7th century BC inscription in Georgia may rewrite history of written language
Archaeologists working at the ancient site of Grakliani Hill in Georgia have found inscriptions that may date back 2,700 years—well before the alphabet was known to have been in use in the Caucasus. Researchers say the writing is on the pedestal of an altar to a fertility goddess.
What the inscription says is unknown because there is no known similar system of writing, says an article in Georgia Today . But the discovery places prehistoric Georgia among some of the first civilizations to use written language, said Vakhtang Lichelo, head of the Institute of Archaeology of Georgia’s State University.
“The writings on the two altars of the temple are really well preserved. On the one altar several letters are carved in clay while the second altar’s pedestal is wholly covered with writings,” Licheli said. “The inscription is so important, that goes beyond the limits of Georgian science and will be the subject of an international study. The new discovery will change the particular stage of the history of the world’s manuscripts.”
Many valuable and interesting artifacts have been found during excavations of 10 layers of earth at Grakliani Hill since it was discovered during exploratory archaeological digs in preparation for a highway.
Clay vessels and bronze weapons uncovered at Grakliani Hill, which has been under excavation for eight years. ( Qartli.ge photo )
“A printing device of the 4th Century BC was described as one of the most important discoveries of the area, which analog was found in South Mesopotamia,” says an article in Agenda.ge . “In recent years archeologists also found a gold disc dating back to the 5th-6th Century BC. The same disc is preserved in Iran. Several rooms for worship and special mills and hand-mills also attracted international interest. From this discovery it is believed that wheat used in baking bread was grinded there. Furthermore, an altar platform discovered in the area has no analogue in the world.”
The article says digs there have shown an uninterrupted habitation of the site for 300,000 years.
Archaeologists of the Tbilisi State University (TSU) also uncovered ancient treasures when works were conducted at the highway in 2007. Excavations at a settlement on the eastern slope uncovered a necropolis that showed the site was occupied from the late Chalcolithic, or the very beginning of the Bronze Age, through the late Hellenistic periods.
The Georgia Today article says the most interesting ruins are buildings that were occupied from the second to the first millennium BC.
“An architectural complex consisting of three main rooms and three store-rooms, dating back to around 450-350 BC, was discovered in the western part of the hill’s lower terrace. Burial grounds from the various periods in history were discovered in the western part of the hill's southern slope. The earliest cemetery discovered dated back to the Early Bronze Age,” says the article in Georgia.ge.
The excavations that uncovered the writing were done by unpaid students. Because of a lack of funds, excavations will be halted at Grakliani Hill until the 2016 season, says Qartli.ge.
Meanwhile the inscription can be seen in this recreation by George Gigauri:
"The discovery is very likely to change Georgian history and will seriously attract international interest,” said Georgia’s Minister of Culture Mikheil Giorgadze.
Featured image: The writing, carved into clay, is of an unknown type, and international experts will be called in to help decipher it. This is a close-up photo of the inscription, which appears from other photos to be less than a foot (30 cm) tall. ( Qartli.ge photo )
By Mark Miller