Pichvnari Excavations

Location: near Kobuleti; Adjara, Georgia

Years: 1998-2009

Director: Amiran Kakhidze, Michael Vickers

Participants: Gia Tavamaishvili, Tamar Sikharalidze, Irakli Iashvili, Nineli Vashakidze, Manana Odisheli, Maia Jijavadze, Nino Dzneladze, Anzor Javelidze, Merab Khinkiladze, Tariel Ebralidze, Merab Khalvashi, Tom Welsford, Victoria Kwee, Eka Beitrishvili, Nino Shushanidze, Miranda Turmanidze, Duncan Carnegie, Natalia Makharadze, Lika Sekhniashvili, Mattijs Wijker, Julia Graf, Cathrin Daniel, Eugenia Lao, Zurab Varshandize, Lasha Arslanishvili, Ana Reisinger, Matthew Earwicker, Sofie Debryune, Marie Anne Bru, Guliko Varshakidze, Guram Svanidze, Irakli Chavleishvili, Vladimir Astakhov, Revasi Mikeladze, Nargizi Surmanidze, Edward Rugman, James Wilkes, Kenneth Morton, Theowen Gilour, Naji Mamuladze, Sandro Sekhniashvili, Guram Grigolia, Merab Khalvashi, Alexandra Lody, James Hutchinson, Adam Fergus, Hannes Schroeder, Andrew Shortland, Reso Mikeladze, Edward Dalbey, Nicola Ingber, Marketa Sochorova, James Vickers, Emzar Kakhidze, Suliko Svadnize, Miranda Turmanadze, Inga Iashvili, Alex Copley, Gus Docx, David Freeman, Victoria Ing, Dalia Iskander, Louis MacLaren, Gabriela Pechanova, Mamuka Chelidze, Giri Nakhutsrishvili, Rezo Charazi, Anano Arabuli, Natia Gurasbashvili, Mariam Lobzhanidze, Eka Tsiklauri, Matthew Ginniver, Benjamin Harrold, Alexandra Hodge, Simon Hunter, Louis MacLaren, Linda Nash, Sarah Raine, Mike Shott, Rezo Papuishvili, Givi Chigogidze, Tamasi Darchidze, Vitali Kartsivadze, Sulkhan Okropiridze, Laura Graham, Alfed Leprevost, Lucy Minford, Henry Colburn, Alex Gorton, Emma Oxenby, Merabi Uzunadze, Tamar Shalikadze, Tamaz Darchidze, Mary Frazer, Amanda Pavlick, Claudio Baldi, Olga Broniewska, Gregers Bangert, Darejan Gurgenadze, Maka Bokeria, Anzor Javelidze, Giorgi Dumbadze, Maggie Duadze, Maria Degtiarenko, Suji Chandrasekaran, Ellen Hitchcock, Emma Riz, Sebastian Zmuda, Sandro Sekhniashvili, Sara Boyen, Elizabeth Cohen, Johan Honings, Benjamin Lazarus, Stephanos Tanis, Martina Williman

Funding: BIAA, Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust, Oxford Craven Committee, Jesus College Oxford Research Grant, St John’s College Oxford, Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean, Batumi Archaeological Museum, British Academy, Marjory Wardrop Fund, Somerville College, Oxford, Leon Levy Foundation, Friends of Academic Research in Georgia, Andrew and Sandra Graham Fund, private grants

Website: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~pichvnar/Home%20page.htm

Summary:

Pichvnari in Georgia, a site settled by the Greeks and containing three cemetery areas, had undergone various excavations between the 1950s and 1990.  In 1998 large-scale work was undertaken jointly by the British and Georgians with the assistance of the BIAA.  In July and August the north or “Colchian” and west or “Greek” cemeteries were excavated.  The south or “Hellenistic” cemetery was the other site.  In the Colchian cemetery, 232 burials in total had been examined in previous decades; during the course of the 1998 excavation, 30 pit burials were found, numbered, and listed, and the grave goods were examined.  In the Greek cemetery, 56 graves were found, along with lots of material (especially pottery) in both burial complexes and in ritual platforms – which contributed greatly to the understanding of trading and cultural contacts between ancient Colchis and other communities during the Classical period.  Social distinctions could also be identified.  Burials from the fourth century AD were also discovered.  In its south part, some evidence for a funeral meal was found around the graves, with ritually smashed pottery also nearby.  An unexpected discovery was that part of this cemetery had been reused during Roman times; five burials dating to around the fourth century AD were found over graves dating back to the fifth century BC. 

Another season was undertaken in 1999, with some soundings made where work had been done in 1964.  Thirty graves in the Colchian cemetery were investigated, with their grave goods featuring a mix of local and imported wares.  A trench was also opened in the settlement area, where Hellenistic levels were reached.  Post-excavation work was carried out, with an aim to publish the seasons’ findings.

