1,200 years older than David Gareja cave monastery

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

We had been very impressed when we visited the 6th century David Gareja Cave Monastery last weekend, but I was much more impressed by the 7thcentury BC “town” of Uplistsikhe, near Gori. The complex of caves is larger and more elaborate than at David Gareja, and visitors can get a better understanding of how people lived from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages. I was not surprised to see the areas carved out of rock for making wine or the areas for ovens. I was surprised, however, to see the theater area (standing room for maybe 100 people?). I was also surprised that Zoroastrians used the site as a fire temple. Zoroastrianism came from Iran in the 6th century BC and was among the world’s largest religions.

At Uplistsikhe, you can see the area where Silk Road traders set up their stalls. You can also walk up or down the steep, long tunnel that connects the three parts of the town. In addition, you can walk on the clearly demarcated “main street,” which leads to a 9th to 10thcentury Christian basilica.

Copyright Susanna Melo, 2011

Seeing the chisel marks carved into the caves’ ceilings and admiring the octagon-shaped ceiling panels helped us to visualize and experience the past.

Uplistsikhe is one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. It declined in importance in the early 4th century when Christianity came to that part of the country, but it rose to prominence again in the 8th and 9th centuries when Uplistsikhe was the principal stronghold holding off Muslim invaders. After the Mongol raids in the 14th century, the town was virtually abandoned.

According to Wikipedia, “the Uplistsikhe cave complex has been on the tentative list for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage program since 2007” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uplistsikhe . It deserves such an honor. If the Georgian government spends some money to conserve the site, then I’m sure it will gain this important recognition.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

One Response to 1,200 years older than David Gareja cave monastery

  1. Keith: Thank you for your summary of Uplistsikhe. How did you find out about the Zoroastrian fire temple? Can one see it? I suspected that it may have been a Zoroastrian community, but needed proof. Is Uplistsikhe facing south, as are cave communities in China, for passive solar heating? Please let me know. I have a fellowship on the Silk Road:

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