Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Ruins of Dmanisi

Dmanisi. We've heard it here before on the podcast, episode 2 here when we discussed the remains of Georgie, (Homo erectus georgicus to those who have sophisticated degrees). We profiled Georgie on the post Twiggy & Georgie, which you can get to by checking out the other Georgia tags over there on the right. Go ahead. Click them. I'll wait.

However, the town itself has a bit of an interesting tale that we'd like to relate to you. Dmanisi seems to have been occupied by modern human beings as early as the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age episodes are coming in the following weeks so don't fret too much over this. But the historical record of Dmanisi comes into focus when the town was controlled by the Emirate of Tbilisi. Today, Georgia is predominately a nation of Christians and rightly so, considering that the legend tells us that the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Church was founded by none other than Andrew, the brother of Peter mentioned a time or two in the Bible. But, Christians did not found Emirates, usually. Emirates were founded by Muslim rulers. The Emirate of Tbilisi was no different.

The Arab conquest and domination of Eastern Georgia lasted from around 736 AD through 1122 AD. During this time the city of Tbilisi became a Muslim hot spot in the surrounding Christian territory. So a Muslim minority ruled a Christian majority. But, it was backed up by the massively influential Seljuq Dynasty that the 1st Crusade took major issue with. The Seljuq Turks would control the area around Dmanisi until around 1122 when King David the Builder liberated the city from Turkish control.

David the Builder is an intriguing fellow. He was a hawkish warrior, often seeking out battle with the Muslims in Georgia. He successfully ousted the Muslims in a serious of battles like the ones at Didgori, Shirvan and lastly in Dmanisi. Dmanisi was the last stand of the Seljuq Turks in the area. David the Builder made Georgia the overlord of the Caucuses. In spite of his prowess in war he gave birth to a son who would become a poet. Ironies of irony what things hath thou wrought!

The successors of David obviously focused more on their poetry than war because after a few hundred years Dmanisi was conquered by the Turco-Mongol Armies of Timur, whose progeny would go on to found the highly influential Mughal Dynasty. In 1486 the Turkomans would eventually have enough of this little city and razed it to the ground. Dmanisi would never recover and declined to the point of being nothing more than a tiny little village a full hundred and fifty years before Georgie's remains were found.

So there you have it, the extremely concise history of Dmanisi. It was once a stomping ground of Homo erectus, then an bronze age settlement, then an arab outpost, then a medieval Georgian commercial center and then a heap of ashes laid waste by the marauding Turkomans. Not a bad little history for a largely forgotten corner of South central Georgia.

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