In July 2000, some soundings were made and the exploration in the cemeteries was continued, focusing on the same three areas.  Forty burials were investigated in the Classical Greek cemetery, and bracelets and other items found among the grave goods.  The foundations of a wooden house from the Early Iron Age were reached.

In 2001 work continued in five areas.  In the Colchian cemetery, on the Napurvala hill, 22 burials were investigated, whilst a trench in the earlier Classical Greek cemetery was opened further toward the south.  A trench in the middle of the Hellenistic cemetery was also studied, and some soundings were conducted towards the west, which showed that the Hellenistic cemetery extended wider than previously believed.  Finally, the Iron Age “house” turned out to be a wooden fence, and the sounding was deepened to Bronze Age levels.  The project received some publicity this year, as the team was interviewed for local Georgian television and radio channels, as well as for Discovery Channel.

In the fifth season of work in 2002, the team hoped to discover the extent to which the necropolis reached, and a trench dug in the north ascertained it extended quite far in that direction.   Another trench showed evidence for fourth century BC usage.  In the Hellenistic cemetery, five of the 19 discovered graves were excavated.  A new trench was created in the settlement area, but was interrupted by heavy rain. 

In 2003, they focused primarily on study, though a small-scale excavation was launched at the point in the necropolis where the Greek cemetery (fourth century) merged into the Hellenistic one.  The team also photographed and cleaned the graves that had been excavated in 2002.  A two-storey wooden house was constructed as a workspace.  The study season was successful in overseeing the preparation of a bilingual monograph for publication that dealt with the site and its role in the Black Sea area.

The seventh season took place between mid-July and mid-August 2004, primarily at the Colchian settlement.  This was the only settlement known at Pichvnari; evidence of Greek settlement had not been found.  The Hellenistic cemetery was also excavated, and some Soviet artefacts were discovered as they worked there.  The acquisition of a pump meant that the seasonal heavy rains were not as disruptive as they previously had been.

Work again took place between mid-July and mid-August in 2005, when work was undertaken primarily in the Colchian and fifth century BC Greek cemeteries.  Some medieval roof tiles were found in the Colchian cemetery, and gold items were discovered in the Greek cemetery, in addition to 23 graves and a couple of funerary platforms.

The ninth season occurred from mid-July to mid-August 2006, in the same areas.  The Napurvala hill area yielded six graves.  Some soundings were made in the Hellenistic cemetery, and they showed that it reached wider than had previously been believed.  Work was also undertaken at the eighth to seventh century BC dune settlement.  Though they had hoped to also conduct excavations in the settlement area, rain made this impossible. 

Mid-July to mid-August 2007 saw the tenth season carried out successfully, on a larger scale than previously, as some significant funding had been provided by the Batumi Archaeological Museum.  The Hellenistic levels especially were an area of focus, and some interesting material culture finds pointed to textile production occurring at the site, as well as fishing, agriculture, and animal husbandry.  Thirty burials from the Colchian cemetery were investigated, and six in the Napurvala hill area.  Finally, over 30 graves from the fifth century BC were excavated in the Greek necropolis, and 20 in the Hellenistic one. 

The final season of excavation work took place between mid-July and mid-August 2008.  Twenty burials in the Hellenistic cemetery were discovered, with some interesting grave goods, and some 25 Colchian graves from the fifth century BC were investigated.  The Classical Greek area was being investigated, and 14 graves and some material culture was found (including what looked like very early evidence for silk in Georgia), when hostilities between Georgia and Russia erupted.  Whilst the team and site remained unharmed, work ceased immediately. 

A 2009 season of work was undertaken, but focused exclusively on study and the preparation of monographs for publication. 

Sources:

Anatolian Archaeology 4: 15; 5: 11-12; 6: 13-14; 7: 13-14; 8: 15; 9: 25-26; 10: 21-22; 11: 5-6; 12: 2-3; 13: 4-5; 15: 33

Bibliography:

Vickers, M., Kakhidze, A. 2001: ‘The British-Georgian excavation at Pichvunari 1998: the ‘Greek’ and ‘Colchian’ cemeteries’ Anatolian Studies 51: 65-90

Vickers, M., Kakhidze, A. 2004: Pichvnari 1: Greeks and Colchians on the East Coast of the Black Sea: Results of Excavations Conducted by the Joint British-Georgian Expedition 1998-2002. Batumi

Kakhidze, A., Iashvili, I., Vickers, M. 2001: “Silver coins of Black Sea coastal cities from the fifth century BC necropolis at Pichvnari” Numismatic Chronicle 161:282-288

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Excavations

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