Vani Archaeological Museum-Reserve is included in UNESCO tentative list since 2007
Vani Archaeological Site is prominent for archaeological findings of the ancient Colchis civilization in Imereti, the Western region of Georgia.
Situated on the left bank of the River Sulori on a hill close to the town of Vani, museum was founded in Soviet Era in 1985 by the Dr. Otar Lordkipanidze (Academician) during the international symposium. The museum holds more than 4.000 items and houses archaeology assemblages excavated in Vani since 1985.
Built as the first archaeological museum in Georgia, the Museum-Reserve carries strategic importance with its scientific and educational programs adhering to the highest standards of the Georgian National Museum. The complex includes archaeological site of Vani, an expedition base, and the museum itself.
The permanent exhibition of the museum displays cultural development of the site between 800 BC and 100 AD (goldwork, silver, unique bronze sculptures and their fragments, samples of coins, etc.). Highlights of the exhibition include spectacular collection of jewelry, that displays skills, and talent of local goldsmiths, groups of imports from the Greek world, and from the Persian Empire, a series of ritual figurines, and a life-size bronze torso. Two bronze lamps that were discovered in 2007 have been conserved by the Getty in collaboration with the Georgian National Museum.
Vani is substantially the most excavated site in Colchian hinterland, which offers the best evidence of this area development throughout Greek colonization of the coastline, during the Roman period. Occasional archaeological finds at Vani were first reported by the French scholar Marie-Félicité Brosset in 1851, followed by series of archaeological surveys between 1870-2002.
Systematic archaeological studies (N. Khoshtaria, O. Lordkipanidze) carried out in Vani since 1947, revealed the remnants of a rich city of the ancient power of Colchis. The name of this ancient settlement is still unknown but four distinct stages of uninterrupted occupation have been identified:
The first phase is dated to the 8th-7th centuries B.C. Archaic Vani appears to have been a small settlement, containing the log-cabins, yielded fragments of baked daub with wicker imprints, pottery—wheel-made, well-baked, black-fired and polished on the surface—and terracotta figurines of various animals. In this period Vani is presumed to have been an emerging cultic center, with a significant influence on surrounding settlements.
The second phase – the end of 7th and beginning of 6th to the first half of 4th century B.C. - is represented by cultural layers, remains of wooden structures, locally produced earthenware storage-jars, sacrificial altars cut in the rocky ground, rich burials, fine gold work of local production-with affinities to both the Greek and Middle Eastern cultures, and the appearance of imported Greek pottery. It is assumed that at this stage Vani was the center of a political-administrative unit of the kingdom of Colchis.
The third phase covers the second half of the 4th - first half of the 3rd century B.C. This stage represents prominent changes in the material culture. New stone buildings appear including a circuit wall. Traditional Colchis pottery gives way to notably pear-shaped jugs with red paint on a light ground, familiar to eastern Georgia, anciently known as Iberia. Greek influence becomes more prominent on the goldwork. Assumingly these changes may reflect the infiltration of tribes from Iberia, which at that time experienced urbanization, state formation, and expansion.
The fourth phase between 3rd-mid-1st cent. B.C. is considered to be the period of relative decline for central Colchis: many settlements and rich burials disappeared. By the end of the 2nd century BC, building activity was renewed again: parts of the ruins were methodically leveled and new buildings were constructed. Large buildings of the city were decorated with Corinthian capitals and lion-head waterspouts. Hellenistic statues in bronze have been tremendously impacted by Greek culture. Vani became a city-sanctuary similar to the temple communities of ancient Anatolia.
In the middle of the 1st century BC, the ancient city at Vani was attacked and destroyed. Vani never recovered to its past level. Subsequently, Vani declined to a village and was officially granted a status of a town only in 1981.
Within the framework of the 4-year infrastructural project (2016-2020), Vani Archaeological Complex became one of the most standout museums in the region, that meets international standards. The new venue has been equipped with modern amenities in a four-story building, which will house exhibits, host scientific conferences, educational events, and also operate as a local hub.
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