Kartli (Georgian: ქართლი [kʰartʰli] (About this soundlisten)) is a historical region in central-to-eastern Georgia traversed by the river Mtkvari (Kura), on which Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, is situated. Known to the Classical authors as Iberia, Kartli played a crucial role in the ethnic and political consolidation of the Georgians in the Middle Ages. Kartli had no strictly defined boundaries and they significantly fluctuated in the course of history. After the partition of the kingdom of Georgia in the 15th century, Kartli became a separate kingdom with its capital at Tbilisi. The historical lands of Kartli are currently divided among several administrative regions of Georgia.
The Georgians living in the historical lands of Kartli are known as Kartleli (ქართლელი) and comprise one of the largest geographic subgroups of the Georgian people. Most of them are Eastern Orthodox Christians adhering to the national Georgian Orthodox Church and speak a dialect which is the basis of the modern Georgian literary language.
Look up ქართლი in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
The toponym “Kartli” first emerges in written accounts in the 5th-century Martyrdom of the Holy Queen Shushanik, the earliest surviving piece of Georgian literature. According to the medieval Georgian Chronicles, Kartli derives its name from Kartlos, the mythic Georgian ethnarch, who built a city on the Mtkvari; it was called Kartli (probably at the latter-day Armazi), a name which generalized to the country ruled by Kartlos and his progeny. Kartlos seems to be a medieval contrivance and his being the eponymous founder of Kartli is not convincing. The medieval chronicler characteristically renders this name with the Greek nominative suffix –ος (os), as Stephen H. Rapp of Georgia State University (Atlanta) assumes, “in order to impart the account with a sense of antiquity”.
The term itself ultimately derives from Proto-Kartvelian root *kart- (“Georgian”), which is considered an ancient inner-Kartvelian formation by modern linguists. See ქართლი and ქართველი for more.
On the other hand, professor Giorgi Melikishvili has linked the toponym Kartli with a word karta (ქართა), found in Mingrelian (a Kartvelian sister language of Georgian) and in some western Georgian dialects and meaning “a cattle pen” or “an enclosed place”. The root kar occurs in numerous placenames across Georgia and, in the view of Melikishvili, displays semantic similarity with the Indo-European prototype; cf. Germanic gardaz (“enclosure”, “garden”), Lithuanian gardas (“enclosure”, “hurdle”, “cattle pen”), Old Slavic gradu (“garden”, also “city”), and Hittite gurtas (“fortress”). Parallels have also been sought with the Khaldi and Carduchi of the Classical sources.
The formation of Kartli and its people, the Kartveli (ქართველი) is poorly documented. The infiltration of several ancient, chiefly Anatolian, tribes into the territory of modern-day Georgia and their fusion with the autochthons played a decisive role in this process. This might have been reflected in the story of Arian-Kartli, the semi-legendary place of the aboriginal Georgian habitat found in the early medieval chronicle Conversion of Kartli.
In the 3rd century BC, Kartli and its original capital Mtskheta (succeeded by Tbilisi in the 5th century) formed a nucleus around which the ancient Georgian kingdom known to the Greco-Roman world as Iberia evolved. The role of Kartli as a core ethnic and political unit which would form a basis for the subsequent Georgian unification further increased as a result of its Christianization early in the 4th century. Located on the crossroads of the Byzantine and Iranian influences, Kartli developed a vibrant Christian culture, aided by the fact that it was the only Kartvelian area with its own written language. With the consolidation of the Arab rule in Tbilisi in the 8th century, the political center of Kartli shifted to its southwest, but the Georgian literati of that time afforded to Kartli a broader meaning to denote all those lands of medieval Georgia that were held together by religion, culture, and language. In one of the most-quoted passages of medieval Georgian literature, the 9th-century writer Giorgi Merchule asserts: “And Kartli consists of that spacious land in which the liturgy and all prayers are said in the Georgian language. But [only] the Kyrie eleison is said in Greek, [the phrase] which means in Georgian “Lord, have mercy” or “Lord, be merciful to us”.
After the unification of various Georgian polities into the kingdom of Georgia early in the 11th century, the names “Kartli” and “Kartveli” became a basis of the Georgian self-designation Sakartvelo. The Georgian circumfix sa-X-o is a standard geographic construction designating “the area where X dwell”, where X is an ethnonym.[9
The Republic of Ingushetia (/ɪŋɡʊˈʃɛtiə/; Russian: Респу́блика Ингуше́тия, tr. Respublika Ingushetiya, IPA: [rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə ɪnɡʊˈʂetʲɪjə]; Ingush: Гӏалгӏай Мохк, Ğalğaj Moxk), also referred to as simply Ingushetia, is a federal subject of the Russian Federation (a republic), located in the North Caucasus region.
Its capital is the town of Magas. At 3,000 square km, in terms of area, the republic is the smallest of Russia’s federal subjects except for the federal cities. It was established on June 4, 1992, after the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was split in two. The republic is home to the indigenous Ingush, a people of Vainakh ancestry and primarily Islamic faith. As of the 2010 Census, its population was 412,529.
Largely due to the Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus, Ingushetia remains one of the poorest and most unstable regions of Russia. Although the violence has declined since the first decade of the 21st century, the insurgency in neighboring Chechnya has occasionally spilled into Ingushetia. According to Human Rights Watch in 2008, the republic has been destabilized by corruption, a number of high-profile crimes (including kidnapping and murder of civilians by government security forces), anti-government protests, attacks on soldiers and officers, Russian military excesses, and a deteriorating human rights situation. According to Russian media, Ingushetia has the lowest alcohol consumption in Russia.
The name Ingushetia is derived from the ancient village Angusht, which was renamed as Tarskoye and transferred to North Ossetia in 1944. The Soviets had conducted the deportation of ethnic Chechen and Ingush peoples from here to Siberia on 23 February 1944, a.k.a. operation “Lentil”.
The Ingush, a nationality group indigenous to the Caucasus, inhabit mostly Ingushetia. They refer to themselves as Ghalghai (from Ingush: Ghala (“fortress” or “town”) and ghai (“inhabitants” or “citizens”). The Ingush speak the Ingush language, which has a very high degree of mutual intelligibility with neighboring Chechen. The Ingush are traditionally a classless society based on a clan system and unwritten law (approximately 350 clans live in Ingushetia today). Every clan, and each clan member, are viewed as equal. Unlike the neighboring nations in the Caucasus (including Chechen), the Ingush did not develop a social system of superiors or inferiors. The Ingush/Ingushetia were also known by the following names: Gelia (American cartographer J. H. Colton), Tschetschna (German geographers Joseph Grassl and Joseph Meyer), Ghalghai/Gelgai (Self), Nakh (self, meaning “people”), Vainakh (self, meaning “our people”), Kist (Georgian), Gargar (Self), Dzurdzuk (Georgian), Ghlighvi (Georgian), Angushtini (Russian), and Mack-aloni (Ossetian).
In their own language, they have identified as Orstkhoi (self), Nart-Orstkhoi (self), Galash (self), Tsori (self), Dzheirakhoi (self), Khamhoi (self), Metshal (self), Fyappi (self), and Nyasareth (self). The self-namings refer to different Vainakh tribes which make up the Ingush population today. The history of the Ingush is closely related to that of the Chechen.
Byzantine and Georgian missionaries partially Christianised the Ingush, although Christianity was weakened by the Mongol invasions. The remains of several churches, notably the Tkhabya-Yerd and the Albe-Yerd, can be found in Ingushetia. Most of Ingush converted to Islam at the end of the 19th century, nearly three centuries after the beginning of Islamization in Chechnya.
Origin of Ingushetia’s population
According to Leonti Mroveli, the 11th-century Georgian chronicler, the word Caucasian is derived from the Vainakh ancestor Kavkas. According to Professor George Anchabadze of Ilia State University,
“The Vainakhs are the ancient natives of the Caucasus. It is noteworthy, that according to the genealogical table drawn up by Leonti Mroveli, the legendary forefather of the Vainakhs was “Kavkas”, hence the name Kavkasians, one of the ethnicons met in the ancient Georgian written sources, signifying the ancestors of the Chechens and Ingush. As appears from the above, the Vainakhs, at least by name, are presented as the most “Caucasian” people of all the Caucasians (Caucasus – Kavkas – Kavkasians) in the Georgian historical tradition.”
The Soviet-Russian anthropologists and scientists N.Ya. Marr, V.V. Bounak, R.M. Munchaev, I.M Dyakonov, E.I. Krupnov and G.A. Melikashvilli wrote in 1935: “Among Ingush the Caucasian type is preserved better than among any other North Caucasian nation”, Professor of anthropology V.V. Bounak “Groznenski Rabochi” 5, VII, 1935. G.F. Debets recognized that Ingush Caucasian anthropologic type is the most Caucasian among Caucasians. Such theories of physical types are no longer considered valid.
In a 2000 article in Science Magazine, Bernice Wuethrich states that American linguist Johanna Nichols “has used language to connect modern people of the Caucasus region to the ancient farmers of the Fertile Crescent,” and that her research suggests that “farmers of the region were proto-Nakh-Daghestanians”. Nichols is quoted as stating that “The Nakh–Dagestanian languages are the closest thing we have to a direct continuation of the cultural and linguistic community that gave rise to Western civilization.”
Genetics of Ingushetia’s population
The Ingush have 89% of J2 Y-DNA, which is the highest known frequency in the world, and J2, closely associated with populations of the Fertile Crescent. Balanovsky’s analysis included only tested 143 Ingush people
The mitochondrial DNA of the Ingush differs from that of other Caucasian populations. “The Caucasus populations exhibit, on average, less variability than other [World] populations for the eight Alu insertion polymorphisms analyzed here. The average heterozygosity is less than that of any other region of the world, with the exception of Sahul. Within the Caucasus, the Ingush have much lower levels of variability than any of the other populations. The Ingush also showed unusual patterns of mtDNA variation when compared with other Caucasus populations (Nasidze and Stoneking, submitted), which indicates that some feature of the Ingush population history, or of this particular sample of the Ingush, must be responsible for their different patterns of genetic variation at both mtDNA and the Alu insertion loci.” These findings suggested that the population had long been isolated.
The history of Chechnya may refer to the history of the Chechens, of their land Chechnya, or of the land of Ichkeria.
Chechen society has traditionally been organized around many autonomous local clans, called taips. The traditional Chechen saying goes that the members of Chechen society, like its taips, are (ideally) “free and equal like wolves”.
Jaimoukha notes in his book Chechens that sadly, “Vainakh history is perhaps the most poorly studied of the peoples of the North Caucasus. Much research effort was expended upon the Russo-Circassian war, most falsified at that.” There was once a library of Chechen history scripts, written in Chechen (and possibly some in Georgian) using Arabic and Georgian script; however, this was destroyed by Stalin and wiped from record (see – 1944 Deportation; Aardakh).
The first known settlement of what is now Chechnya is thought to have occurred around 12500 BCE, in mountain-cave settlements, whose inhabitants used basic tools, fire, and animal hides. Traces of human settlement go back to 40000 BCE with cave paintings and artifacts around Lake Kezanoi.
The ancestors of the Nakh peoples are thought to have populated the Central Caucasus around 10000–8000 BCE. This colonization is thought by many (including E. Veidenbaum, who cites similarities with later structures to propose continuity) to represent the whole Eastern Caucasian language family, though this is not universally agreed upon. The proto-language that is thought to be the ancestor of all Eastern Caucasian (“Alarodian”) languages, in fact, has words for concepts such as the wheel (which is first found in the Central Caucasus around 4000–3000 BCE), so it is thought that the region had intimate links to the Fertile Crescent (many scholars supporting the thesis that the Eastern Caucasians originally came from the Northern Fertile Crescent, and backing this up with linguistic affinities of the Urartian and Hurrian language to the Northeast Caucasus). Johanna Nichols has suggested that the ancestors of Eastern Caucasians had been involved in the birth of civilization in the Fertile Crescent. Definitely, at the time the proto-language split, the people had all these concepts very early on.
Main article: Kura-Araxes culture
Towns were built in the area that is now Chechnya as early as 8000 BCE. Pottery, too, came around the same time, and so did stone weaponry, stone utensils, stone jewelry items, etc. (as well as clay dishes). This period was known as the Kura-Arax culture. Amjad Jaimoukha notes that there was a large amount of cultural diffusion between the later Kura-Arax culture and the Maikop culture. The economy was primarily built around cattle and farming.
The trend of a highly progressive Caucasus continued: as early as 3000–4000 BCE, evidence of metalworking (including copper) as well as more advanced weaponry (daggers, arrow heads found, as well as armor, knives, etc.). This period is referred to as the Kayakent culture, or Chechnya during the Copper Age. Horseback riding came around 3000 BCE, probably having diffused from contact with Indo-European-speaking tribes to the North. Towns found in this period are often not found as ruins, but rather on the outskirts of (or even inside) modern towns in both Chechnya and Ingushetia, suggesting much continuity. There is bone evidence suggesting that raising of small sheep and goats occurred. Clay and stone were used for all building purposes. Agriculture was highly developed, as evidenced by the presence of copper flint blades with wooden or bone handles.
The term Kharachoi culture denotes the Early Bronze Age of Chechnya. Clay jugs and stone grain containers indicate a high level of development of trade and culture. Earlier finds show that extensive hunting was still practiced. There was a lack of pig bones, demonstrating that the domestication of pigs hadn’t yet spread into the region. Bronze artifacts (dating back to the 19th century BCE) in modern-day Chechnya largely correspond with those of Hurria at the time, suggesting a cultural affinity. Iron had replaced stone, bronze and copper as the main substance for industry by the 10th century BCE, before most of Europe or even areas of the Middle East.
Main article: Koban culture
The Koban culture (the Iron Age) was the most advanced culture in Chechnya before recorded history, and also the most well-known. It first appeared between 1100 and 1000 BCE. The most well-studied site was on the outskirts of Serzhen-Yurt, which was a major center from around the eleventh to the seventh centuries BCE.
