Samtavro Burial Ground
Samtavro Burial Ground
a large (approximately 18 hectares) burial ground dating from different periods that is located on the northern outskirts of ancient Mtskheta, in the Georgian SSR. The burial ground was named after the Sam-tavro Monastery, which is located nearby.
The Samtavro burial ground was a cemetery for a pre-urban settlement at the confluence of the Kura and Aragvi rivers; it was later a cemetery for the city of Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Kartli, which developed at the site of the pre-urban settlement during the Hellenistic period. Archaeological excavations were conducted in the 1870’s and 1880’s. They were resumed on a regular basis in 1938. About 3,000 burials of various types have been studied, and a stratigraphy of the remains has been established that reflects the history of the area from the middle of the third millennium B.C. to the tenth century A.D.
The most ancient cultural layer dates from the early Bronze Age. It contained ancient pottery, stone implements, and bonfire sites. Barrows dating from the first half of the second millennium B.C. (the middle Bronze Age) have been excavated and bronze weapons, beads, and gold ornaments have been uncovered.
Flat-grave burials from the late Bronze Age (second half of the second millennium B.C.) and the early Iron Age (ninth through fifth centuries B.C.) yielded especially abundant finds. These finds included pottery that was polished and had geometric ornamentation or had a colored glaze, bronze and iron weapons, ornaments made of bronze, bone, carnelian, agate, and other materials, and bronze animal figurines.
Urn burials date from the second and first centuries B.C., and coffins and sarcophagi made of stone, tiles, and brick date from the first through third centuries A.D. Other finds have included coins, epigraphic remains, works of art, fine silver and glass dishware, and numerous gold, silver, and bronze bracelets, rings, earrings, pendants, medallions, and other ornaments set with colored stones and gems.
Burials in stone coffins (usually for families) and clay sarcophagi were widespread from the fourth through ninth centuries A.D. They reflect the establishment of early forms of feudalism. An abundance of locally produced glassware and toiletries, including metal pins with heads made of coral or colored stones were also uncovered.
Excavations at the Samtavro burial ground have contributed to the development of a reliable chronology over 3,000 years of the history of both Mtskheta and the culture of the peoples of eastern Georgia.
REFERENCESKalandadze, A. N. “Periodizatsiia pamiatnikov Samtavro.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1948, no. 3. Pages 171–72.
Lomtatidze, G. A. Arkheologicheskie raskopki v drevnegruzinskoi stolitse Mtskheta. Tbilisi, 1955.
Ch’ubinishvili, T. Mc’xet’is uzvelesi ark’eologiuri seglebi. Tbilisi, 1957.
A. N. KALANDADZE