Mtskheta


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Mtskheta

(mətskhyĕt`ə), town (1989 pop. 9,588), W central Georgia, on the Kura River and the Georgian Military Road. It was the capital of ancient IberiaIberia
, ancient country of Transcaucasia, roughly the eastern part of present-day Georgia. It was inhabited in earliest times by various tribes, collectively called Iberians by ancient historians, although Herodotus called them Saspirams. Between the 6th and 4th cent. B.C.
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 until the 6th cent. A.D., when the capital was moved to TbilisiTbilisi
or Tiflis
, city (1989 pop. 1,259,682), capital of Georgia, SW Asia, on the Kura River and the Transcaucasian RR and at the southern end of the Georgian Military Road.
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; Mtskheta remained the religious center of the country. The Sveti-Tskhoveli cathedral (11th cent.; destroyed by Timur; rebuilt 15th cent.) contains the burial vaults of Georgian rulers. The Samtavro cathedral (11th cent.) was restored in 1903. In the hills near the town are ruins of the Dzhvari temple of the late 6th or early 7th cent.

Mtskheta

 

a city and center of Mtskheta Raion, Georgian SSR. It is located on the Georgian Military Highway, at the confluence of the Aragvi and the Kura rivers. Railroad station on the Tbilisi-Samtredia line, 21 km north of Tbilisi. Population, 7,100 (1970).

Mtskheta, an ancient Georgian city, was founded in the second half of the first millennium B.C. It was the capital of the eastern Georgian state of Kartli (Iberia) until the late fifth century A.D. During the Middle Ages, Mtskheta remained an important urban, trade, and artisan center. It was also a major religious center (the residence of the catholicos, the head of the Georgian church, was located there).

Excavations conducted in the 1870’s and, particularly, after 1937 have uncovered the remains of residential quarters and fortified residences, as well as burial grounds dating from the Aeneolithic period to the late Middle Ages. There are burial grounds (for example, the Samtavro burial ground) belonging to the Bronze and early Iron ages (the second and first millennia B.C.); these burial grounds belonged to settled land cultivators, who also engaged in stock raising.

A large, well-planned ancient city grew out of the Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. Excavations have uncovered the ruins of the acropolis of Armaztsikhe on the right bank of the Kura River (second half of the first millennium B.C.-beginning of the first millennium A.D.).

A tomb dating from the late classical period (late first or early second century A.D.) was investigated in 1951. A rectangular structure (2.3 × 1.8 × 1.9 m) made of broken stone, the tomb has a semicircular vault made of dressed stone blocks and a gabled roof made of large tiles reinforced with mortar. The interior walls, the vault, and the floor, as well as the eastern facade, are faced with beautifully dressed and well-fitted sandstone blocks. The door was covered by a massive stone slab.

Among the objects discovered in the tomb were the bones of a woman and a child and the wooden panels and metal details from a sarcophagus(?). The tomb’s rich inventory included a gold buckle with inset stones; dozens of gold beads, pendants, and buttons; stone and paste beads and insets; a cast bronze figure of a singing boy; variously colored glass plates and balsam bottles; pottery; 69 silver coins (first century B.C. and first century A.D.); and ten gold coins (four Roman aurei, five Georgian imitations of staters and one blank coin evidently intended to be made into an imitation stater).

The Mtskheta tomb is surrounded by less sumptuous tiled tombs dating from the first and second centuries A.D. The skeleton of a horse was discovered next to these tombs. The ruins of palace structures, baths (second-third century), and a necropolis (first centuries A.D.) were discovered higher up the Kura River in Armaziskhevi.

Mtskheta’s medieval monuments include the Samtavro monastery complex (whose principal church is a groin-vaulted 11th-century structure with rich sculptural ornamentation on the facades) and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

Noteworthy structures located near the city of Mtskheta include the Dzhvari Church and the V. I. Lenin Zemo-Avchaly Hydroelectric Power Plant (1927; architects A. N. Kal’gin, K. A. Leont’ev, and M. S. Machavariani), with a monument to V. I. Lenin (bronze and stone, unveiled 1927; sculptor I. D. Shadr).

REFERENCES

Severov, N. P., and G. N. Chubinashvili. Mtskheta. Moscow, 1946.
Tsitsishvili, I. N. “Grobnitsa u stantsii Mtskheta.” Kratkie soobshcheniia o dokladakh i polevykh issledovaniiakh Instituta istorii material’noi kul’tury AN SSSR, 1954, issue 54.
Lomtatidze, G. A. Arkheologicheskie raskopki v drevnegruzinskoi stolitse Mtskheta. Tbilisi, 1955.
Mtskheta: Itogi arkheologicheskikh issledovanii, vol. 1: Arkheologicheskie pamiatniki Armazis-Khevi po raskopkam 1937–1946 gg. Tbilisi, 1958.
Gverdtsiteli, R. Mtskheta. Tbilisi, 1962. [Chanishvili, G. K.] Mtskheta. Tbilisi, 1965.
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