The remains include dwellings, cobble bridges, altars, iron objects, bones, and clay and stone objects. There were sickles and stone grain grinders. Grains that were grown included wheat, rye and barley. Cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs and horses were kept. There were shops, where artisans worked on and sold pottery, stone-casting, bone-carving, and stone-carving. There is evidence of an advanced stage of metallurgy. There was differentiation of professionals organized within clans. Jaimoukha argues that while all these cultures probably were made by people included among the genetic ancestors of the Chechens, it was either the Koban or Kharachoi culture that was the first culture made by the cultural and linguistic ancestors of the Chechens (meaning the Chechens first arrived in their homeland 3000–4000 years ago). However, many others disagree, holding the Chechens to have lived in their present-day lands for over 10000 years.
This article duplicates the scope of other articles. Please discuss this issue on the talk page and edit it to conform with Wikipedia’s Manual of Style. (December 2018)
Main article: Vainakh origin hypotheses
Migration from the Fertile Crescent c. 10000–8000 BCE
Many scholars, such as Johanna Nichols and Bernice Wuethrich hold that the Durdzuks were descended from extremely ancient migrations from the Fertile Crescent to the Caucasus, perhaps due to population or political pressures back in the Fertile Crescent. Others who believe the so-called “Urartian version”, such as George Anchabadze and Amjad Jaimoukha, still hold that those original migrants contributed to both the genetic and cultural traits of the modern Ingush and Chechens, but that the primary ancestors were Nakh-speaking migrants from what became Northeastern Urartu.
Various interpretations on the relationship with Urartu and Urartians; Hurrians
Igor Diakonoff, Fritz Hommel, and others have suggested ties between the proto-Hurro-Urartian language and proto Northeastern Caucasian languages, leading to the proposal of the Alarodian language family. Several studies argue that the connection is probable. Other scholars, however, doubt that the language families are related, or believe that, while a connection is possible, the evidence is far from conclusive.
According to the opinion of Caucasus folklorist Amjad Jaimoukha, “It is certain that the Nakh constituted an important component of the Hurrian-Urartian tribes in the Trans-Caucasus and played a role in the development of their influential cultures.” It has been noted that at many points, Urartu in fact extended through Kakheti into the North Caucasus. Jaimoukha notes in his book: “The kingdom of Urartu, which was made up of several small states, flourished in the 9th and 7th centuries BCE, and extended into the North Caucasus at the peaks of its power…” Urartologist Paul Zimansky argues that the Urartians likely originally hailed from Iraq. and likely merely constituted a small ruling class. Jaimoukha notes that the first confirmed appearance of a consolidated Vainakh nation in the North Caucasus spanning the range the Zygii would later have (with a few additions later) was after the fall of Urartu, and notes that numerous people think that they were a regathering of Nakh tribes fleeing the crumbling state. The Ancient Greek chronicler Strabo mentioned that mythological Gargareans had migrated from eastern Asia Minor (i.e. Urartu) to the North Caucasus. However, Strabo, and other ancient Greek writers, stated that the Gargareans were Greeks. Despite this, Jaimoukha notes that Gargareans is one of many Nakh roots – gergara, meaning, in fact, “kindred” in proto-Nakh.
Other Nakh roots throughout the Republic of Armenia, Naxcivan, and Turkish Armenia have been found, according to Jamoukha. Jamoukha argues that Yerevan, the site of the similarly named ancient Erebuni, come from the Nakh nation-tribe the Èrs, a hypothetical people who Jamoukha believed lived in the region, + bun, the root in Chechen that generated the word “shelter” or “lair”. However, the Chechen word “bun” initially derives from the Armenian word buyn (բույն) for “nest” or “lair”, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeuH-no-, from *bʰeuH- (“to be; to grow”). Cognates include Sanskrit भुवन (bhúvana, “world”), Albanian bun (“shepherd’s hut”) and Middle Persian بن bun (“bottom”). Further, it is likely that, although written Erebuni, the name was pronounced “Erevani” (due to the limitations of cuneiform writing), rendering this theory even more unlikely.
Erashki Gorge (the Arax River), once again including the Èrs’ ethnonym. However, according to Armenian tradition, the name derives from Arast, the legendary great-grandson of Hayk. The Nakh Èr nation also contributed to a number of other roots, according to Jamoukha. Near the Èrs lived a tribe known as the Nakhchradzor. The Durdzuks, a name the Georgians called the early medieval inhabitants of Ichkeria later, had a name derived from the settlement of Durdukka, near Lake Urmia. In addition to these, there is also the very name of Nakhichevan, which Jamoukha asserts is Nakh, although it has an Armenian etymology and was populated by Armenians from antiquity until the modern area. Nakhichievan means “first caravansari” or “first town” in Armenian, the latter possibly being a reference to the Biblical landing of Noah’s Ark. Jaimoukha also suggested that the name of Lake Van was Nakh, again citing “bun” (although it is more accepted that this name comes from Urartian “Bia” or Hittite “Vyan” (wine; vine: probably from an early Indo-European language)–the Urartian and Indo-European theories are not mutually exclusive. Regardless, according to Igor Diakonoff, the Urartian name for Van, Bianili, was likely pronounced “Vianili,” again rendering Jaimoukha’s theory untenable. There may be an increasingly long list of further Nakh placenames in the South Caucasus that are less well-known, or not yet identified. The area of Nakhichevan and the site of Durdzukka on Lake Urmia (which rendered the historical Georgian name for the Chechens, the Durdzuks) point to an area which was on the Southeast periphery of what became Urartu. According to that, the flight of people from the area may have taken place as early as the 9th or 8th century BCE (when the area was being fought over by Urartians and Iranian tribes, the Medes), long before the invasion of Cimmerians or the rise of the Armenian kingdom. All of this, however, is based around guesswork and individual interpretation of data, as there are little remaining resources on the details of the flight north of the “Gargareans”.
Nakh peoples were first confirmedly mentioned as a distinct group in documents going back to the 4th century BCE, as the “Nachos”.
Georgian historian G.A. Melikishvili posited that although there was evidence of Nakh settlement in southern Caucasus areas, this did not rule out the possibility that they also lived in the North Caucasus. Prior to the invasion of the Cimmerians and Scythians, the Nakh had inhabited a territory stretching from the Central North Caucasus north to the Volga river and northeast to the Caspian.
Invasion of the Cimmerians
In the 6th and 7th centuries BCE, two waves of invaders – first the Cimmerians who then rode south and crushed Urartu, and then the Scythians who displaced them – greatly destabilized the Nakh regions. This became a recurring pattern in Chechen history: invasion from the North by highly mobile plains people, met with fierce and determined resistance by the Chechens, who usually started out losing but then reversed the tide.
Invasion of the Scythians
The Scythians started to invade the Caucasus in the 6th century BCE, originally coming from Kazakhstan and the Lower Volga region. The Cimmerians had already pushed the Nakh south somewhat off the plains, away from the Volga and the Caspian, and the Scythians forced them into the mountains. Vainakh presence in Chechnya on the Terek almost completely vanished for a while, and Scythians penetrated as far south as the Sunzha. Considering that the Nakh were extremely dependent on the rivers for their very survival, this was a very desperate situation. However, soon, Vainakh settlement reappeared on the Terek in Chechnya. In some areas, the Scythians even penetrated into the mountains themselves. In the 5th century BCE, Herodotus noted that the Scythians were present in the Central North Caucasus.
After the first wave of Scythian assaults, the Nakh began returning to the fertile lowland plains and ousting the invaders, but new waves of Scythians (Sarmatians) arrived, pushing them back into the mountains. Some of the names of tributaries of the Sunzha and Terek rivers make reference to the fierce conflict for control of the rivers: the Valerik (or the Valarg) meant “the river of man’s death” in Nakh and the Martan came from a Sarmatian root and meant “the river of the dead”.
It is not known whether this was the first dominant presence of the Ossetians in their modern territory or whether the primary population was still Zygii/Nakh and the it was only after the later Sarmatian invasion that Scythian people became dominant. Amjad Jaimoukha, notably, supports the hypothesis that the Ossetians were the product of multiple migrations. Thus, if this is the case, then the Scythians settled roughly North Ossetia, effectively cutting the Zygii nation in half (Herodotus noted that Zygii were still present West of the Scythians in the Caucasus). The Eastern half, then, became the Vainakhs. In other areas, Nakh-speaking peoples and other highlanders were eventually linguistically assimilated by the Alans and merged with them, eventually forming the Ossetian people.
There were various periods of good relations between the Scythians and the Nakh, where there was evidence of extensive cultural exchange. The Nakh were originally more advanced in material culture than the Sarmatians/Scythians, the latter having not known of the potter’s wheel or foundry work, while the Sarmatians/Scythians originally had superior military skills and social stratification.
Even after the invasion of the Scythians, the Nakh managed to revitalize themselves after it receded. However, they were now politically fractured, with multiple kingdoms, and modern Ossetia, consistent with the theory that they were largely displaced and that Scythians had become dominant there. The Nakh nations in the North Caucasus were often inclined to look South and West for support to balance off the Scythians. The Vainakh in the East had an affinity to Georgia, while the Malkh kingdom of the West looked to the new Greek kingdom of Bosporus on the Black Sea coast (though it may have also had relations with Georgia as well). Adermalkh, king of the Malkh state, married the daughter of the Bosporan king in 480 BCE.
Hostilities continued for a long time. In 458 CE, the Nakh allied themselves with Georgian King Vakhtang Gorgasali as he led a campaign against the Sarmatians, in retribution for their raids.
Eventually, relations between the Sarmatians and the Nakh normalized. The Alans formed the multi-ethnic state of Alania, which included many Nakh tribes despite its center being Sarmatian-speaking.
Durdzuks in the Georgian Chronicles and the Armenian Chronicles
Leonti Mroveli’s Georgian Chronicles include mention of a people called the Nakhchmateans who are among the progenitors of the modern Vainakh. According to Mroveli, these Nakhchmateans were descendants of a mythical progenitor, Targamos, who moved into the North Caucasus with his sons. His eldest and noblest son, Kavkasos, was entrusted with the Central Caucasus, and one of Kavkasos’ descendants, Durdzuk took residence in a mountainous region and established a strong state called “Durdzuketia” in the fourth and third centuries BCE, giving his people the name “Durdzuks”.
In the Armenian Chronicles, meanwhile, the Durdzuks are mentioned fighting off a Scythian invasion of their territory, after which they became a significant power in the area. They allied themselves with Georgia, and helped Farnavaz, the first king of Georgia consolidate his reign against his unruly vassals. The alliance with Georgia was cemented when King Farnavaz married a Durdzuk princess.
The prehistory of Georgia is the period between the first human habitation of the territory of modern-day nation of Georgia and the time when Assyrian and Urartian, and more firmly, the Classical accounts, brought the proto-Georgian tribes into the scope of recorded history.
1 Paleolithic, Mesolithic
4 Iron Age and Classical Antiquity
The Homo erectus fossils found at Dmanisi currently held in the Cantonal Museum of Geology, Switzerland. (2009)
Humans have been living in Georgia for an extremely long time, as attested by the discoveries, in 1999 and 2002, of two Homo erectus skulls (H. e. georgicus) at Dmanisi in southern Georgia. The archaeological layer in which the human remains, hundreds of stone tools and numerous animal bones were unearthed is dated approximately 1.6-1.8 million years ago (since the underlying basalt lava bed yielded an age of approximately 1.8 million years). The site yields the earliest unequivocal evidence for presence of early humans outside the African continent.
Later Lower Paleolithic Acheulian sites have been discovered in the highlands of Georgia, particularly in the caves of Kudaro (1600 m above sea level), and Tsona (2100 m). Acheulian open-air sites and find-spots are also known in other regions of Georgia, for example at the Javakheti Plateau where Acheulian handaxes were found at 2400 m above the sea level.
The first uninterrupted primitive settlement on the Georgian territory dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, more than 200,000 years ago. Sites of this period have been found in Shida Kartli, Imeretia, Abkhazia and other areas.
Buffered by the Caucasus Mountains, and benefiting from the ameliorating effects of the Black Sea, the region appears to have served as a biogeographical refugium throughout the Pleistocene. These geographic features spared the Southern Caucasus from the severe climatic oscillations and allowed humans to prosper throughout much of the region for millennia.
Upper Paleolithic remains have been investigated in Satsurblia, Devis Khvreli, Sakazhia, Sagvarjile, Dzudzuana, Samertskhle Klde, Gvarjilas Klde and other cave sites. A cave at Dzudzuana has yielded the earliest known dyed flax fibers that date back to 36,000 BP. At that time, the eastern area of the South Caucasus appears to have been sparsely populated in contrast to the valleys of the Rioni River and Kvirila River in western Georgia. The Paleolithic ended some 10,000-12,000 years ago to be succeeded by the Mesolithic culture (Kotias Klde). It was when the geographic medium and landscapes of the Caucasus were finally shaped as we have them today.
Signs of Neolithic culture, and the transition from foraging and hunting to agriculture and stockraising, are found in Georgia from at least the beginning of the 6th millennium BC. The so-called early Neolithic sites are chiefly found in western Georgia. These are Khutsubani, Anaseuli, Kistriki, Kobuleti, Tetramitsa, Apiancha, Makhvilauri, Kotias Klde, Paluri and others. In the 5th millennium BC, the Kura (Mtkvari) basin also became stably populated, and settlements such as those at Tsopi, Aruchlo, and Sadakhlo along the Kura in eastern Georgia are distinguished by a long lasting cultural tradition, distinctive architecture, and considerable skill in stoneworking. Most of these sites relate to the flourishing late Neolithic/Eneolithic archaeological complex known as the Shulaveri-Shomu culture. Radiocarbon dating at Shulaveri sites indicates that the earliest settlements there date from the late sixth − early fifth millennium BC.
