Ērān ud Anērān
Webfestschrift Marshak 2003


On the importance of the "Misimian's" - Kodori Route in the 1st-6th Centuries

Eliso Bagaturia*

[Missing Image]

Attractive prospects of Transcaucasian transit in the process of intensification of Silk Road running from China via Turkestan to the Eastern Mediterranean have provoked a special significance of Georgia since the 1st cent. A.D. As the Chinese and Indian high price goods were transported to Byzantine Empire by the Iranian mediators, trade routes represented immediate cause of military conflicts and diplomatic negotiations between these two countries. Control over maritime routes, held by both Byzantium and Iran, implied growth of interest toward mountainous regions of the Caucasus, more than all of the major passes of the Central and Eastern Caucasus (Qlukhori, etc.) joined the main international trade routes (Caspian region, Iran).

Naturally, the positions of Iran and Constantinople were similar as well in regard of assuring the safety of the Caucasian passes. The trade routes passing through Central Asia became monopolized by the Turks after their conquest of these territories in the 6th cent. Thus, Sogdiana -the most advanced region of silk industry in Central Asia- being under Turkish rule, could no more export its production to the Byzantine Empire through the routes controlled by Iran (Derbent and Darial passes).

So, the routes of the North Caucasus passing into Western Georgia (through the Kodori pass) were exploited for trading purposes and the route running from Sebastopolis via Tsebelda (Qlukhori pass) to the North Caucasus designated as 'road of the Missimians' appeared in writing sources. John of Epiphanium and Menander, while describing the route covered by the Turkish envoy -the Sogdian Maniaches and Greek Zemarches-, mention the 'road of Missimians' running through Kodori basin and passing to the North Caucasus: 'Sarodes advised Zemarches and his men not to follow the road of the Missimians, as an ambush was laid by the Persians near the land of Svans, and it was better to return home through the so-called Darin route. Relying on this advise, Zemarches sent ten carriers of silk in order to delude the Persians. The carriers set forth on their way, while Zemarches followed Darin route and arrived to Apsilia: he did not take the road of Missimians, leaving it to his left he reached Rogatorion, then passed to Euxines and afterwards sailed in boats to the river of Phasis, then to Trapezus. Then by horses he arrived to Byzantium' [1].

The above passage has at once become a subject of scholarly interest in the specialist literature. Z. Anchabadze noted that 'the main route (on the territory of Abkhazia) directed to the North Caucasus -Alania via Qlukhori pass crossed the land of Missimians and was known as 'the road of the Missimians'. This route acquired the name of 'the Abkhazian route' during the existence of Early Feudal princedom of Abkhazia' [2]. D. Muskhelishvili pointed out that 'the routes of the Missimian's land and that of Darin road ran from Alania. ...It seems that the road of the Missimians followed the Qlukhori pass... while on the grounds of writing sources, the land of the Missimians itself can be located inthe upper reaches of Kodori' [3].

Data provided by Tabula Peutingeriana concerning Artashat-Sebastopolis route are also noteworthy (they were studied and analysed by N. Lomouri). Two routes are pointed here: the first one runs from Trapezus along the coastal line (Rize - Athena -Archabis - Apsaros - Batomi - Phasis - Ziganeon) approaching Sebastopolis and directed further to the north. The second one was directed to the south-east: via Tsikhegoji and Vardtsikhe it reached the Zekari pass and descended to Samtskhe; then it ran to the upper reaches of the river Mtkvari in Aspindza-Tsunda direction, turned to the lake Paravani and passed to Armenia through Abotz[4]. It should be also noted that the river of Minor Kodori- Astelephsisis fixed as Stempep on this map [5]. As Acad. S. Janashia assumed: 'It seems undoubted that a route connected Sebastopolis with the North Caucasus already in that remote period. This route crossed the Kodori basin and passed into the basin of the upper reaches of the river Koban (through Qlukhori pass, just as in latter period) [6]. The function of this route must have been reflected in imported grave goods of the Kodori basin burials dating from the 4th-5th century.

[Missing Image]

It should be noted, however, that the route connecting Sebastopolis with the North Caucasus had appeared already in Pre-Hellenistic period [7]. Dioscurias -later Sebastopolis- profited from intensive trade with the cities of Asia Minor and North Black Sea littoral mediated by the 'Greek' cities of Colchis. Strabo seems to be quite clear about the case: 'Dioskurias is ...the common emporium of the tribes who are situated above it and in its vicinity' [8].

