Sanctuary of Colchis culture found in Abkhazia under the remains of an early Byzantine temple

(ORDO NEWS) — In Abkhazia, during work in the ancient city of Gienos, archaeologists discovered a sanctuary of the Colchian culture under the remains of an early Byzantine temple.

Among the finds were an extremely rare stone idol, more than 30 gold items, as well as figurines depicting ancient and ancient Egyptian deities. This was reported in a press release from the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Since 2002, a joint Russian-Abkhazian archaeological expedition has been working on the territory of Abkhazia, which in 2019 began researching the ancient city of Gienos.

The remains of this ancient fortified settlement, which is mentioned in the work of the navigator and geographer Pseudo-Skilak of Karyanda, were found back in 1935 during the construction of the Ochamchira port.

As a result of these infrastructural works, two of the three hills on which the settlement was located were destroyed. Studies have shown that Gienos arose no later than the beginning – the first half of the 6th century BC, but it was destroyed several times and in the 1st century BC – the 1st century AD it fell into decay.

But in the late antique period there was a new heyday of the city. So, in the second half of the 5th or at the turn of the 5th-6th centuries, a church was built here, which functioned until the middle of the 7th century.

Sanctuary of Colchis culture found in Abkhazia under the remains of an early Byzantine temple 2
Lead sarcophagus found in Gyenos last year

Last year, in the layers associated with the temple of the early Byzantine period, archaeologists made several striking finds. Among them were fragments of two plinths with ornamental painting, a golden thread, and a well-preserved lead sarcophagus.

The latter is an extremely rare find for the entire Northern and Eastern Black Sea region, since the only analogue to it is a copper sarcophagus of the 6th-7th centuries, discovered more than a hundred years ago in one of the Abkhazian villages. Inside the tomb were the remains of an elderly man who may have been a clergyman.

Sanctuary of Colchis culture found in Abkhazia under the remains of an early Byzantine temple 3
The pebbled floor of the shrine and the top of the stone idol

This year, the Russian-Abkhazian expedition led by Alexander Skakov (Alexander Skakov) from the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences continued to explore this object, moving on to more ancient layers.

As a result of this work, under the Byzantine temple, they found the remains of the sanctuary of the Colchian culture, the floor of which was paved with pebbles. On this pavement there were many fragments of ancient ceramics of the 6th-4th centuries BC.

In addition, archaeologists have discovered a dug-in stone idol, which is a hewn stone. Such artifacts have not been found in Abkhazia before, and the only analogy for it is an idol discovered during research on the territory of North Ossetia of the sanctuary of the Koban culture.

Sanctuary of Colchis culture found in Abkhazia under the remains of an early Byzantine temple 4
Figurines of the deity Ptah-Patek

Among other finds were a silver coin, fragments of iron blades and knives, and more than 30 gold items, apparently made by Greek craftsmen. So, at the disposal of scientists were stripes with images of deities, animals with snake tails, a swan and a vulture.

In addition, among the gold items are earrings, beads, threads and a pendant. The cultural layer also contained a bronze figurine depicting an ancient deity, as well as two figurines from “Egyptian faience” depicting the god Ptah-Patek.

In addition to these items, not far from the sanctuary, scientists discovered the remains of wooden dwellings, the oldest of which date back to pre-antique times (8th-7th centuries BC).

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