Bronze and Early Iron Ages settlements and settlement systems of Colchian Culture in West Georgia

Joni Apakidze

Sukhumi Branch of Tbilisi Staty Univesity, Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and Ethnology, Tbilisi-Georgia

The geoclimatic conditions of Colchian Plain determined the emergence of a peculiar type of settlement here. In conditions of high humidity and marshiness dwelling houses and economic facilities were constructed on platforms built of thick wooden beams or on clay mounds, preventing underground water and moisture from penetrating into the settlement. The size of platforms, made of clay mounds and beams, usually coincided with the area of the settlement, but there are instances of the latter exceeding the former, e.g. the Nosiri 1st (basic) layer settlement site considerably exceeds the boundaries of the clay mound.

Some artificial settlement mounds are noticeably elevated from the contemporary surface, being elliptical, oval or round in shape. In the Colchian Plain the highest man-made mound is the Patriketi hillock: 9 m and the smallest the one found on the right bank of the river Tsivi: 0,5 m. The largest area is occupied by the medium height Namarnu mound with the diameter of 160 m, while the Lekhaindrao dikha-gudzuba occupies the smallest area with diameter of 20 m.

The artificial settlement mounds are mainly multi-layered monuments, some of them simultaneously comprising Early, Middle, Late Bronze, Early Iron and Classical Period layers. There are cases when out the epochs listed only one is presented, e.g. Naokhvamu, Chaladidi Zurga, Abedati dikha-gudzuba, etc. are. represented solely by Late Bronze and Early Iron cultural layers.

The total area of Colchian dwelling mounds ranged from 1500 to 3000 sq. m. It should be assumed that the buildings at these settlements stood close to one another, for every inch of the artificial embankment, wrested from the marsh, must have been highly prized. It should be noted that the area allotted for construction was much smaller in size than the area of the mound itself. The dwelling mounds were surrounded with intricate drainage and defensive systems (ditch, earth embankment, paling with wooden towers at intervals). Due to the natural conditions of the Colchian Plain digging of ditches around settlement sites was dictated by objective necessity. Because of frequent rains and river erosion the territory adjoining the sites often turned into a swamp. If the swampy place was linked to a ditch, the danger of swamping disappeared, as the water accumulated in the ditches emptied into the canals, and thence the nearest brook or river. Slightly elevated farming plots, surrounded with ditches, abutted on the dwelling mounds.

At the early stage of Colchian Bronze culture two principal types of settlements prevailed in Colchis (Western Georgia): artificial dwelling mounds and settlements on natural hills and elevations. At the last stage of this culture (Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages) there were already five different settlement types: artificial mounds, settlements on natural hills and elevations, dune settlements, and “open-type” unfortified settlements, situated on river banks and terraces and manufacturing-settlements.

Settlements in plains, on river banks and terraces represent sites of open, unfortified type, occupying an area of above 1ha. In addition to dwelling and economic facilities, workshops were also built here, in close proximity to the other structures. So-called dune settlements

appear in the coastal zone and reveal thick cultural layers.

On the grounds of archaeological data, the author assumes that large and compactly populated settlements of different types flourished in Colchis by the end of the 2nd beginning of the 1st millenium B.C. They were situated not far from each other. The Colchis lowland and foothills were intensively developed. According to the authors view, settlements dated by this period were protourbanistic settlements.

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