The (As)Syrian Father Tadeoz Stepantsmindeli is also known as Theodosius or Tata and is also referred to as bearing the toponym "Rekhali". This is because he was associated with the church of St. Stephen (Tsminda Stepanos) in the village of Rekha on the slope of Mt. Tkhoti in Shida Kartli. Today it is unclear which of the several ruined sites on the mountainside was Rekha and so Tadeoz Stepantsmindeli is the only one of these figures who does not have an ancient or modern monastery associated with him today.
Mikael Ulumboeli is one of the lesser-known (As)Syrian Fathers and we have very little information about his life and death. A new monastery has been built near the village of Ulumbo and it is higher up from an earlier church that was remodelled in the nineteenth century. However, neither of these sites dates to late antiquity and the location of a presumed earlier foundation and/or saint's tomb remains unknown.
The village of Breti is believed to have been where one of the lesser-known (As)Syrian Fathers, Piros Breteli, founded a monastery in the sixth century. There are no traces of this presumed early foundation left today but a new religious community have now established a monastery around what they believe to be his tomb in the centre of the village. This is a friendly and welcoming monastery with a small church with new frescoes and the tomb is located in a small chapel to the north of the main nave. Above the grave is a fresco of the thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers and Piros Breteli is distinguished by the red writing in his halo.
Samtavro cemetery is the largest known in the Caucasus. It covers about 20 hectares and the later burials are placed on top of earlier ones. It is therefore a multi-period cemetery and has been called a ‘multi-terraced’ cemetery. The Bronze to Iron Age levels of the site contain 23 Middle Bronze Age graves (of which four are kurgans) (4,500 to 3,600 years ago); 14 from the transition from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age; 63 from the Late Bronze Age (3,600 to 2,900 years ago) and about 560 from the Early Iron Age (2,900 to 2,500 years ago).
The visible remains of tombs on the site, which you can see today, are from the Classical and Early Medieval periods. The Bronze Age remains which have been discovered are closer to the road, by the entrance to the site. The Classical and Early Medieval burials have a variety of forms. Over 1,000 graves have been discovered from the Roman period (C1st BCE to C4th CE). Some are sarcophagi, whilst others are cists – a rectangular grave lined with stone slabs. Other types are made from roof tiles instead of stone slabs or use pieces of stone from buildings. Some burials are in pits or in Qvevri (terracotta jars), and some are of mixed construction of brick, stone or tile. The majority are tile tombs, containing an individual inhumation, with varied grave goods such as jewellery, but no tools or weapons.
See the entry on Dzalisa for the history of the site and the excavated part of the Roman settlement.
Currently excavations are continuing each summer on the edge of the village burial ground where a significant late antique tomb was uncovered in 1988. In the last year a large mud brick complex - believed to be a temple - has been discovered and research by the National Museum of Georgia is ongoing in this sector of the site.
The archaeological remains at Dzalisa date to the C2nd CE and there is evidence that occupation continued into the middle ages with current research suggesting that the settlement was abandoned c. C8th CE. Whilst ancient writers did mention a Roman town this far east in Iberia, Dzalisa is the most significant Roman site found east of the Surami range of mountains and the site is probably the Zalissa mentioned by the writer Ptolemy (c.100- c.170 AD).
Today the archaeological remains cover a large area around the modern village of Dzalisa with excavations continuing every summer. It is estimated that the town covered 70 hectares in all and the reserve contains several excavated buildings, including a public bath, a swimming pool, a building with under-floor heating and part of a villa with mosaic flooring and what was probably a private bathing suite. The mosaics are only one of four examples of floor mosaic found on Georgian territory and the only one found east of the Surami mountain range.
Stelae and carved stone crosses are a common phenomenon in early Christian Kartli. They are believed to date between the C5th and C10th. One of the earliest and most well-known is the stela from Bolnisi in Kvemo Kartli which has been ascribed a date of the C5th-C6th and which is now housed in the Shalva Amiranashvili State Museum of Art in Tbilisi.