In the highlands of eastern Anatolia and South Caucasus, the right combination of domesticable animals and sowable grains and legumes made possible the earliest agriculture. In this sense, the region can justly be considered one of the “cradles of civilization”.
The entire region is surmised to have been, in the period beginning in the last quarter of the 4th millennium BC, inhabited by people who were possibly ethnically related and of Hurrian stock. The ethnic and cultural unity of these 2,000 years is characterized by some scholars as Chalcolithic or Eneolithic.
Early metallurgy started in Georgia during the 6th millennium BC. Very early metal objects have been discovered in layers of the Neolithic Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture. From the beginning of the 4th millennium, metal use became more extensive in East Georgia and in the whole Transcaucasian region.
From c. 3400 BC to 2000 BC, the region saw the development of the Kura-Araxes or Early Transcaucasian culture centered on the basins of Kura and Araxes. During this era, economic stability based on cattle and sheep raising and noticeable cultural development was achieved. The local chieftains appear to have been men of wealth and power. Their burial mounds have yielded finely wrought vessels in gold and silver; a few are engraved with ritual scenes suggesting the Middle Eastern cult influence. This vast and flourishing culture was in contact with the more advanced civilization of Akkadian Mesopotamia, but went into gradual decline and stagnated c. 2300 BC, being eventually broken up into a number of regional cultures. One of the earliest of these successor cultures is the Bedeni culture in eastern Georgia.
At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, there is evidence of considerable economic development and increased commerce among the tribes. In western Georgia, a unique culture known as Colchian developed between 1800 and 700 BC, and in eastern Georgia the kurgan (tumulus) culture of Trialeti reached its zenith around 1500 BC.
Archaeological sites in Klde, Orchosani, and Saphar-Kharaba were revealed by the BTC pipeline construction.
Iron Age and Classical Antiquity
Further information: Diauehi, Colchis, Caucasian Iberia, and Lazica
By the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC, ironworking had made its appearance in the South Caucasus, and the true Iron Age began with the introduction of tools and weapons on a large scale and of superior quality to those hitherto made of copper and bronze, a change which in most of the Near East may not have come before the tenth or ninth centuries BC.
During this period, as linguists have estimated, the ethnic and linguistic unity of the Proto-Kartvelians finally broke up into several branches that now form the Kartvelian family. The first to break away was the Svan language in northwest Georgia, in about the 19th century BC, and by the 8th century BC, Zan, the basis of Mingrelian and Laz, had become a distinct language. On the basis of language, it has been established that the earliest Kartvelian ethnos were made up of four principally related tribes: the Karts, the Zans (Megrelo-Laz, Colchians), and the Svans – which would eventually form the basis of the modern Kartvelian-speaking groups.
The Kaska (also Kaška, later Tabalian Kasku and Gasga) were a loosely affiliated Bronze Age non-Indo-European tribal people, who spoke the unclassified Kaskian language and lived in mountainous East Pontic Anatolia, known from Hittite sources.
They lived in the mountainous region between the core Hittite region in eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea, and are cited as the reason that the later Hittite Empire never extended northward to that area.
The Kaska, probably originating from the eastern shore of the Propontis, may have displaced the speakers of the Palaic language from their home in Pala. The Kaska first appear in the Hittite prayer inscriptions that date from the reign of Hantili II, c. 1450 BC, and make references to their movement into the ruins of the holy city of Nerik.
During the reign of Hantili’s son, Tudhaliya II (c. 1430 BC), “Tudhaliya’s 3rd campaign was against the Kaskas.” His successor Arnuwanda I composed a prayer for the gods to return Nerik to the empire; he also mentioned Kammama and Zalpuwa as cities which he claimed had been Hittite but which were now under the Kaskas. Arnuwanda attempted to mollify some of the Kaska tribes by means of tribute.
Sometime between the reigns of Arnuwanda and Suppiluliuma I (about 1330 BC), letters found in Maşat Höyük note that locusts ate the Kaskas’ grain. The hungry Kaska were able to join with Hayasa-Azzi and Isuwa to the east, as well as other enemies of the Hittites, and burn Hattusa, the Hittite capital, to the ground.
They probably also burned the Hittites’ secondary capital Sapinuwa. Suppiluliuma’s grandson Hattusili III in the mid-13th century BC wrote of the time before Tudhaliya. He said that in those days the Kaska had “made Nenassa their frontier” and that their allies in Azzi-Hayasa had done the same to Samuha.
In the Amarna letters, Amenhotep III wrote to the Arzawan king Tarhunta-Radu that the “country Hattusa” was obliterated, and further asked for Arzawa to send him some of these Kaska people of whom he had heard. The Hittites also enlisted subject Kaska for their armies. When the Kaska were not raiding or serving as mercenaries, they raised pigs and wove linen, leaving scarcely any imprint on the permanent landscape.
Tudhaliya III and Suppiluliuma (c. 1375–1350 BC) set up their court in Samuha and invaded Azzi-Hayasa from there. The Kaska intervened, but Suppiluliuma defeated them; after Suppiluliuma had fully pacified the region, Tudhaliya and Suppiluliuma were able to move on Hayasa and defeat it too, despite some devastating guerrilla tactics at their rear.
Some twelve tribes of Kaska then united under Piyapili, but Piyapili was no match for Suppiluliuma. Eventually, Tudhaliya and Suppiluliuma returned Hattusa to the Hittites. But the Kaska continued to be a menace both inside and out and a constant military threat. They are said to have fielded as many as 9,000 warriors and 800 chariots.
In the time of ailing Arnuwanda II (around 1323 BC), the Hittites worried that the Kaskas from Ishupitta within the kingdom to Kammama without might take advantage of the plague in Hatti. The veteran commander Hannutti moved to Ishupitta, but he died there. Ishupitta then seceded from Hatti, and Arnuwanda died too.
Arnuwanda’s brother and successor Mursili II recorded in his annals that he defeated this rebellion. Over the ongoing decades, the Kaskans were also active in Durmitta and in Tipiya, by Mount Tarikarimu in the land of Ziharriya, and by Mount Asharpaya on the route to Pala; they rebelled and/or performed egregious banditry in each place. At first, Mursili defeated each Kaska uprising piecemeal.
Then the Kaska united for the first time under Pihhuniya of Tipiya, who “ruled like a king” the Hittites recorded. Pihhuniya conquered Istitina and advanced as far as Zazzissa. But Mursili defeated this force and brought Pihhuniya back as a prisoner to Hattusas. Mursili then switched to a defensive strategy, with a chain of border fortresses north to the Devrez. Even so, in the early 13th century, when Mursili’s son Muwatalli II was king in Hatti, the Kaskas sacked Hattusa.
Muwatalli stopped enlisting Kaska as troops; he moved his capital to Tarhuntassa to the south; and he appointed his brother, the future Hattusili III, as governor over the northern marches. Hattusili defeated the Kaska to the point of recapturing Nerik, and when he took over the kingdom he returned the capital to Hattusa.
The Kaska may have contributed to the fall of the Hittite empire in the Bronze Age collapse, c. 1200 BC. Then they penetrated eastern Anatolia, and continued their thrust southwards, where they encountered the Assyrians.
The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser I recorded late in the 12th century BC that the Kaska (who he referred to as “Apishlu”) and their Mushki and Urumu (Urumean) allies were active in what had been the Hatti heartland. Tiglath-Pileser defeated them, and the Kaska then disappear from all historical records.
Repulsed by the Assyrians, a subdivision of the Kaska might have passed north-eastwards to the Caucasus, where they probably blended with the Proto-Colchian or Zan autochthons, forming a polity which was known as the Kolkha to the Urartians and later as the Colchis to the Greeks. Another branch might have established themselves in Cappadocia, which in the 8th century BC became a vassal of Assyria and ruled some Anatolian areas.
Diauehi or Daiaeni (Urartian Diauekhi, Assyrian Diaeni, Greek Taochoi, Armenian Tayk, Georgian Tao) was a tribal union of possibly proto-Armenian, Hurrian or proto-Kartvelian groups, located in northeastern Anatolia, that was formed in the 12th century BC in the post-Hittite period. It is mentioned in the Urartian inscriptions. It is usually (though not always) identified with the Yonjalu inscription of the Assyria king Tiglath-Pileser I’s third year (1118 BC).
Diauehi is a possible locus of Proto-Kartvelian; it has been described as an “important tribal formation of possible proto-Georgians” by Ronald Grigor Suny (1994). Although the exact geographic extent of Diauehi is still unclear, many scholars place it in the Pasinler Plain in today’s northeastern Turkey, while others locate it in the Turkish–Georgian marchlands as it follows the Kura River.
Most probably, the core of the Diauehi lands may have extended from the headwaters of the Euphrates into the river valleys of Çoruh to Oltu. The Urartian sources speak of Diauehi’s three key cities – Zua, Utu and Sasilu; Zua is frequently identified with Zivin Kale and Ultu is probably modern Oltu, while Sasilu is sometimes linked to the early medieval Georgian toponym Sasire, near Tortomi (present-day Tortum, Turkey). The region roughly corresponded to the previous Hayasa-Azzi territory.
This federation was powerful enough to counter the Assyrian forays, although in 1112 BC its king, Sien, was defeated by Tiglath-Pileser I (who listed the kingdom as the northernmost point of Nairi). He was captured and later released on terms of vassalage. In 845 BC, Shalmaneser III finally subdued Diauehi and downgraded its king, Asia, to a client ruler.
King Asia of Diauehi (850–825 BC) was forced to submit to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III in 845 BC, after the latter had overrun Urartu and made a foray into Diauehi. In the early 8th century, Diauehi became the target of the newly emerged regional power of Urartu.
Both Menua (810–785 BC) and Argishti I (785–763 BC) campaigned against the Diauehi kingdom. Argishti I defeated King Utupursini, annexing his possessions and in exchange of his life, Utupursini was forced to pay a tribute including a variety of metals and livestock. Diauehi was finally destroyed by Colchian incursions by about the 760s BC, the date of the last recorded references to Diauehi.
The Koban culture (c. 1100 to 400 BC) is a late Bronze Age and Iron Age culture of the northern and central Caucasus. It is preceded by the Colchian culture of the western Caucasus and the Kharachoi culture further east.
It is named after the village of Koban, Northern Ossetia, where in 1869 battle-axes, daggers, decorative items and other objects were discovered in a kurgan. Later, further sites were uncovered in the central Caucasus.
Bronze axe with iron inlay decoration from Klin-Yar, c. 700 BC
The culture flourished on both sides of the Great Caucasus Range, and extended into the areas of Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia-Alania, and South Ossetia. It also reached the high north-western regions of Georgia such as Racha and Svaneti. Some areas of Northeast Caucasus also had Koban settlements, in particular the modern Ingushetia and the western regions of Chechnya.
To the north, the culture extended as far as the Terek River, and to the Laba River in the Krasnodar area.
The early phase of the Koban culture, especially in the west, possibly extends back as far as the 13th century BC, as the recent radiocarbon dates indicate.
The Koban culture settlements (as opposed to isolated cemeteries) have been little studied, with the exception of those located in the modern Chechnya, such as near Serzhen-Yurt, and near Bamut; these were major centers from around 11th century BC to around the 7th century BC.
The remains include dwellings, cobble bridges, altars, iron objects, bones, and clay and stone objects. There were sickles and stone grain grinders. Grains that were grown included wheat, rye and barley. Cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs and horses were kept. There were shops, where artisans worked on and sold pottery, stone-casting, bone-carving, and stone-carving. There is evidence for an advanced stage of metallurgy. There was differentiation of professionals organized within clans.
The Tli cemetery contained many rich burials. It is located near the village of Tli in South Ossetia, in the Tligom ravine (ru:Тлигомское ущелье). The excavations started at the end of the 19th century, and continued in 1955-1988. B. V. Tekhov excavated more than five hundred burials, with detailed publications.
The earliest burials at Tli cemetery go back to the 16th-14th centuries BC (pre-Koban period). Then the cemetery was used for almost the entire period of existence of the Koban culture.
Amjad Jaimoukha and some other historians believe the Koban culture was primarily Nakh.
Amjad Jaimoukha argues that while all these cultures probably were made by people included among the genetic ancestors of the Northern Caucasian Nakh (i.e. Chechens and Ingush), it was either the Koban or Kharachoi culture that was the first culture made by the cultural and linguistic ancestors of the Chechens (meaning the Chechens first arrived in their homeland 3000–4000 years ago). Johanna Nichols has written that “There is fairly seamless archeological continuity for the last 8000 years or more in central Daghestan, suggesting that the Nakh-Daghestanian language family is long indigenous.”
Jaimoukha postulates that the end of the Koban culture was brought about by Scythian invasions.
A study published in the “Journal for archeological science” by Boulygina et al. 2020 analyzed ancient Koban burials and found a high number of paternal lineage D1a2a1 which is commonly found among the Ainu people in northern Japan and southeastern Russia. Another lineage was J2.
Klin-Yar (or Klin-Jar) is a prehistoric and early medieval site in the North Caucasus, outside of Kislovodsk. It was first discovered in the 1980s. Archaeological excavations had uncovered settlement traces and extensive cemetery areas starting in the 8th century BC, belonging to the Koban culture. The site was used up to the 7th century AD. Its long use over all this period, its size and rich finds, as well as the data quality of recent excavations make Klin-Yar one of the most important archaeological sites of the region.
3 Second and third phases
Grave types at Klin-Yar: Koban (upper left), Sarmatian (lower left) and Alanic (right) (drawn by M. Mathews)
Klin-Yar (the Russian name means “Crooked Valley”) is located about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of the spa town of Kislovodsk, in a small curving valley which is separated from the valley of the river Podkumok by a long narrow sandstone formation locally called “Parovoz” (“The Locomotive”). Settlements and cemeteries have been found on the slopes around the base of the rock, with some settlement traces on its flat top.
