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An Anglo-Georgian project in the Land of the Golden Fleece

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Author Topic: An Anglo-Georgian project in the Land of the Golden Fleece  (Read 595 times)
Jenna Bluehut
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« on: December 13, 2010, 01:26:44 am »

In the seven years since then around 50 British and international volunteer archaeologists have worked alongside a similar number of young Georgian volunteers, many returning year after year. In 2004, British Archaeological Jobs & Resources (BAJR) travelled to Nokalakevi. Struck by the enthusiasm of the Georgians despite their difficult circumstances, and by the amount that could be achieved by relatively small sums, BAJR was inspired to launch an appeal that raised over £1500 towards the museum. As a direct result, further Georgian funding was made available. A new roof was put on the museum, the building was made watertight, rewired and provided with electricity and new glazing for its cabinets. The dig base has also since benefited from private donations. The bullet-scarred basement of the one remaining dig house has been transformed into a modern laboratory that can provide conservation services for archaeological expeditions throughout west Georgia, allowing fragile artefacts to be conserved near their point of discovery, where before they had to be taken the long journey to Tbilisi.

Excavating a Byzantine grave containing a young male, aged approx. twenty years old

With renewed vigour and hope for the future the Anglo-Georgian expedition has gone from strength to strength. Recent seasons have revealed four Hellenistic structures; specifically the stone bases of a number of clay and timber walls, with substantial quantities of collapsed, burnt daub wall capping. From this was obtained a charcoal sample which is currently undergoing C14 dating. That deposit also produced carbonised grape seeds of both wild and domesticated varieties, as well as garden pea, some cereal and indications of walnut – pretty much the key ingredients for a good Georgian feast.

Since 2002, 19 burials have been excavated from the Hellenistic necropolis, including two neonates, two infants and three in early childhood. Of these, three were laid out in broken amphorae and one was a cremation burial. Particularly interesting was a crouched adult burial with five bronze bracelets, two small-handled jugs and a huge number of ornate beads, some small and fine and made of a lovely blue glass. Nokalakevi is such a multi-layered site that there are sure to be many more discoveries well into the future, and perhaps one day evidence will be found for the Kingdom of Colchis and the legend of the Golden Fleece. This expedition, however, has always been about cultural exchange as well as the archaeology. Everyone who comes to Nokalakevi cannot help but notice that it is the Georgian people themselves, their friendliness and hospitality, which makes the experience an unforgettable one.

Ian Colvin began researching Georgian History in 1992. His doctorate deals with Roman-Sasanian rivalry in the South Caucasus in the fourth to seventh centuries AD. He studied modern and classical Georgian in Oxford and Tbilisi and since 1998 has spent his summers in Georgia. In 1999 he and Professor Lomitashvili first discussed the idea of establishing the Anglo-Georgian Archaeological expedition. After a preliminary visit in 2000, the first full season of excavation took place in 2001 with British volunteers from Cambridge University.
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Annual fieldwork takes place every summer for approx 4 weeks where there are a few oppportunities available for paying volunteers to participate.

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