Jul 1, 2018
Ever since seeing the burial finds in the museum in Tbilisi, I couldn’t wait to go to Vani, the ancient capital of the Colchis kingdom. I had read of the on-going excavations and concocted elaborate plans to worm myself into the digs. In Kutaisi, to my dismay, I heard that the museum was closed, the finds stored and the excavations put on hold.
But that talent of making a pest of myself can amazing results. Through a grapevine of helpful people, I managed to contact the director of the Vani museum and he graciously set aside an afternoon to show me around. The hitch however was, he spoke only Russian and Georgian and I speak neither. I had resigned myself to making the best of it with google’s inadequate translation but yet again I lucked out. Liga, my host from the guesthouse had not seen Vani and decided to play tourist for the day. Being fluent in Russian and English, she volunteered to translate. Liga’s husband wrote us off as two crazy women off on a wild goose chase. Nobody in Georgia, he claimed would be there, especially on a Sunday.
But just as promised, the director was waiting for us and led us through the storage rooms. We were allowed to examine the finds up close, take photos and told their stories. And wonder of wonders, even allowed to hold some of the pieces. This was even better than being in a museum! The shelves were packed with pottery and statues, replicas of the gold ornaments from burials, carved stone pillars and trade beads. Some in boxes with tags, some on the shelves, we were surrounded by finds dating from the eight century BC to first century AD. I was giddy with delight.
An archeologist himself, he has been involved with this site since his student days and it is clearly his passion. Happy to have an interested audience, he elaborated at length as he led us over the areas that have been excavated so far – the temple, altar, burial site and the buildings. Only a minute fraction of the site has been excavated so far, the reason is the usual – a lack of funds.
Only the threat of missing the last bus back to Kutaisi had us leaving early. The director brushed off our thanks as he insisted on driving us to the bus station. Despite my denials, he is convinced that I am an archeologist and fully expects a paper to be published in the near future.