Archaeological study has revealed fragments of importedgoods both on the coastal line and highland regions of Abkhazia: cone-shapedfoots of the Lesbian average-size amphorae dated to the 6th-5thcent. B.C. (manufactured of red-brownish clay, with straw and mica admixtures) were discovered in Xs 2 structure of Patskhiri fortress (Kodori basin) as well as fragments of amphorae dated to the 5th-3rdcent. B.C. resembling fringes of Thasian amphorae; a Phoenician grooved blue glass bead belonging to the 6th-5thcent. B.C. was also found in the above site [9]. A similar green bead was extracted during the excavations of the southern part of Patskhiri along with fragments of clay ware dating from the 6th-5th cent. B.C. (gray polished fringe of the pot-shaped vessel; fragments partially polished dergi of black firing; vessel with uneven surface of brown firing; fragment of a clay lid of gray firing (Fig. I)). Archaeological material attributed to the Hellenistic period -4th-1st cent. B.C.- have been obtained (fragments of black-glazed vessel and Sinopean phialei; a tray with flat ornament on the edge (Fig. II))[10]. Discovery of glass vessel "Reapenschale" (I-IIcent.BC ) in burrial of Shapka is of great interest.

Assumption on systematic utilization of the above route is backed by the fact of concentration of imported goods designated for far-distance trade in burials of Tsebelda dated to the 4th-5th cent. Foreign production distributed on the spot and then carried to different regions is mainly represented by ceramics, glass, and metallic artifacts, clearly pointing out the extensive functioning of this section of the 'Silk Road'. The most ancient amphora with channeled surface belongs to the 3rd-4thcent. Finds of convexed-concaved channeled amphorae (with pyroxene admixture) are also noteworthy. Spread of red-glazed clay ware from the 4th cent. is clearly seen in burials of Shapka, Abgidzrakhu, Alrakhu and Apiancha (Fig. III).

Contacts with the eastern Roman provinces are evidenced by finds of glass articles discovered in Shapka, Alrakhu (No 6, N 8), Abgidzrakhu, Apiancha, Aukhuamakhu (N 3, N. 4), tower N° 2 and structure N° 1 of Tsebelda: semispheroid phialei with strongly profiled, occasionally everted mouth; vessels with cylindrical, truncated cone or simply cone-shaped foot are also discovered. Finds of drinking cups with high foot apparently represent the Eastern Mediterranean production. Unguentaria and lamps are also excavated.

Techniques used for decoration of glass vessels seem to be those well known and adopted in the 4th-5th cent. Mediterranean and Black Sea centers: dots, Syrian type bee-comb pattern, adornment of vessels with transparent or colored glass threads characteristic of western European workshops. Artifacts with smooth, plain surface, occasionally bearing minor incisions on the fringe are also evidenced. On the grounds of typological classification (Fig. IV a-b) worked out by Nina Sorokina, the first three types of the I group (semispheroid and cylindrical drinking vessels decorated with blue glass dots) find precise analogies with production manufactured in the northern Black Sea littoral [11]. Truncated-cone-shaped dotted glass drinking cup reveals similarities to the Egyptian specimens. Since dotted glass vessels, mostly cone-shaped lamps or drinking vessels are evidenced in North Caucasus, it can be hypothesized that they were transported from Sebastopolis to the North Caucasus via Tsebelda. Dotted glass drinking vessels are brought to light as well in Sebastopolis, Bichvinta, Tsikhisdziri, Svaneti, Gudava.

Stone and glass beads of Mediterranean and Indo-Iranian provenance found in this region corroborate existence of intensive commercial contacts. Metallic, stone, glass and ceramic beads are mainly discovered in burials of women.

Golden beads coming from burial N° 45 of Abgidzrakhu [12] (Fig. V-1) and burial N° 36 of Apianhcha [13] (Fig. V-2) dated to the 4th-7th cent, along with golden pendant (Akhatsarakhu N° 2; 12) [14] and golden cross (Abgidzrakhu N° 15 burial) [15] deserve special interest (Fig. V-3). Silver pendant with representation of Gorgo [16] finds analogy with one discovered in Antioch and attributed by Elnitskiy to the 4th cent. [17].

Glass beads are mainly represented by monochrome (transparent, blue, green, light brown, black, etc.) (Fig. V-4) Egyptian paste (Fig. V-5) and mosaic beads. Beads manufactured of Egyptian paste reveal similarity with the ones found in necropolis of Pashkov, Rukhta, Alkhankala, Baital Chapkan dated to the 4th-5th cent. [18]. Guilded beads (Abgidzakhu, Alrakhu) and silver sandwich glass beads (Abgidzakhu, Apiancha) (Fig. V-6) of Alexandrian and Syrian types are worth of noting. Only a few golden sandwich glass beads were found in the North Caucasian necropolis. Quantitiesof eye beads characteristic of ancient Oriental culture arediscovered in the Kodori burials. Similar beads are found in Koban,Kabarda, Daghestan, Northern and Southern Ossetia, Pyatigorsk, theCrimea (Suuk-su, Chufut Kale) mainly in burials dating from the 4th-5th cent. Only a single find of the so-called button-shaped beads brought to light in Tsebelda is attested in North Caucasia and belongs to the 4th-5th cent., they are totally absent in the 6th cent. burials and the bulk of such beads is attributed to the 1st millennium in general. Finds of mosaic beads (Abgidzrakhu, Alrakhu, Shapka, Akhatsarakhu) (Fig. V-7) characteristic of Alexandrian production as well as beads manufactured by applying tapestry and chequer technique already practiced in Ptolemaic period are also noteworthy. Such beads are discovered in Rukhta, Pashkovski and Borisovski necropolis.

