Inside Georgia’s Neolithic cave city

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

If you have never visited the mystical remains of Vardzia, a deep cave network around the Cascade Gorge in Vereba, Georgia , you have a lot to discover — and the journey will test your patience like no other; it is quite literally a walk in the park.

Once a giant cave kingdom: On a guided tour inside Georgia’s Neolithic cave city. Credit: Jamie-Lee Pereira, courtesy of Modernise Films Ltd.

This is the key takeaway from the archaeological journey behind Georgia’s Neolithic cave city , an awe-inspiring structure carved by over 1,000 years of creative preservation that depicts thousands of prehistoric dwellings scattered throughout.

But as much as the true power of this archaeological site is in the location, the memories that remain are also powerful.

Shedding light on the ancient city’s starkly different architecture

“The places that we talked about in terms of houses were definitely homes,” said Alexandr Shordzhikov, an editor-in-chief at the Georgia National Register of Historic Places.

“They were caves and they were very small. And on top of that they had this strange design with some stone hallways — big upper world and small lower world.”

The stone walls have their own fashions and moods. To the lower world, which relates to life and trees, both have big columns and entrances (a red entrance in the upper world is likely for God or a war between men, while the gold doors of the first world are there to honor certain prominent people in Neolithic society). The lower world is a bit more like an adventure playground, with narrow or long-distance walking pathways, while the upper world comes with comfy spaces for relaxation.

As Shordzhikov explained, this stratagem of management was devised by the inhabitants to give individuals more leeway in their own roles. For example, one of the housekeepers would actually wander around the next sections to where she found a poem or a poem reference or a reference to a war — so her position as a gossip was especially important.

This is where the connection to the natural world comes in. All this preservation and careful attention to detail allude to a time when living the most primal form of life — foraging and hunting animals for food — was considered somehow more primal, Shordzhikov explained.

“We come from the age of travel, we come from the age of [the technology] developed in the Neolithic, the economy, the modern medicine of the European civilization. These were quite separate [from each other],” he said.

“In this cave, it is not the other way around, it is completely opposite. In the cave world, every living thing is together and free of trouble.”

Photo-realistic original content: Jamie-Lee Pereira, courtesy of Modernise Films Ltd.

There are still surprises out there: The site has new archaeological discoveries on almost a daily basis, Shordzhikov told CNN.

“We have some 3D models that are a recent discovery. They’re supposed to be finished now. But there are some maps, some details that only in them can we see what’s happening.”

Many visitors arrive after extensive investigations that have taken hours and months and they leave with a sense of wonder.

But Shordzhikov is adamant that visitors should have a realistic understanding of the unpredictable and challenging process behind the creation of the site.

“Every part of it is a mystery and it is impossible to reconstruct without knowing the behavior of the people. I don’t want you to see the excavation in a simple and straightforward way because the opportunity of experiencing it would be dead.”

Although completing the complex investigation takes the attention of thousands of people, the more memorable aspect of the whole project is bringing the cave back to life, Shordzhikov says.

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