Wine, Worship and Sacrifice: The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani
December 1, 2007–February 24, 2008 - Arthur M. Sackler Gallery - Smithsonian Institute New York
According to the Greek mythology, Colchis (Georgian: Kolkheti; Greek: Kolxis, kolґkIs) was a fabulously wealthy land situated on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, King Aeetes hung the Golden Fleece until it was seized by Jason and the Argonauts. Colchis was also the land where the mythological Prometheus was punished by being chained to a mountain while an eagle ate at his liver for revealing to humanity the secret of fire.
Less well known, however, is the archaeology of Colchis, with its intermingling of Greek, Persian, and local styles and traditions.
This unprecdented exhibition presents spectacular gold, silver, and ceramic vessels, jewelry, Greek bronze sculpture, Greek and Colchian coins, and Greek glassware. Together these artifacts form a rich and informative archaeological view of the ancient Asian country south of the Caucasus and its administrative center, in Western Georgia, Vani.
The exhibition features the contents of a grave found in Vani in 2004 containing elaborate Colchian gold hair-ornaments and appliqués for clothing; a Persian silver bucket, ladle, and libation bowls; Greek wine amphoras and red-figure pottery; and a Greek bronze torso. Additional highlights include Greek silver drinking cups of a kind that do did not survive in Greece itself (although they are well documented in the ancient sources); a magnificent Colchian gold necklace with thirty-one pendant tortoises, each decorated with tiny granulation; and a gold pectoral inlaid with carnelian and turquoise figures influenced by Egyptian, Greek, and Achaemenid jewellery.
In August 2007, the Georgian National Museum’s Otar Lordkipanidze Archeological Research Center discovered an exceptional treasure-trove of sacramental bronze objects, oil lamps, and statues dating from the Hellenistic period (2nd – 1st cc BC) at the archeological site of the ancient town of Vani. The objects are of exceptionally high artistic quality and are patterned with beautifully rendered mythological characters and animals. Experts believe this cache presents concrete evidence corroborating Vani’s existence as a templar city at the highest level of Colchian civilization and also prroves the Kingdom of Colchis’s strong ties with the rest of the world.
On September 1, 2007, US Ambassador to Georgia John F.Tefft, Mariella Tefft and PAO Cynthia Whittlesey were lucky enough to visit the Vani archeological site to see a recently unearthed sanctuary containing a number of unique sacramental objects. see pics.