Archaeological relics of pre-class society have remained on the territory of
Georgia: the caves of a primitive man and megalithic structures, the so-called
cyclop battlements, dolmens, cromlechs and cult menhirs. As a result of
archaeological excavations large settlements of the 4th-2nd milleniums were
On the sites of ancient settlements a lot of black burnished pottery with a metal-wise glint surface and a brownish inner surface were found. This type of produce is called a black-glint pottery. This pot belongs to the 2nd half of the 3rd millenium BC.
|A small gold statuette of a lion was discovered in one of the kurgans of the Alazani Valley. This is the 1st sculptural image of this type, found in the Transcaucasia area. It was created in 2300-2000 BC.|
|The gold goblet, decorated with lapis lazuli, amber and carnelian was discovered in the Trialeti kurgan in southeastern Georgia. It was made in the 18th-17th centuries BC.|
|The figure of a stag, carved from the thin bronze plate in 14th-13th centuries BC, was found in Kakheti, East Georgia. Lots and lots of similar figures were discovered on the territory of Georgia.|
This small-size (10,5x8, 2 cm) figure of a bull is also made of bronze (6th century BC).
Between the 6th century BC and the 3rd century AD there existed two states on the territory of present-day Georgia: Egrisi in the West or Colchis and Kartli in the East or Iberia. The Surami Ridge divided those two states. In the same period Greek colonies were founded on the Black Sea coast.
According to the Ancient Greek literature, Egrisi was rich in gold. Strabo, a
historian, describes the process of obtaining gold by the Egrisians: they
immersed sheepskins into the river, and the fleece retained gold grains. Hence
a myth originated about Jason and Golden Fleece. The ship Argo, headed by Jason,
crossed over the Black Sea, approached the Colchis, sailed into the river Fazisi
(currently Rioni) and visited the Colchis throne city (present-day Kutaisi).
The treasures, discovered in the West Georgian burials, serve as a proof of
the facts, narrated in myths and historical sources.
In these places the level of development of architecture and construction was high. Vitruvius describes a type of dwelling, being a prototype of a so-called "darbazi". Darbazi is a kind of a peasant dwelling, which existed in Colchis as early as the 1st century AD and was common in the beginning of the 20th century too. This is a one-storey dwelling, usually placed upon a slope of a mountain or a hill, with its back reaching into the earth. The main thing here is an interior as well as roofing - a so-called crown, consisting of horizontally placed wooden piles, arranged in a steeple. On its peak a hole is left for air and light. The crown is square, tetrahedral or octahedral. Below the crown there is a middle heath, in which fire was lighted, meals were cooked. The crown is supported by a "dedabodzi" (a mother pillar), decorated with ornaments and carvings.
In Georgia the word "deda" (mother) has a specific place. "Dedamitsa"(Mother Earth), "dedaena"(Mother Tongue) - these concepts testify to the particular respect towards Mother, who is at the same time a reliable support. Mother pillar protected home and maintained warmth in it.
At the boundary of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC Georgia was united for the first time. At that time the royal throne was located in Mtskheta. Armazi Fortress protected it. It belongs to the 1st millenium BC and the beginning of our era.
This gold dagger handle, decorated with glass (170-180 AD) was found in Armaziskhevi.
|A gold chaplet with the figures of horses (6th-5th centuries BC) is one of the masterpieces from the Akhalgori burial. It finds its resemblance to the Art of Achaemenid Persia. Nevertheless, as the experts proved it, local masters created it in Georgia.|
Such bronze buckles (1st-3rd centuries BC) are characteristic only for Georgia.
They were found in great numbers in Imereti and Kakheti.
The feudal system was conceived in Georgia at the boundary of the 4th-5th centuries AD. In about 337 Christianity was announced a state religion in Georgia. The image of national culture had been molded since that time.
Christian Church, as a founder of the new ideology, set new functional tasks before architecture.
The most ancient churches, belonging to the end of the 4th century, are Christian basilicas. They show that there were opposing trends: on the one hand, local, popular traditions (Darbazi) expressed in a striving for composition with a central cupola and on the other hand the basilica-style, non-cupola'd buildings introduced from without.
|This is traceable in a particularly important structure of this period - Bolnisi triple-nave basilica (erected in 478-493), called Bolnisi Sioni. Entrances from south and north tone down the basilica's longitudinal axis and create a centrist perception of space.|
|The earliest extant sample (5th century) of the decoration of a church interior on the territory of Georgia is the floor mosaics of Bichvinta church.|
The first extant samples of Georgian writing also date back as far as the 5th
century. One of them is found in a Georgian monastery in Palestine.
