Prof. Dr. Andreas Fürtwängler


Gundula Mehnert, M.A. (née Tauschner)

Project Group A: Frontiers and Transitions, Project A2

Equestrian Nomads in Transcaucasia


In the course of ongoing German-Georgian excavations of settlements since the 1990s in Cachetia in the eastern part of Georgia attention was focused also on nomadic horsemen in the southern Caucasus region.
During these excavations traces of sacking and destruction of early iron age settlements by invaders from the steppes were found. This gave the opportunity to investigate for the first time the causes for the desertion of settlements during the early Iron Age.
The analysis of pollen indicates a cooler and more humid climate in Shiraki for the 8th and 7th century BC than for subsequent times when steppes started to spread. During this time settlements were often abandoned or used only temporarily but never renewed.
At the same time the amount of nomadic raids on rural settlements seems to have increased which probably led to an increase of stock-farming and extensive pasturage.

Cimmerians and Scyths are the first nomadic horsemen mentioned in the historical tradition of ancient oriental and classical sources.

Often information in Assyrian sources of the late 8th century BC is mingled with classical texts, but from these sometimes diverging traditions a unified course of events of Scythian and Cimmerian raids has been constructed. There is still no consensus about the interpretation of these sources However, in judging the archaeological material from the southern Caucasus region the literary sources were of great importance, even though their interpretation sometimes resulted in vicious circles.

The connection of particular monuments with historical facts often turned out to be a fallacy. Finds from grave sites along Georgian pass roads were interpreted as traces of the warriors of the steppe. The explanation given for the supposed concentration of nomadic material seemed to be convincing: It was seen as the traces of nomadic horsemen on their way to the Middle East. But there still is no archaeological evidence for these theories. Because of this, this study puts together for the first time single finds from the Transcaucasian and neighbouring regions connected with early nomadic horsemen discusses them critically. An analysis of the archaeological material will answer questions regarding the following topics:

  • Hints to routes and proofs of the presence of nomadic horsemen in the southern Caucasus region,
  • Results of exchange between residents and nomadic horsemen,
  • An assimilation of nomadic culture by residents.

In a first step rather unknown journal articles and excavation reports in Georgian, Armenian and Azeri-Turkish languages were collected and analysed through extensive bibliographical research.
This overview of the current research and publications will form the base of further studies. So far the following types of archaeological material are to be distinguished:

  • Settlements and fortifications destroyed by nomadic horsemen,
  • Tombs with typical signs of early Scythian burials,
  • Tombs of indigenous people with influences by nomadic horsemen.



Prof. Dr. Andreas Fürtwängler

Zum Prägeanlaß der frühen kolchischen Silberprägung. In: Autour de la mer Noire. Hommage à Otar Lordkipanidzé. Paris 2002, 71–81.

Iberien und seine Nachbarn in achaimenidischer und nachachaimenidischer Zeit: Ein Rückblick. In: Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan 32 (2000 [2001]), 275–279.

mit anderen: Archäologische Expedition in Kachetien 1997. Ausgrabungen in Siraki. In: Eurasia Antiqua 4 (1998), 309–364.

mit anderen: Archäologische Expedition in Kachetien 1996. Ausgrabungen in den Siedlungen Gumbati und Ciskaraant-Gora. In: Eurasia Antiqua 3 (1997), 353–387.

L'Héraion de Samos. Quelques aspects de l'évolution du sanctuaire du Ve siècle à l'époque hellénistique. Essai d'interprétation. Neapel 1997, 141–149.

withF. Knauss: Gumbati. Archäologische Expedition in Kachetien 1995. In: Eurasia Antiqua 2 (1996), 363–380.

Gumbati. Archäologische Expedition in Kachetien 1994. 1. Vorbericht. In: Eurasia Antiqua 1 (1995), 177–210.

Gundula Mehnert, M.A.
(née Tauschner)

Reiternomadismus – Eine Übergangsform nomnadischer Lebensweise? In: Materialien des SFB "Differenz und Integration" 1 (2002), 1–12.

Der Dornauszieher – ein paganes Idol im Mittelalter? In: Hallesche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte 2 (2000), 55–80.