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Project Info

The Rioni-Delta and the burial ground of Pichvnari – a geoarchaeological research at the Black Sea coast of Georgia (Funding: Heinrich Böll Foundation; Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Helmut Brückner, Dr. Daniel Kelterbaum)

Since September 2013 our research project “The Rioni-Delta and the burial ground of Pichvnari – a geoarchaeological research at the Black Sea coast of Georgia” (in cooperation with Ilia State and Javakhishvili State Universities, Tbilisi, Georgia) focuses on the evolution of the Holocene landscape of Georgia's Black Sea coast. So far, the region of the Kolkheti lowlands is understudied, although it is of high palaeogeographical and geoarchaeological interest.

During the Last Glacial Maximum the Kolkheti lowlands served as refuge for thermophile species. Besides this ecological importance, the Georgian lowlands have a long history of human occupation. The Greek/Roman city of Phasis, located at the mouth of the Rioni River, connected the Kingdom of Colchis with the then-known world of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. This is, for instance, reflected in the myth of the Argonauts and Jason's quest to find the Golden Fleece. Although numerous written sources give important information about the city of Phasis, its location is still unknown. In addition, Bronze Age tells north of the Rioni delta and archaeological findings from Classic Antiquity give evidence of a long history of continuous human occupation.

Our research project investigates the Holocene evolution of the Kolkheti lowlands including the Rioni delta. By means of geoscientific methods, we focus on the reconstruction of ancient landscapes and deciphering the human impact on past and present morphodynamic processes. We aim at identifying the initial period of human activity and at understanding how people adapted to the changing landscape. Particular attention is given to (i) the surroundings of known or supposed historic settlement and harbour locations; (ii) the development of the coastline in particular against the background of sea level fluctuations; and (iii) the human impact on the palaeoenvironment, including, for instance, changes in erosion/sedimentation rates of the Rioni River, or the contamination of sediments by heavy metals during historical times. Ultimately, this study provides important and new data on palaeoenvironmental changes in the Black Sea region, adding to the ongoing debate about the Holocene landscape evolution of this region.