Cultural History: Georgia: Recent Georgia
Following the invasion of Mongols in the middle of the 13th century AD, the Georgian Kingdom began to disintegrate, coming under the domination of the Mongols by 1240. Although King Giorgi V reunified the kingdom in the 14th century, his success was short-lived. During the subsequent century, the country suffered economic and political decline. In the end of the 14th century and in the beginning of the 15th centuries with ruthless violence, the Tatars of Tamerlane invaded Georgia eight times. In the 1460s the kingdom fractured into several states: the Kingdom of Kartli, the Kingdom of Imereti, Kingdom of Kakheti and the Principality of Samtskhe. In the 16th century Georgia became a battleground between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. Prey to a succession of invaders at the turn of the 17th century, the population of Tbilisi fell to no more than 10,000 people. By the 17th century, both eastern and western Georgia had sunk into poverty as the result of the constant warfare, which mainly involved battles for supremacy between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. Georgian culture likewise suffered in the 15th-17th centuries. Nevertheless, there were distinguished examples of wall paintings, miniatures, embroidery, literature, and scientific discovery. It was against this backdrop that Georgian kings sought an ally in Russia, which annexed the Georgian states in the 19th century.
Wine production and consumption have held an important place in Georgian culture and history for centuries. Written sources and archaeological material confirm that viticulture was an integral part of life during the Classical Period, at which time the god of the vine, Dionysus, was a popular focus of worship. The myth of Dionysus relates that he travelled to strange lands where he taught men the culture of wine. The excavations uncovered jars dating to the 6th millennium BC at Shulaveri in southeastern Georgia, with a residue of wine still present on their inner surfaces. These jars provide some of the earliest evidence of the consumption of wine in ancient societies. Grape pips dating from the 7th-5th millennia BC found at the same site also suggest the very early cultivation of vineyards in ancient Georgia.
The tradition of viniculture continued even during the continuing clashes of armies during this period in Georgia. Wineries were some of the most interesting archaeological sites of the Medieval Period to be excavated along the pipeline route in Georgia. In the vicinity of the village of Atskuri in Samtskhe, where viticulture historically has been a major activity, archaeologists excavated seven wine cellars dating from the 10th-16th centuries AD. Their construction and elements are similar to those found today in Georgian villages.
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