The Journal  of  Human Sciences

2001, Vollume 1, Issue 1 pp. 50-55

Zaza Skhirtladze, Zurab Tvalchrelidze

Rock-cut Martyrium in Tsamebuli


      The small martyrium excavated and surveyed in 1997-1999 by the Gareja Archaeological Expedition of  the State Museum of Georgia and the Gareja Studies Centre in Tsamebuli rock-cut monastery seems most likely have been created in the early stage of the history of the complex (sixth-seventh centuries). One of the two tombs unearthed here  is  a collective grave, while the other is for the burial of one monk. A treatise by Gabriel Mtsire (1802), a monk active in the Natlismtsemeli monastery neighbouring Tsamebuli, gives evidence on the martyrium preserved among the local brethren, as well as its cleaning by the Gareja monks in the second half of the eighteenth century. Comparison of the literary sources with the material revealed in the course of the excavations shows that the rock-cut martyrium was again used at the turn of the sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries (for the burial of  monks slaughtered during the invasion of Shah Abas II)  and in the late seventeenth - early eighteenth centuries (as a burial for an ascetic monk settled in the long abandoned complex).
The architecture of the martyrium, as well as the arrangement of the tombs reflect the tradition established in the Christian East during the Early Middle Ages. In Georgia this tradition is also discernible.