Azerbaijan Georgia Turkey Project

The archaeological site near the Orchosani village, located in the Akhaltsikhe region of southern Georgia (historically referred to as Samtskhe), is an excellent example of one of Georgia’s longest continuously inhabited sites. It seems to have been in use since the Lower Palaeolithic Auchelian period. Surface finds include tools made of andesite and basalt (hand axes, scrapers and flakes). Its history spans from at least the Early Bronze Age (perhaps as early as the 4th millennium BC) right up to the early 17th century AD, when the settlement suffered a violent end. Only three structures remain: one from the Bronze Age Kura-Araxes culture, and two from the Medieval Period. Aerial views reveal a large fortified wall around the village dating to the Early Medieval Period.

Standing Monument
Monolithic tombstones bore unique design, possibly of the sun.

The 4th-3rd millennium BC was a vibrant time at the Orchosani settlement, which seems to have gone through three distinct cultural phases. The first, that of an early agricultural society, left behind only fragments of pottery, black or grey in color, similar to vessel types discovered at cave settlements in western Georgia. The Kura-Araxes culture came next, around 3,500 BC, with its distinct mud brick homes, elaborately polished black exterior and red interior pottery, and blend of agriculture and pastoralism. Orchosani yielded many artifacts in the Kura-Araxes style, including an anthropomorphic terracotta figurine. Little is known of the third culture to inhabit the site, the Bedeni. Jewelry and other metallic objects from this and earlier periods of the Bronze Age were probably imported from Anatolia, as evidenced by a bronze mattock that with a higher ratio of nickel than is found in Georgia.

Although the Orchosani cemetery produced few artifacts, the surrounding settlement yielded objects spanning many time periods. The most stunning were the large 500-600 liter wine storage jars known as pithoi (a Greek term describing large storage jars of a particular shape) dating to the 12th century AD. Stone, metal, and bone objects that served a variety of purposes, from culinary to military, were also recovered. Religious art from many eras was well-represented in the form of statuettes, inscriptions, and jewelry.

The impressive materials discovered at this site are all the more remarkable considering that Orchosani was completely destroyed twice. The first time was in the 10th century AD, most likely during the Seljuk Turk invasions of Georgia. Orchosani was again destroyed in the 17th century AD during the Ottoman expansion of the area, causing its final demise.

 

Interactive Artifact Map

Orchosani Artifact Catalogue

Bibliography

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