Site Overviews: Georgia: Saphar-Kharaba: Late Bronze Age Cemetery
Archaeologists found more than 100 burial chambers encircled by basalt at the Saphar- Kharaba necropolis in the historic region of Trialeti (Tsalka District) of southern Georgia. Analysis suggests that the site was used in the 15th-mid- 14th centuries BC. With only a few exceptions, the rectangular graves were uniform. Each contained skeletons in crouched positions oriented north to south, a pattern that indicates well-established funerary practices. The graves also contained several distinctive artifacts. For example, a cylindrical seal depicting a figure kneeling at an altar with a rod in its hand is a common motif of the Mittani or Hurrian art that was widespread in the Levant and Mesopotamia. Other objects include bronze daggers and surgical scalpels of a type not common elsewhere in the Caucasus.
One of the graves contained a poorly preserved wooden cart with the remains of an axle, wheel, and yoke. Two clay vessels were positioned on what remained of the cart’s bed. Under these vessels, human remains were found. Unfortunately, archaeologists did not discover this grave until after the pipeline construction had disturbed much of the contents, making it difficult to reconstruct this particular burial.
A skeleton of a man believed to have been 40-50-years-old has particular significance because samples of fabric were attached to it that provided clues to the type of fabrics produced in Georgia during this period. The samples were linen, cotton, and wool dyed with pigments that at the time could only have been extracted from mollusks along the Mediterranean coast. Because the raw dye was highly perishable, these textiles must have been produced and dyed near the Mediterranean before they were imported into the Caucasus. This suggests connections between the South Caucasus and surrounding regions, and perhaps the presence of early trade networks.
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