Gadachrili gora: a Neolithic site in the Kura Valley (Georgia)

The mechanisms behind the emergence of an agricultural economy in the South Caucasus have been widely debated since the 1960s. Most of the attention has focused on the role played by Near Eastern cultures in the development of the Neolithic culture known as “Shulaveri-Shomu”, which emerged in the Kura Valley at the beginning of the sixth millennium BC.

Within the framework of the GATES International Associated Laboratory (dir. E. Messager EDYTEM and D. Lordkipanidze GNM), the Trajectoires laboratory, in collaboration with the National Museum of Georgia, resumed excavations of the Neolithic site of Gadachrili gora (Kwemo-Kartli, Georgia) in 2012 and 2013 (dir. Mindia Jalabadze (Georgian National Museum) & Caroline Hamon (CNRS, UMR 8215 Trajectoires). The dating of the two preserved levels of the tell places these occupations between 5920 and 5720 Cal BC.

This research provides new elements for the characterisation of Neolithization processes, in particular in terms of dwelling organisation and architectural techniques. In the two preserved occupation horizons, excavations have revealed occupation levels combining circular buildings of varying dimensions with “courtyard” type open spaces, used as circulation spaces or dumping grounds. The density and organisation of these structures vary in the two occupation levels. The upper horizon revealed a structuring of the habitat around a large central circular building, while the lower levels suggest complex episodes of dwelling destruction/reconstruction. A sequence of soil levels has also been uncovered: built and rammed circulation levels in raw earth alternate with episodes of significant ash and charcoal waste.

Several architectural techniques have been identified for the construction of the various raw earth buildings (mainly mudbricks of various sizes and cob). Based on these observations, parallels can be drawn with construction techniques used at the same period in northern Iran and Mesopotamia, thereby contributing to the debate on the origins of the Shulaveri-Shomu culture.

Furthermore, a high density of storage structures has been identified, with abundant botanical remains, preserved to a depth of 60 cm. These are located in the direct vicinity of the buildings, and are organised in areas reserved for this purpose, individually between rows of interconnected circular buildings or inside the buildings. Other structures (raw earth hearths or pits, dumping of faunal remains in the vicinity of storage areas) complete our vision of how these dwellings functioned. The organisation of the different occupation levels of the Gadachrili gora site thus contributes to discussions on the status of these sites, the organisation of agricultural practices and the relationship of their inhabitants to their environment (hydrology, supply of raw materials, exploitation of plant and animal resources).

Bibliography :
Hamon, C., Jalabadze, M., Agapishvili, T., Baudouin, E., Koridze, I., Messager, E. (in press). Gadachrili Gora: Architecture and organisation of a Neolithic settlement in the middle Kura Valley (6th millennium BC, Georgia). Quaternary International

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