Georgian alphabet is original. It underwent several stages of development in the course of centuries and, correspondingly, changed its names: Asomtavruli, Nuskha-Khutsuri (from the 9th century), and Mkhedruli (contemporary, from the 11th century). This is a sample of Asomtavruli alphabet.
|In the middle of 6th century a triple-church basilica type was established, in which three naves are segregated by walls. In each wall one door is cut, actually creating three churches, which have a common double-pitched roof. The middle church is taller and spacious. Such type of a structure is not encountered outside Georgia. Its sample is the Kvemo Bolnisi basilica (6th century).|
Since the middle of the 6th century a theme of a central domical church gets
more prominence in the Georgian architecture. A so-called tetraconch is being
established. On its plan four arms can be observed, crowned by semi-circumferential
conchs. A dome covers the central square. Protrusions of arms in space create
a cross. The windows of a multi-faceted dome direct light towards the center
of the cross. The height of the development of this type was reached in Mtskheta
Jvari Church (586/7-604). This church, elevated on a high mountain at the
confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi, goes harmonically with the natural
scenery and is perfectly observable from every point.
Jvari represents the first stage of the efflorescence of the Georgian architecture. This period coincided with the final establishment of feudalism in Georgia.
Invasions of the Arabs and establishment of their rule during the period between the 2nd half of the 7th century up to the 10th century had failed to stop the development of Georgian art. Just the opposite, on the borderline of the 8th and 9th centuries' Georgian culture entered into the phase of intensive development.
At this stage a particularly large-scale cultural-educational construction was on in the part of Southern Georgia, presently located on the territory of Turkey.
On the 9th century stone relief Ashot Kuropalat - a founder of the Bagrationi
dynasty in Tao-Klarjeti - is depicted. He reigned in 786-828. He restored and
rebuilt Opiza Monastery in historical Tao-Klarjeti. Today it is on the Turkish
territory. On the relief Ashot is holding a mock up of the monastic church.
Since the 9th century in the Georgian monasteries, located in Georgia and abroad, manuscript books were created. They have been preserved in great numbers. In the manuscripts special attention is paid to the calligraphy, outlining of letters.
|This is a page from the Four Gospels of Adishi (897) with the images of apostles Luke and John.|
The Martvili reliquary cross was made in the 9th century. Materials used are
silver, gilt silver, niello. On the front side a crucifixion is depicted with
an inscription, made in Asomtavruli, which says: "Jesus the Nazarene, King of
Similar to Byzantine, the art of cloisonné enameling was widely spread in Georgia. All samples of Georgian enamels are of a religious content and designation. Enamel was mostly made on a 24-carat gold metal base. On a metal base fine gold wire filaments were arranged to form cells (cloisonné), which were then filled with a mass, made of enamel powder. After that the article was repeatedly burnt and finally polished. Lots of samples of Georgian enamels, preserved in Georgia, as well as, in less amounts, outside its borders, represent parts of icons, individual plaques and medallions, used to decorate church articles.
|One of the best samples of cloisonné enameling is the Martvili triptych (encolpium), made in the 9th century. The size of the central scene is 8 x 9 cm. Materials used are silver, gilt silver and enamel. A scene of Deesis is represented by the figures of Christ, Mary and John the Precursor.|
The Jruchi Four Gospels were created in 940. On the page, presented here, Virgin
and Child are depicted.
In the 10th century, following the last invasion of the Arabs, Georgia took the path of unification and revival. David III Kuropalat, King of Tao-Klarjeti, headed the country. He had united Georgia, broken to pieces by separatist feudalists and enthroned Bagrat III Bagrationi. This happened in 975.
It is from the end of the 10th century that the period of efflorescence of Georgian Art commenced. At that time the country entered the era of developed feudalism. Huge cathedrals were built.
For the Kutaisi Bagrat church (1003) refined proportions, dynamic profiles and
rich décor are characteristic. Notwithstanding the fact that in 1691 the Turks
blasted the church, as a result of which its dome and significant part
collapsed, the interior retains its majesty and harmony. The structure,
together with the ruins, dispersed around it, leaves a romantic impression.
|Only the upper part of the Bedia cup (999) was found, while the base got lost. The Asomtavruli inscription presents the donors' names: Bagrat III, King of Abkhazia, and his mother, Queen Gurandukht. Bedia church was the main structure, erected by Bagrat III. The king himself is buried in the interior of the church. According to "Kartlis Tskhovreba" (The Life of Kartli), the resplendence of Bagrat's reign is evidenced by the jewelry, created in the Bedia church. This cup from Bedia is the only extant article, preserved till now. On its surface 12 figures are represented: Christ, sitting upon a throne, between St. John and St. Jacob, Virgin with Child between St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Andrew, Luke, Mark, St. Levi, Thaddeus, Bartholomew. The figures are chiseled on one gold plate.|