Location and site plan of Klin-Yar (drawn by M. Mathews; NB scale error: correct 500m, not 50m). Legend: Grabung – trench, Siedlung – settlement, Gräberfeld – cemetery
The site was discovered in the 1960s by the local archaeologist A.P. Runich. The construction of a cattle farm in the early 1980s led to rescue excavations, followed by research excavations by V.S. Flyorov (Moscow, Russia) from 1984, and by an Anglo-Russian team led by A.B. Belinskij (Stavropol, Russia) and H. Härke (Reading, UK) in 1993-1996. The total number of excavated graves is around 400; the full extent of the cemeteries is uncertain, but is probably somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 graves.
These sites are located near the town of ru:Нежинский (Ставропольский край) (Nezshinski), in Stavropol Krai.
Bronze axe with iron inlay decoration from Klin-Yar (photo I. Kozhevnikov; scale: cm)
The first phase of the site belongs to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Koban culture. A settlement of this period was found along the southern slope of the rock where three buildings were excavated in 1995; pottery finds indicate that the top of the rock was also settled. The extensive cemetery areas overlap with the settlement at the eastern end of the south-facing slope. The burial rite of the Koban culture was inhumation in single graves, with the body deposited flexed on its side (usually males on their right side, females on their left). The provision of grave-goods was standardized: tools and weapons for men, hair decoration and bracelets for women. Special finds included two Assyrian helmets and a bronze axe decorated with iron inlay, indicating long-distance contacts and social differentiation.
Early medieval sword from Alanic grave 360 at Klin-Yar (photo I. Kozhevnikov; scale: cm)
The second and third phases are characterized, respectively, by Sarmatians and Alans, both of them Iranian-speaking nomads from the Caspian steppes. Physical anthropology has shown that both groups were immigrants here: the Sarmatian immigration may have been male-only leading to mixing with the native (Koban) population, while the Alanic immigration clearly included males and females (according to the Anthropology Laboratory, Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow).
The Late Sarmatian-Alanic elite plot in the cemetery of Klin-Yar (drawn by M. Mathews)
There are no Sarmatian settlement finds from Klin-Yar. Sarmatian graves of the first four centuries AD are found among the Koban graves on the southern slope. The burial rite was inhumation in small underground chambers (catacombs), mostly single burials with grave-goods; the body was deposited extended on the back. Grave construction and burial ritual show great variety. Special finds include a Late Roman glass vessel and Egyptian fayence beads. A considerable proportion of the Sarmatian and Alanic graves were disturbed in antiquity; Flyorov has interpreted this as deliberate disturbance shortly after burial, intended to ‘render the dead harmless’.
Settlement pottery of the Alanic period has been found on the southern and northern slopes, and on top of the rock. Alanic graves of the 5th – 7th/early 8th centuries AD are located on the southern slope (cemetery III), with further graves of the 7th/early 8th centuries AD on the northern slope (cemetery IV). The standard grave type is a large catacomb with an entrance corridor (dromos), usually with several burials in the chamber. The burial ritual is basically the same as in the Sarmatian period, but with a wider range of grave-goods and with more elaborate ritual (horse sacrifice, pottery depositions and traces of fire in the dromoi). Finds of special interest include a Central Asian type of sword with P-shaped scabbard fittings (Grave 360), an Iranian glass bowl (Grave 360), and gold coins of the Byzantine emperors Tiberius Mauritius (Maurice (emperor)) and Heraclius (Graves 341 and 363).
Iranian glass vessel from Alanic grave 360 at Klin-Yar (photo I. Kozhevnikov; scale: cm)
The richest Late Sarmatian and Early Alanic graves of the 4th – late 7th centuries AD are concentrated in an ‘elite plot’ in cemetery III on the southern slope. This is seen by the excavators as reflecting the rise to power of one or two families, perhaps even the beginnings of an Alanic nobility. The number of undisturbed rich graves of this period is unusual for the North Caucasus. The man and woman buried in Grave 360 (mid-7th century AD) must have belonged to the top of the Alanic social hierarchy in the North Caucasus. A significant proportion of the individuals buried in the ‘elite plot’ had artificial skull deformation which is often interpreted as a sign of high social status.
The site has wider significance because its evidence shows the coincidence of cultural, ritual, economic and population changes over a long period of use. Finds show long-distance contacts of the communities at Klin-Yar: in the Koban period to the Black Sea, and across the Caucasus Mountains to Mesopotamia; in the Sarmatian period to the Eastern Roman Empire; and in the Alanic period to Central Asia, Iran, and the Byzantine Empire. A branch of the Silk Road is thought to have run along the Podkumok valley in the Alanic period, explaining some of the wealth and the contacts of this site. Klin–Yar is the first site in the North Caucasus where a so-called ‘reservoir effect’ in radiocarbon dating, was demonstrated in dates derived from human bones; the dates show irregular offsets caused by ancient carbon in the water of this volcanic region.
Colchian culture (Georgian: კოლხური კულტურა; 3000 BCE to 600 BCE) is Neolithic – an early Bronze Age and Iron Age culture of the western Caucasus, mostly in western Georgia. It was partially succeeded by the Koban culture in northern and central Caucasus.
It is named after the ancient geographic region of Colchis, which covered a large area along the Black Sea coast. It is mainly known for highly developed bronze production and artistic craftsmanship. There are many items of copper and bronze found in ancient graves. Graves found and studied have been located in the Abkhazia region, the Sukhumi mountain complexes, the Racha highlands where brick tiles and graffiti have been found, and the Colchian plains (კოლხეთის დაბლობი [ka]) where collective graves have been found.
Collective graves occurred during the last stages of the Colchian culture (c.8th century to 6th century BCE). In these graves bronze items were found that represented foreign trade occurred with the Colchian culture. At this time an increase in the production of weapons and agricultural tools is seen. Evidence of copper mining has been found in Racha, Abkhazia, Svaneti, and Adjara. Ruins of palaces are present in the Colchian Plains.
Colchian culture is characterized by Colchian axes, sickles, short spears, flat axes, bow-shaped and cylindrical axes, belts, bracelets, bearings, and statuettes. The items are often painted and sometimes even with the sculptural expression expressing the religious ideas of the Colchis.
In pre-Hellenistic Greco-Roman geography, Colchis[a] or Kolchis (Ancient Greek: Κολχίς) was an exonym (foreign name) for the Georgian polity[b] of Egrisi[c] (Georgian: ეგრისი) located on the coast of the Black Sea, centered in present-day western Georgia.
It has been described in modern scholarship as “the earliest Georgian formation” which, along with the Kingdom of Iberia, would later contribute significantly to the development of the medieval Georgian statehood and the Georgian nation.
Internationally, Colchis is perhaps best known for its role in Greek mythology, most notably as the destination of the Argonauts, as well as the home to Medea and the Golden Fleece. It was also described as a land rich with gold, iron, timber and honey that would export its resources mostly to ancient Hellenic city-states.
Colchis was populated by Colchians, an early Kartvelian-speaking tribe, ancestral to the contemporary western Georgians, namely Svans and Zans. Its geography is mostly assigned to what is now the western part of Georgia and encompasses the present-day Georgian provinces of Samegrelo, Imereti, Guria, Adjara, Abkhazeti, Svaneti, Racha; modern Russia’s Sochi and Tuapse districts; and present-day Turkey’s Artvin, Rize, and Trabzon provinces.
2 Physical-geographic characteristics
3.1 Prehistory and earliest references
Satellite image of Colchis: Black Sea, Colchis Lowland, Caucasus Mountains.
Colchian scent bottle fourth century BC
Colchís, Kolkhís or Qulḫa which existed from the c. 13th to the 1st centuries BC is regarded as an early ethnically Georgian polity;[by whom? – Discuss] the name of the Colchians was used as the collective term for early Kartvelian tribes which populated the eastern coast of the Black Sea in Greco-Roman ethnography.
The name Colchis is thought to have derived from the Urartian Qulḫa, pronounced as “Kolcha”. In the late eighth century BC, Sarduri II the King of Urartu, inscribed his victory over Qulḫa on a stele; however, the exact location of Qulḫa is disputed. Some scholars argue the name Qulḫa (Colchís) originally referred to a land to the west of Georgia.
According to the scholar of Caucasian studies Cyril Toumanoff:
Colchis appears as the first Caucasian State to have achieved the coalescence of the newcomer. Colchis can be justly regarded as not a proto-Georgian, but a Georgian (West Georgian) kingdom. . . .It would seem natural to seek the beginnings of Georgian social history in Colchis, the earliest Georgian formation.
A second South Caucasian tribal union emerged in the thirteenth century BC on the Black Sea coast.[clarification needed] According to most classic authors, a district which was bounded[clarification needed] on the south-west by Pontus, on the west by the Black Sea as far as the river Corax (probably the present day Bzyb River, Abkhazia, Georgia), on the north by the chain of the Greater Caucasus, which lay between it and Asiatic Sarmatia, on the east by Iberia and Montes Moschici (now the Lesser Caucasus), and on the south by Armenia. The westward extent of the country is considered differently by different authors: Strabo makes Colchis begin at Trabzon, while Ptolemy, on the other hand, extends Pontus to the Rioni River.
The Greek name Kolchís (Κολχίς) is first used to describe a geographic area in the writings of Aeschylus and Pindar. Earlier writers speak of the “Kolchian” (Κολχίδα) people and their mythical king Aeëtes (Αἰήτης), as well as his eponymous city Aea or Aia (Αἶα), but don’t make explicit references to a Kolchis nation or region. The main river was known as the Phasis (now Rioni) and was, according to some writers the southern boundary of Colchis, but more probably flowed through the middle of that country from the Caucasus west into the Euxine, and the Anticites or Atticitus (now Kuban). Arrian mentions many others by name, but they would seem to have been little more than mountain torrents: the most important of them were Charieis, Chobus or Cobus, Singames, Tarsuras, Hippus, Astelephus, Chrysorrhoas, several of which are also noticed by Ptolemy and Pliny. The chief towns were Dioscurias or Dioscuris (under the Romans called Sebastopolis, now Sukhumi) on the seaboard of the Euxine, Sarapana (now Shorapani), Phasis (now Poti), Pityus (now Pitsunda), Apsaros (now Gonio), Surium (now Vani), Archaeopolis (now Nokalakevi), Macheiresis, and Cyta or Cutatisium or Aia (now Kutaisi), the traditional birthplace of Medea. Scylax mentions also Mala or Male, which he, in contradiction to other writers, makes the birthplace of Medea.
Colchis and its eastern neighbor Iberia.
Map of Colchis and Iberia by Christoph Cellarius printed in Leipzig in 1706
In physical geography, Colchis is usually defined as the area east of the Black Sea coast, restricted from the north by the southwestern slopes of the Greater Caucasus, from the south by the northern slopes of the Lesser Caucasus in Georgia and Eastern Black Sea (Karadeniz) Mountains in Turkey, and from the east by Likhi Range, connecting the Greater and the Lesser Caucasus. The central part of the region is Colchis Plain, stretching between Sukhumi and Kobuleti; most of that lies on the elevation below 20 m above sea level. Marginal parts of the region are mountains of the Great and the Lesser Caucasus and Likhi Range.
Its territory mostly corresponds to what is now the western part of Georgia and encompasses the present-day Georgian provinces of Samegrelo, Imereti, Guria, Adjara, Abkhazia, Svaneti, Racha; the modern Turkey’s Rize, Trabzon and Artvin provinces (Lazistan, Tao-Klarjeti); and the modern Russia’s Sochi and Tuapse districts.
The climate is mild humid; near Batumi, annual rainfall level reaches 4,000 mm, which is the absolute maximum for the continental western Eurasia. The dominating natural landscapes of Colchis are temperate rainforests, yet degraded in the plain part of the region; wetlands (along the coastal parts of Colchis Plain); subalpine and alpine meadows.
The Colchis has a high proportion of Neogene and Palaeogene relict plants and animals, with the closest relatives in distant parts of the world: five species of Rhododendrons and other evergreen shrubs, wingnuts, Caucasian salamander, Caucasian parsley frog, eight endemic species of lizards from the genus Darevskia, the Caucasus adder (Vipera kaznakovi), Robert’s snow vole, and endemic cave shrimp.
Second century BC Greek bronze torso from Colchis, Georgian National Museum
Colchian pendants, riders and horses on wheeled platforms Georgian National Museum
Prehistory and earliest references
The eastern Black Sea region in antiquity was home to the well-developed Bronze Age culture known as the Colchian culture, related to the neighbouring Koban culture, that emerged toward the Middle Bronze Age. In at least some parts of Colchis, the process of urbanization seems to have been well advanced by the end of the second millennium BC. The Colchian Late Bronze Age (fifteenth to eighth century BC) saw the development of significant skill in the smelting and casting of metals. Sophisticated farming implements were made, and fertile, well-watered lowlands and a mild climate promoted the growth of progressive agricultural techniques.
Colchis was inhabited by a number of related, but distinct, tribes whose settlements lay along the shore of the Black Sea. Chief among those were the Machelones, Heniochi, Zydretae, Lazi, Chalybes, Tabal/Tibareni/Tubal, Mossynoeci, Macrones, Moschi, Marres, Apsilae, Abasci, Sanigae, Coraxi, Coli, Melanchlaeni, Geloni and Soani (Suani). These Colchian tribes differed so completely in language from the surrounding Indo-European nations that the ancients provided various wild theories to account for the phenomenon.
Herodotus regarded the Colchians as an Ancient Egyptian race. Herodotus states that the Colchians, with the Ancient Egyptians and the Ethiopians, were the first to practice circumcision, a custom which he claims that the Colchians inherited from remnants of the army of Pharaoh Sesostris (Senusret III). Herodotus writes, “For it is plain to see that the Colchians are Egyptians; and what I say, I myself noted before I heard it from others. When it occurred to me, I inquired of both peoples; and the Colchians remembered the Egyptians better than the Egyptians remembered the Colchians;  the Egyptians said that they considered the Colchians part of Sesostris’ army. I myself guessed it, partly because they are dark-skinned and woolly-haired; though that indeed counts for nothing, since other peoples are, too; but my better proof was that the Colchians and Egyptians and Ethiopians are the only nations that have from the first practised circumcision.” These claims have been widely rejected by modern historians. It is in doubt if Herodotus had ever been to Colchis or Egypt.
