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Dmanisi – home of the first Europeans

Friday, July 23
The Museum-Reserve of Dmanisi, 85 km from Tbilisi in the South Caucasus, is a wonderful place for local and international visitors as it opens the doors to new discoveries. The Museum-Reserve, founded in 1983, aims to preserve the historical-architectural monuments situated in the Dmanisi region.

One of the most important monuments at the reserve is the remains of a medieval town near the village of Patara (Small) Dmanisi. Since 1991 five skulls of prehistoric hominids have been found at this site. It’s notable that there is no other archaeological site at which so many hominid remains have been found. Their discovery caused a great flurry of interest in the international scientific community.

The medieval town of Dmanisi, with a geological layer dating back to 1.8 million years, is rich in hominid and animal remains. An international team with members from over ten countries digs here every year. The Dmanisi Museum-Reserve exhibits objects discovered during these excavations, including ceramics, glasswork, metalwork and coins. They also include pieces of Christian architecture. The medieval site includes an inner castle, secular buildings, shrines and a secret tunnel. Among the shrines, the VI century Dmanisi Sioni is of the utmost interest, with its unique XIII century gate containing ornaments and manuscripts.

The excavation of the hominid skulls completely changed the previously accepted ideas about the migration of hominids from Africa. The latest discovery – the 1.8-million-year-old teenager – has been reconstructed by French sculptor Elisabeth Daynes on the basis of its bones, found at Dmanisi in 2001. The girl is considered to be the "daughter" of the famous Mzia and Zezva (known as “the First Europeans”).

Sharing the details of the four month reconstruction process, Elisabeth said she had worked in a similar way to crime scene analysts. “The girl was very well preserved, and this was fantastic for me, because when the skull is intact it is easier for me to work on it. I feel that the Georgian archaeological sites haven't yet revealed all their secrets and this site is so exceptional that every new find is in an extraordinary state of preservation,” she told The Messenger.

This site is so exceptional that every new find is in an extraordinary state of preservation. GPI Holding has ensured the safety of the first European young adult - the latest achievement of modern science, which has made Georgia the centre of world attention.

The latest findings, which also raise questions about the evolution of Homo sapiens, were detailed in a major article in Nature magazine in September 2007, written by Davit Lortkipanidze, General Director of the Georgian National Museum (GNM), and his team of European and American researchers. “Dmanisi is not only the oldest site outside Africa, but also the most prolific – a treasure trove of prehistoric archaeology,” says Lortkipanidze.

Only 5 per cent of the 13,000-square-metre site at Dmanisi has been excavated but, for much of the time since the archaeological work began in earnest in 1991, it was protected only by a plastic tarpaulin roof. Now, partly with the funding from his Rolex Award, Lortkipanidze and his colleagues have had a dome built over the site to protect it from the weather and from looting. This site of early hominids is on a wooded promontory surrounded by steep cliffs and water on three sides, that might have provided an ideal contained area to drive game into to make them easier to hunt.

Davit Lortkipanidze, General Director of the Georgian National Museum (GNM), welcomes local and international visitors to the amazing world of ancient Georgian civilization. The site is not purely for scientists, and the GNM tries to make it interesting for all visitors, especially children.