Uplistsikhe (literally, "the lord's fortress") is an ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori.
Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture.
Uplistsikhe is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Strategically located in the heartland of ancient kingdom of Kartli (or Iberia as it was known to the Classical authors), it emerged as a major political and religious center of the country.
With the Christianization of Kartli early in the 4th century, Uplistsikhe seems to have declined in its importance and lost its position to the new centers of Christian culture – Mtskheta and, later Tbilisi. However, Uplistsikhe reemerged as a principal Georgian stronghold during the Muslim conquest of Tbilisi in the 8th and 9th century. The Mongol raids in the 14th century marked the ultimate eclipse of the town; it was virtually abandoned, and only occasionally used as a temporary shelter in times of foreign intrusions.
The legend says that the cave town was mainly built by slaves. Each slave was given an axe to cut the stone and a promise that if the axe would wear off they would be granted freedom.
The Uplistsikhe complex can tentatively be divided into three parts: south (lower), middle (central) and north (upper) covering an area of approximately 8 hectares. The middle part is the largest, contains a bulk of the Uplistsikhe rock-cut structures, and is connected to the southern part via a narrow rock-cut pass and a tunnel. Narrow alleys and sometimes staircases radiate from the central "street" to the different structures.
The majority of the caves are devoid of any decorations, although some of the larger structures have coffered tunnel-vaulted ceilings, with the stone carved in imitation of logs. Some of the larger structures also have niches in the back or sides, which may have been used for ceremonial purposes.
At the summit of the complex is a Christian basilica built of stone and brick in the 9th-10th centuries. Archaeological excavations have discovered numerous artifacts of different periods, including gold, silver and bronze jewelry, and samples of ceramics and sculptures. Many of these artifacts are in the safekeeping of the National Museum in Tbilisi.
Several parts of the most vulnerable areas were completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1920. The Uplistsikhe cave complex has been on the tentative list for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage program since 2007.
The most interesting artefacts, among others, in Uplistsikhe are:
Antique Theatron, on the south-western edge of the complex, dated 2-3 cc ad. The ceiling is well decorated. Central part is the stage and the side which is ruined now was for the viewers.
The jail, situated on the left side of the main road, narrow deep hole in the road. Idea was that all bypasses of the main road could see and shame the prisoner
King Tamar’s Hall (it was named after Tamar, although she has never lived there) - the hall was designed for rituals and celebrations.
Apotheke, here traces of different healing plants have been found. Also here you can see a stone with seashells inside which prove that the whole area of Caucasus was covered with ocean approximately 25 million years ago.
Secret Tunnel, which goes down to the Mtkvari bank, 41 meters long, was used to provide the settlement with water and food during the siege.
Working hours: Everyday, except Monday, 10:00-17:00
Entrance fees: Adults - 3 GEL; Students - 1 GEL; Children under 6 - free.
Location: village Kvakhvreli, Gori
Phone: (+995 590) 880 114
www.heritagesites.geHOW TO GO
There is a day trip organized by UPLISTSIKHE LINE
(starting form June 1st, 2019):
Our minibuses will now take you directly from Tbilisi center to Jvari Monastery, Uplistsikhe Cave Town and Mtskheta.
Seven days a week at 10:15 am we meet in Pushkin Park (Liberty Square).
You don't need to book, we take everybody :)
Fare for a day-trip is only 29.99 gel per person!Contact info:
Meeting Point: Pushkin Park,Tbilisi, Georgia