According to Pliny the Elder:
The Colchians were governed by their own kings in the earliest ages, that Sesostris king of Egypt was overcome in Scythia, and put to fight, by the king of Colchis, which if true, that the Colchians not only had kings in those times, but were a very powerful people.
Many modern theories suggest that the ancestors of the Laz-Mingrelians constituted the dominant ethnic and cultural presence in the region in antiquity, and hence played a significant role in the ethnogenesis of the modern Georgians.
Gold ornaments made by Colchians of the sixth century BC
In the thirteenth century BC, the Kingdom of Colchis was formed as a result of the increasing consolidation of the tribes inhabiting the region. This power, celebrated in Greek mythology as the destination of the Argonauts, the home of Medea and the special domain of sorcery, was known to Urartians as Qulha (aka Kolkha, or Kilkhi).
Being in permanent wars with the neighbouring nations, the Colchians managed to absorb part of Diauehi in the 750s BC, but lost several provinces (including the “royal city” of Ildemusa) to the Sarduri II of Urartu following the wars of 750–748 and 744–742 BC. Overrun by the Cimmerians and Scythians in the 730s–720s BC, and invaded by Assyria, the kingdom disintegrated and eventually came under the Achaemenid Persian Empire toward the mid-sixth century BC.
The tribes living in the southern Colchis (Macrones, Moschi, and Marres) were incorporated into the nineteenth Satrapy of Persia, while the northern tribes submitted “voluntarily” and had to send to the Persian court 100 girls and 100 boys every five years. In 400 BC, shortly after the Ten Thousand reached Trapezus, a battle was fought between them and the Colchis in which the latter were decisively defeated. The influence exerted on Colchis by the vast Achaemenid Empire with its thriving commerce and wide economic and commercial ties with other regions accelerated the socio-economic development of the Colchian land. Subsequently, the Colchis people appear to have overthrown the Persian Authority, and to have formed an independent state. According to Ronald Suny: This western Georgian state was federated to Kartli-Iberia, and its kings ruled through skeptukhi (royal governors) who received a staff from the king.
Mithridates VI quelled an uprising in the region in 83 BC and gave Colchis to his son Mithridates, who, soon being suspected in having plotted against his father, was executed. During the Third Mithridatic War, Mithridates VI made another of his sons, Machares, king of Bosporus and Colchis, who held his power, but for a short period. On the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus in 65 BC, Colchis was occupied by Pompey, who captured one of the local chiefs (sceptuchus) Olthaces, and installed Aristarchus as a dynast (63–47 BC). On the fall of Pompey, Pharnaces II, son of Mithridates, took advantage of Julius Caesar being occupied in Egypt, and reduced Colchis, Armenia, and some part of Cappadocia, defeating Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus, whom Caesar subsequently sent against him. His triumph was, however, short-lived. Under Polemon I, the son and heir of Zenon, Colchis was part of the Pontus and the Bosporan Kingdom. After the death of Polemon (8 BC), his second wife Pythodorida of Pontus retained possession of Colchis as well as of Pontus, although the kingdom of Bosporus was wrested from her power. Her son and successor, Polemon II of Pontus, was induced by Emperor Nero to abdicate the throne, and both Pontus and Colchis were incorporated in the Province of Galatia (63) and later, in Cappadocia (81). Phasis, Dioscurias and other Greek settlements of the coast did not fully recover after the wars of 60-40 BC and Trebizond became the economical and political centre of the region.
Main articles: Roman Georgia, Pompey’s Georgian campaign, and Lazica
Despite the fact that all major fortresses along the sea coast were occupied by the Romans, their rule was relatively loose. In 69, the people of Pontus and Colchis under Anicetus staged a major uprising against the Romans which ended unsuccessfully.
The lowlands and coastal area were frequently raided by fierce mountain tribes, with the Soanes and Heniochi being the most powerful of them. Paying a nominal homage to Rome, they created their own kingdoms and enjoyed significant independence.
Christianity began to spread in the early first century. Traditional accounts relate the event with Saint Andrew, Saint Simon the Zealot, and Saint Matata. The Hellenistic, local pagan and Mithraic religious beliefs would, however, remain widespread until the fourth century. By the 130s, the kingdoms of Machelones, Heniochi, Egrisi, Apsilia, Abasgia, and Sanigia had occupied the district from south to north. Goths, dwelling in the Crimea and looking for new homes, raided Colchis in 253, but were repulsed with the help of the Roman garrison of Pitsunda. By the first century BC, the Lazica (or the Laz) kingdom was established in the wake of the disintegration of the Kingdom of Colchis. Lazica became known as Elgrisi in 66 BC when Elgrisi became a vassal of the Roman Empire after Pompey’s conquest.
Little is known of the rulers of Colchis;
1. Akes (Basileus Aku) end of the 4th c. BC his name is found on a coin issued by him.
4. Mithridates fl. 80 BC under the authority of Pontus.
5. Machares fl. 65 BC under the authority of Pontus.
6. Aristarchus 63–47 BC appointed by Pompey
Jason and the Argonauts arriving at Colchis. The Argonautica tells the myth of their voyage to retrieve the Golden Fleece. This painting is located in the Palace of Versailles.
In Classical Greek mythology, Colchis was the home of Aeëtes, Medea, the Golden Fleece, fire-breathing bulls Khalkotauroi and the destination of the Argonauts.
Colchis also is thought to be a possible homeland of the Amazons. Amazons also were said to be of Scythian origin from Colchis.
According to the Greek mythology, Colchis was a fabulously wealthy land situated on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, King Aeëtes hung the Golden Fleece until it was seized by Jason and the Argonauts. Colchis was also the land where the mythological Prometheus was punished by being chained to a mountain while an eagle ate at his liver for revealing to humanity the secret of fire.
Apollonius of Rhodes named Aea as the main city (Argonautica, passim). The main mythical characters from Colchis are:
Aeëtes, King of Colchis, son of the sun-god Helios and the Oceanid Perseis, (a daughter of Oceanus), brother of Circe and Pasiphae, and father of Medea, Chalciope, and Absyrtus
Idyia, Queen of Colchis, mother of Medea, Chalciope, and Absyrtus
Medea, daughter of King Aeëtes
Chalciope, daughter of King Aeëtes
Circe, sister of King Aeëtes
Pasiphaë, sister of Aeëtes
The Kartvelian languages (/kɑːrtˈviːliːən/; Georgian: ქართველური ენები, translit.: kartveluri enebi; also known as Iberian and formerly South Caucasian) are a language family indigenous to the South Caucasus and spoken primarily in Georgia, with large groups of native speakers in Russia, Iran, the United States, Europe, Israel, and northeastern parts of Turkey. There are approximately 5.2 million speakers of Kartvelian languages worldwide. The Kartvelian family is not known to be related to any other language family, making it one of the world’s primary language families. The first literary source in a Kartvelian language is the Old Georgian Bir el Qutt inscriptions, written in ancient Georgian Asomtavruli script at the once-existing Georgian monastery near Bethlehem, which dates back to c. 430 AD.
The Georgian script is the writing system used to write all Kartvelian languages, though the Laz language in Turkey is also written using a Latin script.
1 Social and cultural status
2.2 Higher-level connections
3.1 Regular correspondences
4 Examples from inherited lexicon
Social and cultural status
Georgian is the official language of Georgia (spoken by 90% of the population) and the main language for literary and business use for all Kartvelian speakers in Georgia. It is written with an original and distinctive alphabet, and the oldest surviving literary text dates from the 5th century AD. The old Georgian script seems to have been derived from Aramaic, with Greek influences.
Mingrelian has been written with the Georgian alphabet since 1864, especially in the period from 1930 to 1938, when the Mingrelians enjoyed some cultural autonomy, and after 1989.
The Laz language was written chiefly between 1927 and 1937, and now again in Turkey, with the Latin alphabet. Laz, however, is disappearing as its speakers are integrating into mainstream Turkish society.
Ancient Kartvelian people
Georgian Orthodox ChurchChristianityCatholic ChurchIslamJudaismSaint GeorgeSaint Nino
St George’s CrossGrapevine crossBolnisi crossBorjgali
The Kartvelian language family consists of four closely related languages:
Svan (ლუშნუ ნინ, lušnu nin), with approximately 35,000–40,000 native speakers in Georgia, mainly in the northwestern mountainous region of Svaneti and the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia
Georgian-Zan (also called Karto-Zan)
Georgian (ქართული ენა, kartuli ena) with approximately 4 million native speakers, mainly in Georgia. There are Georgian-speaking communities in Russia, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and EU countries, but the current number and distribution of them are unknown.
Judaeo-Georgian (ყივრული ენა, kivruli ena) with some 85,000 speakers, is the only Kartvelian Jewish dialect, its status being the subject of debate among scholars.
Zan (also called Colchian)
Mingrelian (მარგალური ნინა, margaluri nina), with some 500,000 native speakers in 1989, mainly in the western regions of Georgia, namely Samegrelo and Abkhazia (at present in Gali district only). The number of Mingrelian speakers in Abkhazia was very strongly affected by the war with Georgia in the 1990s, the expulsion and flight of ethnic Georgian population, the majority of which were Mingrelians. Nevertheless, Georgians in Abkhazia (mostly Mingrelians) make up 18% of the population, in Gali district 91.5%. The Mingrelians displaced from Abkhazia are scattered elsewhere in the Georgian government territory, with dense clusters in Tbilisi and Zugdidi.
Laz (ლაზური ნენა, lazuri nena), with 22,000 native speakers in 1980, mostly in the Black Sea littoral area of northeast Turkey, and with some 2,000 in Adjara, Georgia.
Svan Mingrelian Laz Georgian
The connection between these languages was first reported in linguistic literature by Johann Anton Güldenstädt in his 1773 classification of the languages of the Caucasus, and later proven by G. Rosen, Marie-Félicité Brosset, Franz Bopp and others during the 1840s. Zan is the branch that contains the Mingrelian and Laz languages.
On the basis of glottochronological analysis, Georgi Klimov dates the split of the Proto-Kartvelian into Svan and Proto-Karto-Zan to the 19th century BC, and the further division into Georgian and Zan to the 8th century BC, although with the reservation that such dating is very preliminary and substantial further study is required.
No relationship with other languages, including the two North Caucasian language families, has been demonstrated so far. Some linguists, such as Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze, have proposed that the Kartvelian family is part of a much larger Nostratic language family, but both the concept of a Nostratic family and Georgian’s relation to it are not considered likely by other linguists.
Certain grammatical similarities with Basque, especially in the case system, have often been pointed out. However, the hypothesis of a relationship, which also tends to link the Caucasian languages with other non-Indo-European and non-Semitic languages of the Near East of ancient times, is generally considered to lack conclusive evidence. Any similarities to other linguistic phyla may be due to areal influences. Heavy borrowing in both directions (i.e. from North Caucasian to Kartvelian and vice versa) has been observed; therefore, it is likely that certain grammatical features have been influenced as well. If the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis, which attempts to link Basque, Burushaski, the North Caucasian families and other phyla, is correct, then the similarities to Basque may also be due to these influences, however indirect. Certain Kartvelian–Indo-European lexical links are revealed at the protolanguage level, which are ascribed to the early contacts between Proto-Kartvelian and Proto-Indo-European populations.
The Proto-Kartvelian language, or Common Kartvelian (Georgian: წინარექართველური ენა, ts’inarekartveluri ena), is the linguistic reconstruction of the common ancestor of the Kartvelian languages, which was spoken by the ancestors of the modern Kartvelian peoples. The existence of such a language is widely accepted by specialists in linguistics, who have reconstructed a broad outline of the language by comparing the existing Kartvelian languages against each other. Several linguists, namely, Gerhard Deeters and Georgy Klimov have also reconstructed a lower-level proto-language called Proto-Karto-Zan or Proto-Georgian-Zan, which is the ancestor of Karto-Zan languages (includes Georgian and Zan).
2 Relation to descendants
See also: Proto-Indo-European language
The ablaut patterns of Proto-Kartvelian are highly similar to those of the Indo-European languages, and so it is thought that Proto-Kartvelian interacted with Indo-European at a relatively early date. This is reinforced by a fairly large number of words borrowed from Indo-European, such as the Proto-Kartvelian *mḳerd- (breast), and its possible relation to the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerd- (heart). Proto-Kartvelian *ṭep- (warm) may also be directly derived from Proto-Indo-European *tep- “warm”.[better source needed]
The modern descendants of Proto-Kartvelian are Georgian, Svan, Mingrelian and Laz. Of these, Mingrelian and Laz are often considered dialects of a single language[according to whom?], called Zan, although the two are not inherently mutually intelligible. The ablaut patterns of Proto-Kartvelian were better preserved in Georgian and (particularly) Svan than in either Mingrelian or Laz, in which new forms have been set up so that there is a single, stable vowel in each word element.
The system of pronouns of Proto-Kartvelian is distinct on account of its category of inclusive–exclusive (so, for instance, there were two forms of the pronoun “we”: one that includes the listener and one that does not). This has survived in Svan but not in the other languages. Svan also includes a number of archaisms from the Proto-Kartvelian era, and therefore it is thought that Svan broke off from Proto-Kartvelian at a relatively early stage: the later Proto-Kartvelian stage (called Karto-Zan) split into Georgian and Zan (Mingrelo-Laz).
The Georgians, or Kartvelians (/kʌrtˈvɛliənz/; Georgian: ქართველები, translit.: kartvelebi, pronounced [kʰɑrtʰvɛlɛbi]), are a nation and indigenous Caucasian ethnic group native to Georgia and the South Caucasus. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Ukraine, United States and the European Union.
