The origins of the human race lie in Africa, but the first hominoid remains found by scientists outside Africa were discovered in Georgia.
The country with a surface area of 60,000 square kilometres, which with two 5,000 metre peaks boasts two of Europe’s highest mountains, not only has a long history but a hugely diverse one as well.
At a press conference, Irina Koshoridze, an art history professor from Tbilisi, and Vakhtang Licheli, an archaeology professor, presented some of the highlights of this year’s Convention & Culture Partner at ITB.
Anyone who wants to understand Georgia’s many-faceted culture must also understand its geography and climate, of that the archaeologist Vakhtang Licheli was sure. Its diverse landscape, a mixture of tropical zones and semi-desert zones, tall mountains and fertile valleys were the reason for such a wide-ranging culture and long farming traditions. Thus, the country’s tradition of winegrowing, which boasts more than 500 different grapes, dates back over 8,000 years.
The traces of human culture in this country are even older. Thus in Graklini, only 30 kilometres from Tbilisi, the remains were discovered of a settlement before Christ. Among other things, archaeologists found an approximately 300,000-year old hand axe and stone inscriptions which were interpreted as a pre-dating Georgia’s alphabet.
Another historical highlight is the rock city near Vani, where astonishing grave goods came to light, including numerous gold jewellery works. According to the archaeology professor, 27,000 of these objects were found in a single grave. Also impressive are the gold finds of Sairkhe. Among the country’s other significant sites he named were the cave monasteries of Vardzia and the former capital Mzcheta.
Georgia has frequently spanned a bridge between East and West, between the Greeks and Persians, and later on Christianity and Islam. In Sakdrissi one can find the world’s oldest gold mine, said Irina Koshoridze. The art history professor reminded viewers that during the Twenties and Thirties of the last century, when Georgia was under Russian influence, hundreds of artists were murdered.
Now however, said Koshoridze, Georgia saw itself as part of the free world and the Georgian National Museum was proud to be organising exhibitions of Georgia’s culture in western Europe, including in Vienna and Frankfurt.