Azerbaijan Georgia Turkey Project

The Klde settlement is situated on a terraced slope at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Potskhovai Rivers near the Turkish border in southwestern Georgia, along a major trade route that once linked the South Caucasus and eastern Anatolia. The site, encompassing a large multi-layer settlement and a cemetery, extends over 3,486 square meters and includes structures, graves, and storage pits. The excavations yielded excellent and extensive cultural material from the first millennium AD. The settlement appears to have been destroyed by fire and rebuilt several times. The last fire in the 7th century AD, possibly during the campaign of Byzantine Emperor Flavius Heraclius or during an Arab invasion, led to the abandonment of the site. The structures excavated during the pipeline project appear to have been domestic and were constructed from stone with tile roofs. All the dwellings possessed hearths for cooking, generally located either in the center or corner of the structure. The settlement’s layout leads archaeologists to believe that the structures also had a defensive purpose. Several stone sling bullets of different shapes and sizes may have been a means of defense against attackers.

Chamber tomb
Excavations of deep burials, such as this example at Klde, can mean cramped conditions for the archaeologist.

Interment at some of the burial sites at Klde, which were concentrated in three separate areas, occurred in stone-lined pit graves, some of them edged with stone, while others were in wine jars. Many of the skeletons were lying on their backs, but others were on their sides in crouched positions. These differences mean the burials took place in at least three cultural periods and may reflect broad religious and other cultural changes over time. Indeed, in the region under the Kartli (Iberia) Kingdom, differences between pre-Christian and Christian funerary cultures shed light on the shift to Christianity, with some graves manifesting both Christian and pre-Christian funerary traditions.

A particularly interesting find at the Klde site, dating to the 3rd-4th centuries AD, is a platform that contained 15 ritual vessels along with human bones. However, a clay altar in a corner suggests that the site was a place of cult worship rather than a burial site. The altar bears both Roman and Persian reliefs. The right hand of one figure is raised in a way similar to a gesture of adoration of kings and gods found in the Parthian artistic tradition. Burned areas on the altar, along with the decorative motifs, suggest traditions associated with Zoroastrian altars.

The site contained other interesting artifacts, such as a Roman lamp and a Parthian silver drachma (coin) of King Gotarzes I. The latter suggests that the Kartli (Iberian) Kingdom was actively involved in Roman-Parthian political and economic relationships connected with the Silk Road. A small fragment of red terracotta with animal figures— some standing, others in flight—was among the finds at this site. Finally, three glass intaglios (made of glass or jewels, with carved decorations) probably date to the second half of the 1st century AD, judging by their shapes and styles. All were similar, suggesting they may have been produced in the same workshop.

 

Interactive Artifact Map

View Klde Artifact Catalogue

Bibliography

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