Stone beads are mainly represented by cornelian (Fig. V-8), rock crystal and amber ones; the bulk of beads must have been of cornelian [19].

Discoveries of early Roman types of two-piece fibulae -avcissa (Fig. VI-1) and T-shaped pins (N° 35 of Abgidzrakhu)- point to the intensive utilization of the route directed towards North Caucasus [20]. 'Lebiazhiy' type phibulae characteristic of the 4th cent. are discovered in burial N° 31 of Abgidzrakhu [21] (Fig. VI-2). It can be conjectured that strongly profiled phibulae (Fig. VI-3) characteristic of North Caucasus (Alania, the 4th cent.) were penetrated into West and East Georgia via Tsebelda. Finds of pins imported from Eastern Georgia in the burial N° 6 of Apushta and their discoveries in North Caucasus must have implied functioning of the Kodori route.

Numismatic evidence is mainly represented by provincial Roman (Cesarean) coins dating from the 1st-2nd cent. (Gerzeuli hoard contains approximately 500 coins minted in the name of the following emperors: Nero, Vespasianus, Domitianus, Nervas, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius). About 20 coins (issued during the reign of Nervas, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Julius Domnas) were excavated in the Shapka necropolis and about 10 coins (belonging to the period of Trajan, Hadrian, Septimius Severus) were found in Tsebelda necropolis. All of them were excavated in the archaeological complexes dated to the 3rd-4th cent. Find of gold stater of Lysimaches coming from Gerzeuli Ka 2 burial is also noteworthy.

Coins of the later period - a silver siliqua of the Emperor Theodosius II (408-450) minted in Constantinople and brought to light in Shapka necropolis, along with a golden and two silver ones issued in the reign of Justinianus I, should also be noted [22].

The Kodori burials of the following (6th cent.) period are characterized by poor inventory being the result of and reflecting political instability.

Thus, archaeological data clearly testify to the existence of significant settlements and the route connected to them in Kodori basin since Early Classical period, while the route became intensively exploited from the 4th cent.

Unfortunately, no fragments of silk texile are attested for the date, but concentration of imported goods and finds of articles probably containing silk in approaches of Sanchari, Maruichi and Klukhoripasses (as well as in the basin of tributary of the river Quban, burial on the bank of the river Bolshaia Laba, burials from Kislovodsk, etc.) [23] clearly testify to transportation of silk to Central Asia through the Caucasian passes (Klukhori pass) and intensive exploitation of the Silk Road.

Many goods have been imported from Anterior Asia, Eastern Mediterranean and India. From this point the following burials are especially noteworthy: N° 3-Lari, N° 5-Bati, N° l 3 and N° 8-Apushta. The amber beads point to the connections with the north-western regions. A shell -'cauris'- of Mediterranean provenance was extracted from Abgidzrakhu (M>7, N° 40, JVM8) and Alrakhu (6) burials dated to the 2nd-4th cent. (Fig. V-9).

A blue glass pendant with representation of head of a Negro (Fig. III-10) excavated in the complex datable to the 5th cent. [24], and bearing analogies with one found in Chersonesus [25], as well as a stone bead characteristicof China in the 4th-6th century, with the Chinese hieroglyph and inscription 'emperor' (attributed by I. Voronov to the 6th cent.) deserve a special interest.

It should be noted, however, that comparatively small amount of the stone beads discovered in the Kodori basin necropolis along with their abundance in North Caucasus and vice versa situation in regards of glass beads, prompt double orientation of Silk Road.

* Georgian Academy of Sciences - Centre for Archaelogical Studies


[Missing Image]

[Missing Image]

[Missing Image]

[Missing Image]

[Missing Image]

[Missing Image]

[Missing Image]

Referenced Bibliography

[1] Georgica - scriptorium Byzantinorom exserptu ad Georgian pertinentia. Tomus II.

[2] Анчабадзе З., Из истории средневековой Абхазии (VI). 1959. с. 12-13.

[3] Мусхелишвили Д., Из исторической географии Грузии. 1977. ст. 46 (на груз.)

[4] Ломоури Н., К вопросу о торговых путях Грузии. труды инст. ист. т. Часть. 1958 (на груз);
- Tabula Peutingeriana- (codex vindobonensis 324). Kommenter-Ekkehard Weber. Akademishe Druk-u. Verlagsantalt Graz, Austria 1976.