Gremi in Kakheti is best known today for its extremely well-preserved complex of seventeenth century buildings, preserved from the time when the city was the regional capital. However beside the citadel lie the remains of an older city at the site and this includes three adjoining small early churches that have been built abutting each other and clumsily linked physically and given additional elements such as a dome in later periods.
Chabukauri is located to the west of Nekresi monastery and lies in the modern territory of that foundation. As at Dolochopi, the large three-church basilica found on the site was once the centre of a substantial settlement that has since been overtaken by forest, although in this case the growth is not as dense as it is in Dolochopi. Also as at Dolochopi, there are various phases to the building. In this case the large church is believed to date to the fourth to fifth centuries and, after the main church was damaged in an earthquake, part of the north-eastern sector of the building was adapted to become the south aisle of a new, smaller building. This smaller church was constructed with two distinctive horseshoe-shaped apses, the larger of which had a synthronon - as at the main church in nearby Dolochopi. Also as at Dolochopi there are medieval kist burials scattered across the site. Finally to the north west of the main church there is a small apses structure, believed to date to the fourth century, that boasts a high quality terracotta tiled floor, suggesting that this too could have been an early church. The main building was roofed by timber beams and terracotta tiles held in place with nails and ante fixes as at Dolochopi and here there was evidence that the walls of the structure were once plastered and painted red.
Type: Archaeological Excavation
Tags: Archaeological Excavation, Archaeology, Architecture, Basilica, C4th, C4th-C5th, Chabukauri, Church, Dolochopi, Georgia, Kakheti, Nekresi, Synthronon, Three Church Basilica, Triple Basilica
Excavations at Dolochopi, across the river from the modern town of Kvareli have revealed a large "three-church basilica" that is believed to date to the mid fifth century. The site stands in the centre of what was once a substantial settlement, which appears to have declined steadily after earthquakes and attacks by the Arabs and other invaders, fading into obscurity and being overtaken by the forest by the late middle ages. The basilica is built over an earlier church and, although it declined for the reasons outlined above, the nave and immediate vicinity of the church remained in use for burials. In particular the north-eastern corner of the church which was adapted in the eighth to ninth centuries as a mortuary chapel and seems to have been utilised until at least the twelfth of thirteenth centuries. The church was roofed by wooden beams supporting terracotta tiles that were held in place with iron nails and antefixes - a typically Byzantine design, as were the lighting fixtures discovered at the site. In many other respects, including in the numismatic finds, the complex looks east to the Persian Empire, but the overwhelming evidence suggests that the church is an early example of Georgian vernacular ecclesiastical architecture. One element that stands out is the inclusion of a synthronon, an element of ecclesiastical furnishing hitherto unknown in Georgia except at the nearby archaeological site of Chabukauri. In late 2016 C14 testing on a sample taken from the oldest church, which lies beneath the main basilica still extant today yielded a probable date of 387CE. The excavations were continued under the direction of Professor Nodar Bakhtadze of the Georgian National Museum and Ilia State University throughout the summer of 2017 and a large tomb compartment, called an akeldama was discovered in the centre of the apse at some distance beneath the afore-mentioned synthronon. The chronology of the site suggests that an earthquake destroyed the original fourth century church and that this was rebuilt even larger within a few years of its destruction. The resulting fifth century basilica then appears to have been damaged in a later seismic event and so the church was altered significantly in the sixth century, with further contractions of use continuing into the High Middle Ages. The images at the beginning of this entry were taken on a site visit in 2016, the latter images which make up the majority of this entry were taken a year later in August 2017.
Type: Archaeological Excavation
Tags: Archaeological Excavation, Archaeology, Architecture, Basilica, C12th, C5th, C8th-C9th, Chabukauri, Dolochopi, Georgia, Kakheti, Kvareli, Synthronon, Three Church Basilica, Triple Basilica