the north by the Caucasus Mountains and formed a natural trade route, which ran from the eastern edge of the Black Sea to Central Asia, as far as India.

It was rich in natural resources, especially metals, and was known to the Greek world as an area ‘rich in gold’. According to legend, this was the place to which Jason set out with his Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece.

Archaeological evidence shows that as early as the 8th century BC the Greeks had begun establishing colonies along the shores of the Black Sea, and several trading posts (known as emporia) thrived on Colchian shores.

While the Achaemenid Persians do not appear to have been actively present in Colchis, the Greek historian Herodotos (Histories III, §97, 3-4) records that the Colchians paid a tribute of one hundred men and one hundred women to the Persian empire every four years, presumably as slaves.

By the 6th century BC, the various regions of Colchis united formally into one kingdom made up of a network of culturally and politically connected cities.


Vani is one of the best-known sites in Colchis. It is located on a hilltop in the fertile region between the Sulori and Rioni Rivers.

The Vani archaeological site is a multi-layer archaeological site in western Georgia, located on a hill at the town of Vani in the Imereti region. It is the best-studied site in the hinterland of an ancient region, known to the Classical world as Colchis, and has been inscribed on the list of the Immovable Cultural Monuments of National Significance.

The ancient name of the city is still unknown, but archaeological evidence shows that there was already a small settlement here by the 8th century BC. From the 6th to the end of the 4th century BC, Vani’s size and wealth increased dramatically.

During this period, the city became the political and administrative center of the area, managing the cultivation of grapevines and the harvesting of wheat in the surrounding hills and plains. By about 250 BC, it appears that Vani had been transformed into a sanctuary city with its inhabitants moving outside the city walls.

The unstable political environment of the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st centuries BC) affected Colchis a great deal. Fortifications at Vani, including defensive walls and towers, indicate an increased threat of attack.

The city came to a violent end around 50 BC when it was destroyed by two successive invasions within a few years, the first probably by the Bosporans from the northwest under their leader Pharnaces, and the second by Mithridates VII from Pontus (southwest of Colchis).

2500-Year-Old Persian Palace Discovered In Eastern Georgia

2500-Year-Old Persian Palace Discovered In Eastern Georgia

An international archaeological expedition of Georgian National Museum has been working on the Alazani Valley, in the village of Jugaani, Signagi Municipality. Archaeological excavations revealed the palace remains dating to about the 5th-4th centuries BC.

The archaeological division of Georgian National Museum, as result of geophysical exploration on about one hectare, found remains on the Alazani Valley that had been presumably burned.

Archaeological excavation revealed a complex planning structure – the central six-column hall of the palace.

The 1.5 metres thick walls are built of mud brick. Wooden columns of the hall stood on limestone, bell-shaped bases.

There have also revealed square podiums built of mud bricks, where a throne or altar may have stood.

The bell-shaped bases, as well as the architectural elements discovered on the same site – presumably part of the decor of the column capitals – suggests that the building is from the Achaemenid era and dates back to 5th-4th centuries BC.

It is known that the bell-shaped bases were developed at the beginning of the 5th century BC in the centres of the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids – in Sousa and Persepolis and the lotus ornament is also typical of Achaemenid art.

A domed structure, located from about two kilometres from the newly discovered building, also dates to the 5th century BC. This structure was excavated in 1994-1995 and is on a display at the Georgian National Museum at Signagi.

The remains of the newly discovered palace lie some forty centimetres from the surface of the ground and have been heavily damaged by ploughing.

 The bell-shaped bases seem to have been damaged by fire and only at the bottom of some bases remain.

The head of the Georgian-German International Archaeological Expedition from the German side is Dr. Kai Kanyut (from the University of Munich Ludwig Maximilian) and Iulon Gagoshidze from the Georgian side (scientific consultant of Georgian National Museum).

The expedition involved a team of German geophysicists led by Jorg Fassbinder; Students from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University and Munich University students participated in the excavation.