Summer in Tbilisi traditionally means not working very hard and taking lots of trips to the village. As you can see by the recent lack of blog posts, I’ve been blogging on summer time. I have also done a few trips out of the city, though. Most of them are to places I’ve written about before, so they won’t result in any new posts for your reading pleasure. However, I did visit one place I haven’t written about before (despite having been there on two previous occasions): the archeological site at Dmanisi. I first heard of Dmanisi in my Physical Anthropology class back in college (which you can now take online here). It’s the site of the oldest hominid remains outside Africa. As if that alone weren’t interesting enough, there are actually three archeological sites piled one on top of the other–at the surface, there are Medieval ruins that I’ve heard associated with King/Queen Tamar (WIkipedia suggests an association not with her, but with David the Builder). That citadel was apparently an important stop on the old Silk Road. The 6th Century church is still in use, and features happy frolicking kittens. I highly recommend clamboring up the ruins (because you can do that in Georgia) for a nice view and picnic spot.
The next layer is a bronze age site–I don’t believe much excavation has been done for that period–I haven’t heard much about what was going on there. This could be a factor of the people I know, or because it’s generally considered less interesting than what lies beneath. The site with the hominid remains, known as the “Champagne Room” because of the large number of important finds there, is the real gem of an attraction. It’s managed by the Georgian National Museum, and the enclosed area contains a few interpretive exhibits (a bronze-age grave, artists’ reconstructions of the hominids, some bones, etc) and a video introduction to the site. All-in-all, it’s a nicely put-together mini-museum. Admission into the enclosed area is 3 GEL.
Outside the museum area, you’re free to wander the general area–there’s a row of statue-type things, the ruins of the citadel, another archeological site, and some fields. Walking to the end of the area to look out over the promontory is quite nice. I particularly liked that area, because the theory is that the promontory over the two rivers made the area strategically important, both for defense and for hunting, and explain why there is so much history in this place. There appear to be some ruins across the river, as well, though I don’t know exactly what they are. The area is in general, a nice change from Tbilisi, a bit cooler with much fresher air, and therefore a pleasant place to just relax and explore.
So, you may ask, how do I get to Dmanisi? Well, my friends and I copped out and took a cab–Meghan has a good driver who does excursions, so we just called him up and he gave us a fair price, saving us a lot of hassle. The site is accessible by public transportation, but there are only a few marshrutkas a day, so it isn’t something you’d want to do if you have pressing commitments (like work) the next day, which we all did. My expert sources tell me that although there are marshrutkas labeled “Dmanisi” it’s better to take the one that says “Mashavera” because that village is on the same side of the mountain as the archeological site. Good tip. These marshrutkas all leave from Samgori station in Tbilisi. There aren’t many (OK, any) tourist facilities near the site, so you’ll want to bring water and snacks. You could even stop at the new McDonald’s in Marneuli on your way there.