Georgians arose from Colchian and Iberian civilizations of the classical antiquity and are one of the most ancient nations still living today. After Christianization of Iberia by Saint Nino, they became one of the first who embraced the faith of Jesus in the early 4th century, and now the majority of Georgians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, and most follow their national autocephalous Georgian Orthodox Church, although there are small Georgian Catholic and Muslim communities as well as a significant number of irreligious Georgians. Located in the Caucasus, on the continental crossroads of Europe and Asia, the High Middle Ages saw Georgian people form a unified Kingdom of Georgia in 1008 AD, the pan-Caucasian empire, later inaugurating the Georgian Golden Age, a height of political and cultural power of the nation. This lasted until the kingdom was weakened and later disintegrated as the result of the 13th–15th-century invasions of the Mongols and Timur, the Black Death, the Fall of Constantinople, as well as internal divisions following the death of George V the Brilliant in 1346, the last of the great kings of Georgia.
Thereafter and throughout the early modern period, Georgians became politically fractured and were dominated by the Ottoman Empire and successive dynasties of Iran. Georgians started looking for allies and found the Russians on the political horizon as a possible replacement for the lost Byzantine Empire, “for the sake of the Christian faith”. The Georgian kings and Russian tsars exchanged no less than 17 embassies, which culminated in 1783, when Heraclius II of the eastern Georgian kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti forged an alliance with the Russian Empire. The Russo-Georgian alliance, however, backfired as Russia was unwilling to fulfill the terms of the treaty, proceeding to annex the troubled kingdom in 1801 as well as the western Georgian kingdom of Imereti in 1810. There were several uprisings and movements to restore the statehood, the most notable being the 1832 plot, which collapsed in failure. Eventually, Russian rule over Georgia was acknowledged in various peace treaties with Iran and the Ottomans, and the remaining Georgian territories were absorbed by the Russian Empire in a piecemeal fashion through the course of the 19th century. Georgians briefly reasserted their independence from Russia under the First Georgian Republic from 1918 to 1921 and finally in 1991 from the Soviet Union.
The Georgian nation was formed out of a diverse set of geographic subgroups, each with its characteristic traditions, manners, dialects and, in the case of Svans and Mingrelians, own regional languages. The Georgian language, with its own unique writing system and extensive written tradition, which goes back to the 5th century, is the official language of Georgia as well as the language of education of all Georgians living in the country. According to the State Ministry on Diaspora Issues of Georgia, unofficial statistics say that there are more than 5 million Georgians in the world.
5.1 Language and linguistic subdivisions
6 Geographic subdivisions and subethnic groups
6.1 Geographical subdivisions
6.1.1 Outside modern Georgia
6.1.2 Extinct Georgian Subdivisions
Further information: Name of Georgia (country)
Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi (ქართველები), their land Sakartvelo (საქართველო), and their language Kartuli (ქართული). According to The Georgian Chronicles, the ancestor of the Kartvelian people was Kartlos, the great-grandson of the Biblical Japheth. However, scholars agree that the word is derived from the Karts, the latter being one of the proto-Georgian tribes that emerged as a dominant group in ancient times. Kart probably is cognate with Indo-European gard and denotes people who live in a “fortified citadel”. Ancient Greeks (Homer, Herodotus, Strabo, Plutarch etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Cornelius Tacitus, etc.) referred to western Georgians as Colchians and eastern Georgians as Iberians.
The term “Georgians” is derived from the country of Georgia. In the past, lore based theories were given by the traveller Jacques de Vitry, who explained the name’s origin by the popularity of St. George amongst Georgians, while traveller Jean Chardin thought that “Georgia” came from Greek γεωργός (“tiller of the land”), as when the Greeks came into the region (in Colchis) they encountered a developed agricultural society.
However, as Prof. Alexander Mikaberidze adds, these explanations for the word Georgians/Georgia are rejected by the scholarly community, who point to the Persian word gurğ/gurğān (“wolf”) as the root of the word. Starting with the Persian word gurğ/gurğān, the word was later adopted in numerous other languages, including Slavic and West European languages. This term itself might have been established through the ancient Iranian appellation of the near-Caspian region, which was referred to as Gorgan (“land of the wolves”).
Further information: Caucasian race
The eighteenth century German professor of medicine and member of the British Royal Society Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, widely regarded one of the founders of the discipline of anthropology, regarded Georgians the most beautiful race of people.
Caucasian variety – I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones (original members) of mankind.
Most historians and scholars of Georgia as well as anthropologists, archaeologists and linguists tend to agree that the ancestors of modern Georgians inhabited the southern Caucasus and northern Anatolia since the Neolithic period. Scholars usually refer to them as Proto-Kartvelian (Proto-Georgians such as Colchians and Iberians) tribes.
The Georgian people in antiquity have been known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Colchians and Iberians. East Georgian tribes of Tibarenians-Iberians formed their kingdom in 7th century BCE. However, western Georgian tribes (Colchian tribes) established the first Georgian state of Colchis (circa 1350 BCE) before the foundation of the Iberian Kingdom in the east. According to the numerous scholars of Georgia, the formations of these two early Georgian kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia, resulted in the consolidation and uniformity of the Georgian nation.
According to the renowned scholar of the Caucasian studies Cyril Toumanoff, the Moschians also were one the early proto-Georgian tribes which were integrated into the first early Georgian state of Iberia. The ancient Jewish chronicle by Josephus mentions Georgians as Iberes who were also called Thobel (Tubal). David Marshall Lang argued that the root Tibar gave rise to the form Iber that made the Greeks pick up the name Iberian in the end for the designation of the eastern Georgians.
Diauehi in Assyrian sources and Taochi in Greek lived in the northeastern part of Anatolia, a region that was part of Georgia. This ancient tribe is considered by many scholars as ancestors of the Georgians. Modern Georgians still refer to this region, which now belongs to present-day Turkey, as Tao-Klarjeti, an ancient Georgian kingdom. Some people there still speak the Georgian language.
Colchians in the ancient western Georgian Kingdom of Colchis were another proto-Georgian tribe. They are first mentioned in the Assyrian annals of Tiglath-Pileser I and in the annals of Urartian king Sarduri II, and are also included western Georgian tribe of the Meskhetians.
Iberians, also known as Tiberians or Tiberanians, lived in the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Iberia.
Both Colchians and Iberians played an important role in the ethnic and cultural formation of the modern Georgian nation.
According to the scholar of the Caucasian studies Cyril Toumanoff:
Colchis appears as the first Caucasian State to have achieved the coalescence of the newcomer, Colchis can be justly regarded as not a proto-Georgian, but a Georgian (West Georgian) kingdom … It would seem natural to seek the beginnings of Georgian social history in Colchis, the earliest Georgian formation.
Further information: Genetic history of the Caucasus
Georgian peasant in Mestia, c. 1888
A study of human genetics by Battaglia, Fornarino, al-Zahery, et al. (2009) suggests that Georgians have the highest percentage of Haplogroup G (30.3%) among the general population recorded in any country. Georgians’ Y-DNA also belongs to Haplogroup J2 (31.8%), Haplogroup R1a (10.6%), and Haplogroup R1b (9.1%).
Main article: Culture of Georgia (country)
Armour of King Alexander III of Imereti with golden plates.
Language and linguistic subdivisions
Main article: Georgian language
Georgian is the primary language for Georgians of all provenance, including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Svans, Mingrelians and the Laz. The language known today as Georgian is a traditional language of the eastern part of the country which has spread to most of the present-day Georgia after the post-Christianization centralization in the first millennium CE. Today, Georgians regardless of their ancestral region use Georgian as their official language. The regional languages Svan and Mingrelian are languages of the west that were traditionally spoken in the pre-Christian Kingdom of Colchis, but later lost importance as the unified Kingdom of Georgia emerged. Their decline is largely due to the capital of the unified kingdom, Tbilisi, being in the eastern part of the country known as Kingdom of Iberia effectively making the language of the east an official language of the Georgian monarch.
All of these languages comprise the Kartvelian language family along with the related language of the Laz people, which has speakers in both Turkey and Georgia.
Georgian dialects include Imeretian, Racha-Lechkhumian, Gurian, Adjarian, Imerkhevian (in Turkey), Kartlian, Kakhetian, Ingilo (in Azerbaijan), Tush, Khevsur, Mokhevian, Pshavian, Fereydan dialect in Iran in Fereydunshahr and Fereydan, Mtiuletian, Meskhetian and Javakhetian dialect.
Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres (26,911 sq mi), and its 2017 population is about 3.718 million. Georgia is a unitary parliamentary republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.
During the classical era, several independent kingdoms became established in what is now Georgia, such as Colchis and Iberia. The Georgians officially adopted Christianity in the early 4th century. The Georgian Orthodox Church had enormous importance for the spiritual and political unification of early Georgian states. The unified Kingdom of Georgia reached its Golden Age during the reign of King David the Builder and Queen Tamar the Great in the 12th and early 13th centuries. Thereafter, the kingdom declined and eventually disintegrated under the hegemony of various regional powers, including the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire and successive dynasties of Iran. In the late 18th century, the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti forged an alliance with the Russian Empire, which directly annexed the kingdom in 1801 and conquered the western Kingdom of Imereti in 1810. Russian rule over Georgia was eventually acknowledged in various peace treaties with Iran and the Ottomans and the remaining Georgian territories were absorbed by the Russian Empire in a piecemeal fashion through the course of the 19th century.
During the Civil War following the Russian Revolution in 1917, Georgia briefly became part of the Transcaucasian Federation and then emerged as an independent republic before the Russian army invasion in 1921, which established a government of workers’ and peasants’ soviets. Soviet Georgia would be incorporated into a new Transcaucasian Federation that, in 1922, would be a founding republic of the Soviet Union. In 1936, the Transcaucasian Federation was dissolved and Georgia emerged as a Union Republic. During World War II, almost 700,000 Georgians fought in the Red Army against the Germans. After Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, a native Georgian, died in 1953, a wave of protest spread against Nikita Khrushchev and his de-Stalinization reforms, leading to the death of nearly one hundred students in 1956.
By the 1980s, an independence movement was established and grew, leading to Georgia’s secession from the Soviet Union in April 1991. For most of the following decade, post-Soviet Georgia suffered from civil conflicts, secessionist wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and economic crisis. Following the bloodless Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia strongly pursued a pro-Western foreign policy; aimed at NATO and European integration, it introduced a series of democratic and economic reforms. This brought about mixed results, but strengthened state institutions. The country’s Western orientation soon led to the worsening of relations with Russia, culminating in the brief Russo-Georgian War in August 2008 and Georgia’s current territorial dispute with Russia.
Georgia is a developing country and ranks 70th on the Human Development Index. The country is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. It contains two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained very limited international recognition after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Most of the world’s countries consider the regions to be Georgian territory under Russian occupation.
2.3 Middle Ages up to early modern period
2.3.2 Kingdom of Abkhazia
2.3.3 United Georgian monarchy
2.3.4 Tripartite division
2.4 Georgia in the Russian Empire
2.5 Declaration of independence
2.6 Georgia in the Soviet Union
2.7 Georgia after restoration of independence
2.8 Russo–Georgian War and since
3 Government and politics
4 Administrative divisions
9.1 Architecture and arts
10 International rankings
Main article: Name of Georgia (country)
“Gorgania” i.e. Georgia on Fra Mauro map
“Georgia” probably stems from the Persian designation of the Georgians – gurğān, in the 11th and 12th centuries adapted via Syriac gurz-ān/gurz-iyān and Arabic ĵurĵan/ĵurzan. Lore-based theories were given by the traveller Jacques de Vitry, who explained the name’s origin by the popularity of St. George amongst Georgians, while traveller Jean Chardin thought that “Georgia” came from Greek γεωργός (“tiller of the land”). As Prof. Alexander Mikaberidze adds, these century-old explanations for the word Georgia/Georgians are rejected by the scholarly community, who point to the Persian word gurğ/gurğān (“wolf”) as the root of the word. Starting with the Persian word gurğ/gurğān, the word was later adopted in numerous other languages, including Slavic and West European languages. This term itself might have been established through the ancient Iranian appellation of the near-Caspian region, which was referred to as Gorgan (“land of the wolves”).
The native name is Sakartvelo (საქართველო; “land of Kartvelians”), derived from the core central Georgian region of Kartli, recorded from the 9th century, and in extended usage referring to the entire medieval Kingdom of Georgia by the 13th century. The self-designation used by ethnic Georgians is Kartvelebi (ქართველები, i.e. “Kartvelians”).
The medieval Georgian Chronicles present an eponymous ancestor of the Kartvelians, Kartlos, a great-grandson of Japheth. However, scholars agree that the word is derived from the Karts, the latter being one of the proto-Georgian tribes that emerged as a dominant group in ancient times. The name Sakartvelo (საქართველო) consists of two parts. Its root, kartvel-i (ქართველ-ი), specifies an inhabitant of the core central-eastern Georgian region of Kartli, or Iberia as it is known in sources of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ancient Greeks (Strabo, Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, etc.) and Romans (Titus Livius, Tacitus, etc.) referred to early western Georgians as Colchians and eastern Georgians as Iberians (Iberoi in some Greek sources). The Georgian circumfix sa-X-o is a standard geographic construction designating “the area where X dwell”, where X is an ethnonym.
Today the full, official name of the country is “Georgia”, as specified in the official English version of the Georgian constitution which reads “Georgia shall be the name of the State of Georgia.” Before the 1995 constitution came into force the country’s name was the Republic of Georgia.[b]
Main article: History of Georgia (country)
Main article: Prehistoric Georgia
The territory of modern-day Georgia was inhabited by Homo erectus since the Paleolithic Era. The proto-Georgian tribes first appear in written history in the 12th century BC. The earliest evidence of wine to date has been found in Georgia, where 8000-year old wine jars were uncovered. Archaeological finds and references in ancient sources also reveal elements of early political and state formations characterized by advanced metallurgy and goldsmith techniques that date back to the 7th century BC and beyond. In fact, early metallurgy started in Georgia during the 6th millennium BC, associated with the Shulaveri-Shomu culture.
