4,400-Year-Old mystery of Ananauri Barrow
02 October, 2014
4,400-Year-Old mystery of Ananauri Barrow
The international community’s interest has once again turned towards Georgia – this time due to the results of an archeological excavation conducted two years ago. In the region of Lagodekhi, a grove in Tchabukiani village has yielded an amazing discovery dubbed Ananauri Barrow. It is 100 meters in diameter and 12 meters tall. According to archeologists, the barrow was created in the Bronze Age and was clearly intended for someone belonging to the upper class, most probably a chieftain. Its
only “inhabitant” is interred in a round, hill-shaped grave covered with earth and located in the middle of the tomb. The size of the barrow points at the power and position of the interred person – the more authority he has, the bigger the burial site.


Digging up the barrow took 4 months – from the 5th of June to the 5th of October of 2012. Upon descending to a depth of 12 meters underground, a space 25 meters long and 15 meters wide, besides the buried body, numerous items made of gold, stone, ceramics, wool and felt were found, many of them important discoveries. A total of 27 items were retrieved – two ceremonial carriages of the dead and various adornments. Ornaments on one of the pendants are similar to ornaments found on a sculpture of a lion at Tsnori Barrow. Amber beads, a find unique to this particular archeological period in Asia Minor region, were also discovered. According to archeologists, amber was not harvested in Georgia, so these beads had to be brought from abroad, most probably Baltic region or India. The tomb got raided several times in the past, and two underground tunnels leading to it stand as proof of it. By specialists’ estimates, the first raiding dates back to the Bronze Age. It is also noteworthy that skulls discovered in the tomb bear traces of honey, thus signifying an ancient mummification method.

In an interview with Georgian Journal, ZURAB MAKHARADZE divulges a lot of interesting information:

– Two carriages found in “Ananauri 3” site are the most important discoveries. In barrows such as these, there is usually only one carriage, containing the body of a chieftain. However, in this case some bodies were put on top of the carriages and some beneath it, which gives us grounds to suspect that these were slaves sacrificed in honor of the deceased. Another interesting find is an axis muzzle for the wheel of a horse-drawn carriage – it is made of copper and topped with a spike also covered in copper, but its core is made of unknown metal symbiote. We sent it to a laboratory in Germany for inspection.
The dig itself finished two years ago, but the work continues – archeology isn’t only about digging, it also involves examining the finds in the lab and conserving them afterwards. Wooden carriages and pottery need to be reinforced so that they won’t crumble.
Based on radiocarbon dating it was determined that the barrow was built in 2400 BC. Due to the fact that its microclimate remained relatively untouched, a large amount of organic tissue was preserved, as well as a variety of walnuts, chestnuts and forest berries that were apparently included into the burial rite. They are all in a relatively good condition, which makes it a unique discovery and allows scientists to research it in great detail. The berries, among them sloe, were also covered in honey, filling the laboratory with pleasant aroma when they were inspected.

– Who were the people who built this barrow, what was their life like and what kind of society did they have?

– What we’re dealing with here is Bedeni culture – their settlements were quite common on our territory in the 3rd millennium BC. Judging by the items we found, we can say that their society was quite well developed for that period – they boast pets, developed agriculture and pottery. Keep in mind, this was in the Bronze Age, when horses weren’t yet domesticated and they harnessed oxen for their carriages. Their weapons signify that they had metallurgy and could work on bronze. The fact that they used to build tombs for people of high status proves that they had a hierarchy, meaning that their society had classes. Building such constructs was a titanic undertaking – it required years and one tribe would not have been able to build them. And we didn’t find just one or two of such barrows – we have excavated and studied quite a few of these. However, the people who built this particular one were so developed that they decorated their dead with gold and imported items such as amber from elsewhere. Their crafts and general activities will be described in scientific works. Analysis of such finds even gives us an opportunity to study food that was consumed in that period – turns out, they mainly consumed a variety of porridges and honey. As I already said, bones we found were also covered in honey, which was used as an embalming fluid. This new discovery is currently being studied by our balneologists, paleobotanists and other specialists. Laboratory analysis sometimes yields even more information than the dig does, all thanks to modern technology.

– Is it possible to analyze the DNA of the remains you discovered to determine their ethnic origins and ties?

– Yes, this is on our schedule and the process is underway, but such research needs time. Also, we will be able to exhibit all our finds in about two years, once we are done conserving them.

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