[5] Arrian, PPE, X, p.40. 1961 (in Georgian);
- Plin, VI, 4;
- Tab. Peut.;
- Брун Ф., Черноморье, II, 1880. c. 248.

[6] Джанашиа С., Труды, T.I, cт. 46-47.

[7] Лордкипанидзе О., Мусхелишвили Д., Закавказье в международной торговле Востока и Запада (с древнеиших времен до XIII и н.э.). 1970.;
- Lordkipanidze O., Trade on the Black Sea: the historic premise of the Great Silk Road. 9th International Symposium on the Ancient History and Archaeology of the Black Sea Area. Dziebani (JCASG). 1999. p. 58-60;
- Lordkipanidze O., Trade,economic and cultural relations between the ancient world and Colchis in the Hellenistic epoch. Studien zur Geschichte und Philosophie des Altertums, Budapest, 1968;
- Kvirkvelia G., Greek trade with indigenous societies of the Northen and Eastern Black Sea Areas. Dziebani (JCASG). 1999. p.55-56.

[8] Strabo, XI, 2, 16;
-Лордкипанидзе О., Античный мир и древная Колхида (к истории торгово -экономических и культурных взаимоотношении в архаическую и класическую эпохи)-Античное щбщество: Труды международной конференции по изучению проблем античности. М., 1967.

[9] Воронов Ю., К вопросу о локализации Кораксов и их Крепости в Абхазии. ВДИ. N° 3. 1968. с.137.

[10] Воронов Ю, Бгажба О., Материалы по археологии Цебельды. 1985. с. 85.;
- Лордкипанидзе О., Археологические исследования в Цебельде. тб. 1983.

[11] Сорокина Н., Стеклянные сосуды IV-V вв. и хронология Цебельдинских ьогильников. КСИА, N° 158. 1979. с. 57-70;
- Сорокина Н., О стеклянных сосудах скаплями синнего стекла из Причерноморья. СА, N° 4. 1971. с. 85-100;
- Шамба Г., Стеклянная посуда позднеантичной эпохи из раскопок в раионе Цебельды, 1962. Тезиси докладов сесии Абгосмузея. Сухуми, 1966;
- Sorokina N., Die Nuppenglaser von der Nordkuste des Schwarzen Meers. Annals du 5-e Congress International d'Etude Historique du Verre (Prague, 6-11 juillet 1970). Liege, 1972;
- Stuart J. Fleming, Roman Glass. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. p. 101. (Late E 102);
- Susan B. Matheson, Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery. Mainz. 1980. p. 40. (284-none ycomb Beaked).

[12] Трапш М., Труды. т. III. 1971. с. 72.

[13] Гунба Ь., Новые помятники Цебельды. 1978. с. 42.

[14] Трапш М., Труды, т. III. 1971. с. 97.

[15] Трапш М., Труды, т. III. 1971. с. 38.

[16] Воронов Ю., Таина Цевельдинской долины. 1975.

[17] Ельницкий А., О малоизученных или утраченных греческих и латинских надписях Закавказья. ВДИ. 1964. N° 2.

[18] Деорик В., Класификациа бус Северного Кавказа IV-V вв. СА. 1959. N° 3;
- Покровский М., Пашковский могильник. N° 1. СА.I. 1936;
- Минаева Г., Могильник Баитал-Чапкан. Материалы по изучению Ставропольского края. Вып. 2-3. Ставр. 1950;
- Уварова П., Могильники северного Кавказа. МАК. Вып. 8. 1909. с.245;
- Пиотровский Б., Древнеегиптииские предметы наиденные на територии СССР. СА. 1958. N° 1.

[19] Воронов Ю., Древности Азантской долины. 1982. с. 31, 42, 48-53.

[20] Амброз А., Археология СССР. (свод. Архюисточ. Вып. Д 1-27);
- Амброз А., Фибулы Юга Европеиской части СССР. 1966. с. 52-60.;
- Амброз А., Проблемы раннесредневековой хронологии Восточной Европы. СА. 1971.

[21] Апхазава Н., Матеряльная культура раннесредневековой Грузии. 1979.

[22] Воронов Ю., Юшин В., Новые помятники Цевельдинской культуры в Абхазии. КСИА, 128. 1971. с.49.

[23] Иерусалимская, Кавказ на Шелковом пути. Каталог выставки. Спб. 1992.

[24] Воронов Ю., Разведки в Абхазии СССР. "АО1970". М, 1971, c. 378.

[25] Алексеева Е., Античные бусы северного Причерноморья. свод арх. Ист. (вып. г1-12). 1978. с.74.

© The Author/s

Actualizado el 24/07/2004

Valid HTML 4.01!
Any Browser!
Creative Commons License
Como lo hacemos?