Ancient Script Spurs Rethinking of Historic ‘Backwater’
At a temple site in the Republic of Georgia, letters carved in stone could change the way we see the development of writing.
GRAKLIANI, GeorgiaSophia Paatashvili, a third-year graduate student in archaeology at Ivane Javakashvili Tbilisi State University, was excavating an ancient temple at an Iron Age site called Grakliani last month when she noticed something strange: a series of marks carved into a stone slab just below the temple’s collapsed altar.
Unlike inscriptions found in other temples at Grakliani, these didn’t show animals or people, nor were they random decorative elements.
Instead, says Vakhtang Licheli, who heads the university’s archaeology institute and has led excavations at Grakliani during the past eight years, they may be the oldest example of a native alphabet in the Caucasus—fully a thousand years older than any indigenous writing previously found in the region.
“This discovery is not just important