- Collection: Khevsureti
The Anatori burial vaults lie several kilometres north of Shatili below the Georgian-Chechen border post on the other side of the river. The vaults are called akeldama in Georgian and the people of Shatili have a tradition that when a plague came to the town in the middle ages, those affilcted by the disease walked to the akeldama and sat and patiently waited to die in the vaults rather than infect their healthy families and friends.
Khakhmati is the last village before the Datvisjvari (Bear-Cross) pass and as the road leaves the village there is an extensive sacred enclosure (nishi) that encompasses a number of shrines and sacred trees. It is unclear how widely used this enclosure remains, but it is clear that some ritual practice continues at the site.
Mutso, like Shatili, has a perfectly preserved complex of medieval tower dwellings. Unlike Shatili the village is not UNESCO listed and so there is more freedom open to the restorers who at the time of this visit were conserving the village. Mutso marks the end of the road - beyond this point there are only trails to other settlements and to the Atsunta Pass into Tusheti. The ancient village is located on a pinnacle of rock overlooking a bend in the river below and the climb to the settlement passes several tomb vaults (akeldama) of the same type found at Anatori on the Shatili-Mutso road.
Shatili is the capital of Khevsureti and lies several kilometres south of the Georgian-Chechen border. The medieval heart of the village is now UNESCO listed meaning that all restoration must be undertaken under rigid guidelines and modern additions such as electricity are forbidden. Partially for this reason the modern inhabitants of the village live in a series of houses around the ancient heart of the settlement that date from the Soviet period onwards. The site was forcibly cleared in the twentieth century because it was used as a Soviet airbase, but the local population has returned since the fall of communism and taken up residence in the well-built houses left behind by the soldiers as well as having adapted items such as abandoned railway carriages and storage containers for use as homes. Khevsur towers are distinct from those of Svaneti and Tusheti by clustering together and interlocking to form one fortified village rather than being divided into distinct family units. This type of village is closer to the architecture of peoples like the Chechens and the Daghestanis to the north, and indeed Chechen-style towers are interspersed with native forms across both Khevsureti and Tusheti. As with the rest of Khevsureti, Shatili is still largely pagan with a number of sacred enclosures and smaller shrines dotted around the settlement, however there is a new church and a small monastery in the village that witness to the growing influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church in even the remoter regions of the country.