Ancient Georgian states of Colchis and Iberia, 500–400 BC
The classical period saw the rise of a number of early Georgian states, the principal of which was Colchis in the west and Iberia in the east. In Greek mythology, Colchis was the location of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in Apollonius Rhodius’ epic tale Argonautica. The incorporation of the Golden Fleece into the myth may have derived from the local practice of using fleeces to sift gold dust from rivers. In the 4th century BC, a kingdom of Iberia – an early example of advanced state organization under one king and an aristocratic hierarchy – was established.
After the Roman Republic completed its brief conquest of what is now Georgia in 66 BC, the area became a primary objective of what would eventually turn out to be over 700 years of protracted Irano–Roman geo-political rivalry and warfare. From the first centuries A.D, the cult of Mithras, pagan beliefs, and Zoroastrianism were commonly practised in Georgia. In 337 AD King Mirian III declared Christianity as the state religion, giving a great stimulus to the development of literature, arts, and ultimately playing a key role in the formation of the unified Georgian nation, The acceptance led to the slow but sure decline of Zoroastrianism, which until the 5th century AD, appeared to have become something like a second established religion in Iberia (eastern Georgia), and was widely practised there.
Middle Ages up to early modern period
Svaneti defensive tower houses in Ushguli
Located on the crossroads of protracted Roman–Persian wars, the early Georgian kingdoms disintegrated into various feudal regions by the early Middle Ages. This made it easy for the remaining Georgian realms to fall prey to the early Muslim conquests in the 7th century.
The extinction of the different Iberian royal dynasties, such as Guaramids and the Chosroids, and also the Abbasid preoccupation with their own civil wars and conflict with the Byzantine Empire, led to the Bagrationi family’s growth in prominence. The head of the Bagrationi dynasty Ashot I of Iberia (r.813–826), who had migrated to the former southwestern territories of Iberia, came to rule over Tao-Klarjeti and restored the Principate of Iberia in 813. The sons and grandsons of Ashot I established three separate branches, frequently struggling with each other and with neighboring rulers. The Kartli line prevailed; in 888 Adarnase IV of Iberia (r.888–923) restored the indigenous royal authority dormant since 580. Despite the revitalization of the Iberian monarchy, remaining Georgian lands were divided among rival authorities, with Tbilisi remaining in Arab hands.
An Arab incursion into western Georgia led by Marwan II, was repelled by Leon I (r.720–740) jointly with his Lazic and Iberian allies in 736. Leon I then married Mirian’s daughter, and a successor, Leon II exploited this dynastic union to acquire Lazica in the 770s. The successful defense against the Arabs, and new territorial gains, gave the Abkhazian princes enough power to claim more autonomy from the Byzantine Empire. Towards circa 778, Leon II (r.780–828) won his full independence with the help of the Khazars and was crowned as the king of Abkhazia. After obtaining independence for the state, the matter of church independence became the main problem. In the early 9th century the Abkhazian Church broke away from the Constantinople and recognized the authority of the Catholicate of Mtskheta; Georgian language replaced Greek as the language of literacy and culture. The most prosperous period of the Abkhazian kingdom was between 850 and 950. A bitter civil war and feudal revolts which began under Demetrius III (r. 967–975) led the kingdom into complete anarchy under the unfortunate king Theodosius III the Blind (r.975–978). A period of unrest ensued, which ended as Abkhazia and eastern Georgian states were unified under a single Georgian monarchy, ruled by King Bagrat III of Georgia (r.975–1014), due largely to the diplomacy and conquests of his energetic foster-father David III of Tao (r. 966–1001).
Kingdom (Empire) of Georgia in 1184–1230 at the peak of its might
The stage of feudalism’s development and struggle against common invaders as much as common belief of various Georgian states had an enormous importance for spiritual and political unification of Georgia feudal monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty in 11th century.
Queen Tamar of Georgia presided over the “Golden Age” of the medieval Georgian monarchy. Her position as the first woman to rule Georgia in her own right was emphasized by the title “Mepe mepeta” (“King of Kings”).
The Kingdom of Georgia reached its zenith in the 12th to early 13th centuries. This period during the reigns of David IV (r.1089–1125) and his granddaughter Tamar (r.1184–1213) has been widely termed as Georgia’s Golden Age or the Georgian Renaissance. This early Georgian renaissance, which preceded its Western European analogue, was characterized by impressive military victories, territorial expansion, and a cultural renaissance in architecture, literature, philosophy and the sciences. The Golden age of Georgia left a legacy of great cathedrals, romantic poetry and literature, and the epic poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, the latter which is considered a national epic.
David suppressed dissent of feudal lords and centralized the power in his hands to effectively deal with foreign threats. In 1121, he decisively defeated much larger Turkish armies during the Battle of Didgori and liberated Tbilisi.
The 29-year reign of Tamar, the first female ruler of Georgia, is considered the most successful in Georgian history. Tamar was given the title “king of kings” (mepe mepeta). She succeeded in neutralizing opposition and embarked on an energetic foreign policy aided by the downfall of the rival powers of the Seljuks and Byzantium. Supported by a powerful military élite, Tamar was able to build on the successes of her predecessors to consolidate an empire which dominated the Caucasus, and extended over large parts of present-day Azerbaijan, Armenia, and eastern Turkey as well as parts of northern Iran, until its collapse under the Mongol attacks within two decades after Tamar’s death in 1213.
The revival of the Kingdom of Georgia was set back after Tbilisi was captured and destroyed by the Khwarezmian leader Jalal ad-Din in 1226. The Mongols were expelled by George V of Georgia (r.1299–1302), son of Demetrius II of Georgia (r.1270–1289), who was named “Brilliant” for his role in restoring the country’s previous strength and Christian culture. George V was the last great king of the unified Georgian state. After his death, different local rulers fought for their independence from central Georgian rule, until the total disintegration of the Kingdom in the 15th century. Georgia was further weakened by several disastrous invasions by Tamerlane. Invasions continued, giving the kingdom no time for restoration, with both Black and White sheep Turkomans constantly raiding its southern provinces.
Map of Georgian kingdoms and principalities, 1490 AD
The Kingdom of Georgia collapsed into anarchy by 1466 and fragmented into three independent kingdoms and five semi-independent principalities. Neighboring large empires subsequently exploited the internal division of the weakened country, and beginning in the 16th century up to the late 18th century, Safavid Iran (and successive Iranian Afsharid and Qajar dynasties) and Ottoman Turkey subjugated the eastern and western regions of Georgia, respectively.
The rulers of regions that remained partly autonomous organized rebellions on various occasions. However, subsequent Iranian and Ottoman invasions further weakened local kingdoms and regions. As a result of incessant Ottoman–Persian Wars and deportations, the population of Georgia dwindled to 250,000 inhabitants at the end of the 18th century. Eastern Georgia (Safavid Georgia), composed of the regions of Kartli and Kakheti, had been under Iranian suzerainty since 1555 following the Peace of Amasya signed with neighbouring rivalling Ottoman Turkey. With the death of Nader Shah in 1747, both kingdoms broke free of Iranian control and were reunified through a personal union under the energetic king Heraclius II in 1762. Heraclius, who had risen to prominence through the Iranian ranks, was awarded the crown of Kartli by Nader himself in 1744 for his loyal service to him. Heraclius nevertheless stabilized Eastern Georgia to a degree in the ensuing period and was able to guarantee its autonomy throughout the Iranian Zand period.
In 1783, Russia and the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, by which Georgia abjured any dependence on Persia or another power, and made the kingdom a protectorate of Russia, which guaranteed Georgia’s territorial integrity and the continuation of its reigning Bagrationi dynasty in return for prerogatives in the conduct of Georgian foreign affairs.
King George XII was the last king of Kartli and Kakheti, which was annexed by Russia in 1801.
However, despite this commitment to defend Georgia, Russia rendered no assistance when the Iranians invaded in 1795, capturing and sacking Tbilisi while massacring its inhabitants, as the new heir to the throne sought to reassert Iranian hegemony over Georgia. Despite a punitive campaign subsequently launched against Qajar Iran in 1796, this period culminated in the 1801 Russian violation of the Treaty of Georgievsk and annexation of eastern Georgia, followed by the abolition of the royal Bagrationi dynasty, as well as the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Pyotr Bagration, one of the descendants of the abolished house of Bagrationi, would later join the Russian army and rise to be a prominent general in the Napoleonic wars.
Georgia in the Russian Empire
Main article: Georgia within the Russian Empire
Pyotr Bagration, Georgian prince of the royal Bagrationi dynasty
On 22 December 1800, Tsar Paul I of Russia, at the alleged request of the Georgian King George XII, signed the proclamation on the incorporation of Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire, which was finalized by a decree on 8 January 1801, and confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on 12 September 1801. The Bagrationi royal family was deported from the kingdom. The Georgian envoy in Saint Petersburg reacted with a note of protest that was presented to the Russian vice-chancellor Prince Kurakin. In May 1801, under the oversight of General Carl Heinrich von Knorring, Imperial Russia transferred power in eastern Georgia to the government headed by General Ivan Petrovich Lazarev. The Georgian nobility did not accept the decree until 12 April 1802, when Knorring assembled the nobility at the Sioni Cathedral and forced them to take an oath on the Imperial Crown of Russia. Those who disagreed were temporarily arrested.
In the summer of 1805, Russian troops on the Askerani River near Zagam defeated the Iranian army during the 1804–13 Russo-Persian War and saved Tbilisi from reconquest now that it was officially part of the Imperial territories. Russian suzerainty over eastern Georgia was officially finalized with Iran in 1813 following the Treaty of Gulistan. Following the annexation of eastern Georgia, the western Georgian kingdom of Imereti was annexed by Tsar Alexander I. The last Imeretian king and the last Georgian Bagrationi ruler, Solomon II, died in exile in 1815, after attempts to rally people against Russia and to enlist foreign support against the latter, had been in vain. From 1803 to 1878, as a result of numerous Russian wars now against Ottoman Turkey, several of Georgia’s previously lost territories – such as Adjara – were recovered, and also incorporated into the empire. The principality of Guria was abolished and incorporated into the Empire in 1829, while Svaneti was gradually annexed in 1858. Mingrelia, although a Russian protectorate since 1803, was not absorbed until 1867.
Declaration of independence
Main article: Democratic Republic of Georgia
Claimed or proposed boundaries of Georgia superimposed on its modern borders
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic was established with Nikolay Chkheidze acting as its president. The federation consisted of three nations: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. As the Ottomans advanced into the Caucasian territories of the crumbling Russian Empire, Georgia declared independence on 26 May 1918. The Menshevik Social Democratic Party of Georgia won the parliamentary election and its leader, Noe Zhordania, became prime minister. Despite the Soviet takeover, Zhordania was recognized as the legitimate head of the Georgian Government by France, UK, Belgium, and Poland through the 1930s.
The 1918 Georgian–Armenian War, which erupted over parts of disputed provinces between Armenia and Georgia populated mostly by Armenians, ended because of British intervention. In 1918–1919, Georgian general Giorgi Mazniashvili led an attack against the White Army led by Moiseev and Denikin in order to claim the Black Sea coastline from Tuapse to Sochi and Adler for the independent Georgia. The country’s independence did not last long. Georgia was under British protection from 1918–1920.
In Greco-Roman geography, Iberia (Ancient Greek: Ἰβηρία Iberia; Latin: Hiberia) was an exonym (foreign name) for the Georgian kingdom of Kartli (Georgian: ქართლი), known after its core province, which during Classical Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages was a significant monarchy in the Caucasus, either as an independent state or as a dependent of larger empires, notably the Sassanid and Roman empires. Iberia, centered on present-day Eastern Georgia, was bordered by Colchis in the west, Caucasian Albania in the east and Armenia in the south.
Its population, the Iberians, formed the nucleus of the Georgians (Kartvelians). Iberia, ruled by the Pharnavazid, Arsacid and Chosroid royal dynasties, together with Colchis to its west, would form the nucleus of the unified medieval Kingdom of Georgia under the Bagrationi dynasty.
In the 4th century, after the Christianization of Iberia by Saint Nino during the reign of King Mirian III, Christianity was made the state religion of the kingdom. Starting in the early 6th century AD, the kingdom’s position as a Sassanian vassal state was changed into direct Persian rule. In 580, king Hormizd IV (578-590) abolished the monarchy after the death of King Bakur III, and Iberia became a Persian province ruled by a marzpan (governor).
The term “Caucasian Iberia” is also used to distinguish it from the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe.
2.2 Pharnavaz I and his descendants
2.3 Roman period and Roman/Parthian rivalry
2.4 Between Rome/Byzantium and Persia
2.5 Adoption of Orthodoxy and Sassanid Persian period
2.7 Arab period and restoration of the kingship
3 Eastern and Western Iberians
Further information: Name of Georgia (country)
The provenance of the name “Iberia” is unclear. One theory on the etymology of the name Iberia, proposed by Giorgi Melikishvili, was that it was derived from the contemporary Armenian designation for Georgia, Virkʿ (Armenian: Վիրք, and Ivirkʿ [Իվիրք] and Iverkʿ [Իվերք]), which itself was connected to the word Sver (or Svir), the Kartvelian designation for Georgians. The letter “s” in this instance served as a prefix for the root word “Ver” (or “Vir”). Accordingly, in following Ivane Javakhishvili’s theory, the ethnic designation of “Sber”, a variant of Sver, was derived from the word “Hber” (“Hver”) (and thus Iberia) and the Armenian variants, Veria and Viria.
According to another theory, it is derived from a Colchian word, “Imer”, meaning “country on the other side of the mountain”, that is of the Likhi Range, which divided Colchis and Iberia from each other; this is also the origin of the modern name Imereti.
Map of Iberia and Colchis by Christoph Cellarius printed in Leipzig in 1706
In earliest times, the area of Caucasian Iberia was inhabited by several related tribes stemming from the Kura-Araxes culture, collectively called Iberians (or Eastern Iberians) in Greco-Roman ethnography.
