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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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Posts: 4723

« on: December 13, 2010, 01:26:02 am »

Sadly, the turbulence that followed Georgian independence from the Soviet Union dealt a heavy blow to the museum, the site and the expedition. In 1991, during this initial period of instability, the museum was broken into, its cases smashed, and many of its most valuable artefacts were stolen. Worse was to come. In 1995, rebels supporting the ousted president, Gamsakhurdia, briefly occupied the site and looted the expedition’s equipment, and destroyed much of its infrastructure. Meanwhile a slower but more pernicious destruction was taking place.

As government funding of scholarly research and cultural heritage collapsed during these turbulent times, and meaningful salaries ceased to be paid, the human assets of the expedition, the team of specialists who had been assembled and trained up over a quarter of a century, dwindled and were dispersed. Archaeology no longer offered a viable career to young Georgians, and students ceased to train in it and related disciplines. At the beginning of the 21st century, Georgian archaeology and heritage faced a crisis in financial and human terms at the very time when the country most needed the economic boost that its unique cultural and heritage resources could offer via tourism.
Backfilling a trench

Backfilling a trench

A new phase in the study of Nokalakevi began with the creation of the Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi (AGEN) in 2000 at the suggestion of Professor Lomitashvili, deputy director of S. Janashia’s Museum of Georgia. In July 2001, with the support of the British Institute at Ankara and Cambridge University, AGEN arranged for seven British and Georgian volunteers to work alongside professional Georgian and British archaeologists to resume excavations at the site. Despite the challenging physical conditions of these early years, the collaboration was a resounding success.

At least as important as the actual artefacts found has been the scientific and cultural exchange between all those involved and the chance for students, British and Georgian, to work alongside volunteers and professionals from around the world. The translation of British archaeological and conservation manuals into Georgian has made modern training materials available to Georgian archaeology students, while foreign interest, the resumption of excavations and a growing recognition from the Georgian government regarding the economic benefits their cultural heritage has for tourism development has encouraged young Georgians to enter the profession again. There will be a challenging handover at some point soon when a generation of leaders in their field, trained in the Soviet period, have to hand over to a post-Soviet generation two decades younger. Nevertheless, Georgian business and politics has already performed a similar generational leap. No doubt archaeology and heritage can manage it, too.
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