Armazi fortress

Ancient Armazi (Region of  Mtskheta-Mtianeti)

Ancient Armazi a part of historical Greater Mtskheta, it is a place where the ancient city of the same name and the original capital of the early Georgian kingdom of Kartli or Iberia was located. It particularly flourished in the early centuries of the Anno Domini and was destroyed by the Arab invasion in the 730s. The name of the city and its dominant acropolis, Armaz-Tskihke ( “citadel of Armazi”) , is usually taken to derive from Armazi, the chief deity of the pagan Iberian pantheon. The name first appears in the early medieval Georgian annals though it is clearly much older and reflected in the Classical name Armastica or Harmozica of Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy and Dio Cassius. According to a collection of medieval Georgian chronicles, Armaztsikhe was founded, in the 3rd century BC, by the semi-legendary king Pharnavaz I of Iberia at the place hitherto known as Kartli. Minor excavations on the territory of Armazi carried out in 1890 revealed the plinth of adobe town walls, with stone steps, and cleared the two-room structure, where fragments of a woman’s torso of the 1st century AD were discovered.

From 1943 to 1948 large-scale excavation was undertaken and resumed in 1985 and continuing. These have shown that the adobe town walls and towers, built upon a plinth of hewn stone in the first half of the 1st century AD, surrounded the hill top and the side sloping down towards the river, an area of 30 ha. The land within the walls was terraced and various buildings were sited on the terraces. The three major cultural layers have been identified: the earliest dates back to the 4th-3rd century BC (Armazi I), the middle one is from the 3rd-1st century BC (Armazi II), and the relatively newer structure belongs to the 1st-6th century AD (Armazi III). Armazi I is constructed of massive stone blocks forming an impregnable base but were finished off by less durable mud brick. It also contains a great hall of six columns with a tiled roof. Armazi II is noted for a temple with an apse. Armazi III is the richest layer constructed of elegantly cut stone blocks, joined together with lime mortar and metal clamps. Among the surviving structures are the royal palace, several richly decorated tombs, a bathhouse and a small stone mausoleum. The area is now a state-protected field museum administered as a part of the National Archaeology Museum-Reserve of Greater Mtskheta.