The Moschi, mentioned by various classic historians, and their possible descendants, the Saspers (who were mentioned by Herodotus), may have played a crucial role in the consolidation of the tribes inhabiting the area. The Moschi had moved slowly to the northeast forming settlements as they traveled. One of these was Mtskheta, the future capital of the Kingdom of Iberia. The Mtskheta tribe was later ruled by a prince locally known as mamasakhlisi (“father of the household” in Georgian).
The written sources for the early periods of Iberia’s history are mostly medieval Georgian chronicles, that modern scholarship interpret as a semi-legendary narrative. One such chronicle, Moktsevay Kartlisay (“Conversion of Kartli”) mentions that a ruler named Azo and his people came from Arian-Kartli – the initial home of the proto-Iberians, which had been under Achaemenid rule until the fall of the Persian Empire – and settled on the site where Mtskheta was to be founded. Another Georgian chronicle, Kartlis Tskhovreba (“History of Kartli”) claims Azo to be an officer of Alexander’s, who massacred a local ruling family and conquered the area, until being defeated at the end of the 4th century BC by Prince Pharnavaz, at that time a local chief.
The story of Alexander’s invasion of Kartli, although legendary, nevertheless reflects the establishment of Georgian monarchy in the Hellenistic period and the desire of later Georgian literati to connect this event to the celebrated conqueror.
This is a list of the ancient Colchian tribes. They spoke the Kartvelian languages, probably the forerunners of the Zan dialects, a language family indigenous to the Caucasus, which was originally spoken by tribes living in area northeast of Asia minor (Pontus) and Caucasus region. Modern theories suggest that the main Colchian tribes are direct ancestors of the Laz-Mingrelians, and played a significant role in ethnogenesis of the Georgian and Abkhazian peoples. Colchis was inhabited by a number of related, but still pretty different tribes whose settlements lay chiefly along the shore of the Black Sea.
Kingdom of Iberia
may refer to:
Also identified as Kingdom of Iberia or Iberian Kingdom may refer to:
At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, there is evidence of considerable economic development and increased commerce among the tribes. In western Georgia, a unique culture known as Colchian developed between 1800 and 700 BC, and in eastern Georgia the kurgan (tumulus) culture of Trialeti reached its zenith around 1500 BC.
The prehistory of Georgia is the period between the first human habitation of the territory of modern-day nation of Georgia and the time when Assyrian and Urartian, and more firmly, the Classical accounts, brought the proto-Georgian tribes into the scope of recorded history.
Like most native Caucasian peoples, the Georgians do not fit into any of the main ethnic categories of Europe or Asia. The Georgian language, the most pervasive of the Kartvelian languages, is neither Indo-European, Turkic nor Semitic.
The present day Georgian or Kartvelian nation is thought to have resulted from the fusion of aboriginal, autochthonous inhabitants with immigrants who infiltrated into South Caucasus from the direction of Anatolia in remote antiquity.
The history of the Georgian language reveals some interesting patterns of cross-cultural interaction. Georgian can be traced back to a ancestral language— Proto-Kartvelian—that it shares with its close relatives: Mingrelian, Svan and Laz.
Spoken in the second millennium BCE, Proto-Kartvelian must have interacted closely with Proto-Indo-European, the ancestral tongue to most European languages, as well as those of Iran and northern India. This connection is indicated by the so-called ablaut patterns (like the English sing-sang-sung), which Proto-Kartvelian probably borrowed from Proto-Indo-European, alongside many specific words.
The most notable among these loanwords is the reconstructed Proto-Kartvelian m.k.erd ‘breast’, which is said to be a cognate to the Indo-European kerd ‘heart’ (cf. the Latin cardio—and even the English heart).
While the connection of Georgian to Indo-European languages is solid, if distant, several scholars have searched for linkages to other languages, most notoriously Basque, a non-Indo-European “outlier” language in Europe.
To this day, no proven connection has been demonstrated between Basque and any currently spoken languages; as a result, Basque remains a perfect isolate, an “orphan” language with no ties to any language family. But the idea that Basque might be related to some other languages, in particular Georgian and other languages of the Caucasus, has ignited a lot of interest among Vasconists (i.e. scholars of Basque) and Caucasianists alike.
By the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC, ironworking had made its appearance in the South Caucasus, and the true Iron Age began with the introduction of tools and weapons on a large scale and of superior quality to those hitherto made of copper and bronze, a change which in most of the Near East may not have come before the tenth or ninth centuries BC.
During this period, as linguists have estimated, the ethnic and linguistic unity of the Proto-Kartvelians finally broke up into several branches that now form the Kartvelian family. The first to break away was the Svan language in northwest Georgia, in about the 19th century BC, and by the 8th century BC, Zan, the basis of Mingrelian and Laz, had become a distinct language. On the basis of language, it has been established that the earliest Kartvelian ethnos were made up of four principally related tribes: the Georgians (“Karts”), the Zans (Megrelo-Laz, Colchians), and the Svans – which would eventually form the basis of the modern Kartvelian-speaking groups.
The Caucasus region, on the gateway between Southwest Asia, Europe and Central Asia, plays a pivotal role in the peopling of Eurasia, possibly as early as during the Homo erectus expansion to Eurasia, in the Upper Paleolithic peopling of Europe, and again in the re-peopling Mesolithic Europe following the Last Glacial Maximum, and in the expansion associated with the Neolithic Revolution.
Lower to Middle Paleolithic
Dmanisi skull 5, found in Dmanisi, Georgia, is among the earliest Homo erectus fossils, dated to 1.8 Ma.
Upper Paleolithic to Epipaleolithic
Neolithic to Iron Age
The South Caucasus gradually enters the historical period following the Bronze Age collapse, see history of the Caucasus#Early_history
Kingdom of Georgia
Georgias historie har vært preget av invasjoner og erobringer av ulike imperier, deriblant romerriket, perserriket, det osmanske rike og det russiske keiserdømmet. Gjennom sin lange og urolige historie, har likevel den georgiske nasjon vedvart og bevart sin nasjonale identitet.
De eldste kjente spor av hominider i området som idag utgjør Georgia, går tilbake til omtrent 1.8 millioner år siden. En oppdagelse i 1991, etterfulgt av utgravninger i Dmanisi i den sørøstlige delen av landet i 1999 og 2001 førte til oppdagelsen av to skaller tilhørende Homo georgicus.
Senere levninger fra Acheuléenkulturen, moustérienkulturen og paleolitikum er kjent fra tallrike huler og åpne steder i Georgia. Den tidligste jordbruks-bosetningen fra neolittisk tid er datert til mellom 6000-5000 f.vt.
Tallrike tell-bosetninger av «Sulaveri-Somutepe-typen» fra 6000-tallet f.vt. har blitt utgravd siden 1960-tallet. På 1970-tallet ble det i regionen Imiris-gora, i det østlige Georgia, utgravd en rekke bosteder, karbondatert til 5000-tallet f.vt., deriblant hus med gallerier. De var sirkulære eller ovale, og deres særpreg var den sentrale hvelv-pilaren og det sentrale ildstedet. Disse bygningene utviklet seg senere til hus av Darbazi-typen.
I kobberalderen, omkring 4000-3000-tallet f.vt., var Kaukasus og Anatolia hjemstedet til Kura-Araxes kulturen, som ble erstattet av trialetikulturen på 2000-tallet f.vt. Arkeologiske utgravninger har avdekket bosetninger i Beshtasheni og Ozni, daterte til mellom 4000-3000-tallet f.vt. Gravhauger i provinsen Trialeti, ved Tsalka i det østlige Georgia, er karbondaterte til 2000-tallet f.vt.
De fleste georgiske historikere, antropologer, arkeologer og språkforskere, er enige om at forfedrene til dagens georgiere har vært bosatt i det sørlige Kaukasus og det nordlige Anatolia siden neolittisk tid. Disse forfedrene kalles proto-kartveliere, avledet av kartvelebi (ქართველები) som er georgiernes navn på seg selv. Georgiernes forfedre er også blitt ansett å være Tubal i Første Mosebok.
Mellom 2100-750 f.vt. ble området invadert av de indoeuropeiske hettittene, mederne, proto-persere og kimmerierne. Også armenerne tilhører den indoeuropeiske språkgruppen.
Fra omkring 2000. f.vt. og fremover, antar språkforskere at det proto-kartvelske samfunnet ble spaltet i tre stammer, som utviklet tre kartvelske språk:
- Øst-kartvelsk (i dagens østlige Georgia) er opphav til georgisk. Georgisk har blitt skrevet med det georgiske alfabetet siden det 3. århundre f.vt.
- Proto-svanisk oppstod blant svanierne (georgisk: სვანები Svanebi), omtalt som Soanes av den greske geografen Strabo i sitt verk Geografika ca 20 e.vt. De bebodde det som idag er Svanetia og Abkhasia og utviklet det svaniske språket
- Proto-zan vokste frem i det som idag er provinsen Samegrelo, og utviklet seg til mingrelsk og lazisk.
Etter denne kulturelle og geografiske adskillelse oppstod det to kjerneområder i georgisk kultur og statsdannelse, henholdsvis Kolchis, en stammeunion mellom svanisk-talende og zan-talende kartvelere langs kysten av Svartehavet som vokste fram på 1300-tallet f.vt., i vest og Kaukasisk Iberia i øst som vokste fram omkring 1000 f.vt.
Kolchis, blant urartuene kalt henholdsvis Qulha, Kolkha og Kilkhi, omfattet landområder som er en del av både nåtidens Tyrkia og Georgia. I sørvest grenset det mot Pontos, i nordvest mot elven Corax (muligens Bzybi i dagens Abkhasia) i nord mot den kaukasiske fjellkjede, i øst mot Kaukasisk Iberia og i sør mot Armenia.
Det var denne fremveksten av de tidlige georgiske statene Kolchis og Kaukasisk Iberia som kom til å danne den unike georgiske sivilisasjon, som oppnådde sin renessanse og gyldne tidsalder på 1100-tallet og 1200-tallet.
Antikkens Hellas hadde nære forbindelser med folkene i området. Mellom 1000 f.vt. og 550 f.vt. etablerte grekerne en rekke handels-kolonier langs kystområdet, deriblant Naessus, Pitiys, Dioscurias, Guenos, Phasis (idag Poti), Apsaros og Rhizos (idag Rize i Tyrkia). Mange grekere bosatte seg i Kolchis.
Den Kolchiske stammeunion omtales og beskrives av en rekke forfattere i antikkens Hellas, deriblant Aiskhylos, Pindar, Arrianos, Klaudios Ptolemaios og Plinius den eldre. I gresk mytologi var Kolchis hjemlandet til aietene og medeia. Det var Jasons og argonautenes reisemål, i deres leting etter det gyldne skinn, såvel som det mulige hjemlandet til amasonene.
Blant grekerne hadde dette riket ord på seg for å være i besittelse av ubeskrivelige rikdommer. På 1960-tallet fant arkeologer byanlegg med byporter, vakttårn og templer fra de første århundrer av vår tidsregning.
Disse stammene var så forskjellige i språk og utseende fra statene omkring, at andre gamle nasjoner utviklet forskjellige teorier om deres opphav. Herodotus hevdet at kolchianerne, egypterne og etiopiere var de første som praktiserte omskjæring. Han skrev at kolchianerne selv hevdet å nedstamme fra restene av hæren til farao Senusret III (1878–1841 f.vt.).
Apollonius av Rhodes hevdet at egypterne i Kolchis bevarte som deres arveklenodium en rekke tavler av tre, hvor havene og reiserutene var inngraverte med stor nøyaktighet. Det finnes imidlertid ingen arkeologiske funn som bekrefter deres egyptiske opphav. Lokale kartvelere hevdet på 400-tallet f.vt. at de var etterkommere av egyptere som bosatte seg i området på 1900-tallet f.vt.
Iberia omfattet blant annet landet Kartlis. Iberia ble ifølge georgiske historikere et sterkt rike på 200-tallet f.vt. Omkring 330 e.vt. ble landet ifølge tradisjonen kristnet av en bortført kvinne, St. Nino.
Det georgiske språkets historie inkluderer noen interesante mønstre for krysskulturell interaksjon. Georgisk kan bli sporet tilbake til dets stamspråk, proto-kartvelsk, som det deler med resten av språkfamilien, som vil si med mingrelsk, svan og laz. Proto-kartvelsk, som ble talt for 4000 år siden, må i likhet med finnougrisk ha hatt nær forbindelse med proto-indoeuropeisk, som vil si stamspråket til de indoeuropeiske språkene.
Forbindelsen er indikert via ablaut mønstre, som proto-kartvelsk trolig lånte fra proto-indoeuropeisk sammen med mange spesifikke ord, hvor av et av de mest er rekonstruksjonen av det proto-kartvelske m.k.erd ‘bryst’, som blir sagt å være tilsvarer det indoeuropeiske kerd ‘hjerte’, som på latinsk tilsvarer cardio og heart på engelsk.
Mens slektskapet mellom georgisk og indoeuropeisk er solid, selv om den er noe fjern, har flere akademikere forsøkt å finne forbindelser mellom georgisk og andre språk, inkludert baskisk, som er et ikke-indoeuropeisk språk i Europa, men ingen forbindelser har hvist seg å eksistere. Baskisk er derfor å anse som et språkisolat. Men ideen om at baskisk kan bli relatert til noen andre språk, og især til georgisk og andre språk i Kaukasus, har ikke dødd og forslning pågår.
Kingdom of Diauehi
Kingdom of Colchis
Kingdom of Iberia
Kingdom of Lazica
Principate of Iberia
Arab rule in Georgia
Emirate of Tbilisi
Kingdom of Abkhazia
Kingdom of Tao Klarjeti
Kingdom of United Georgia
Kingdom of Kartli
Kingdom of Kakheti
Kingdom of Imereti
Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti