ცუცხვათის მღვიმოვანი

Tsutskhvati Cave - Magara


Useful Information

Location: Terjola and Tkibuli regions. From Tkibuli follow road to Racha for 6 km. Hike to Tsutskhvati.
(42.271584, 42.852333)
Open: after appointment.
[2021]
Fee: yes.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: VR=300 m, A=320m asl.
Guided tours:  
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: D.M. Tushabramishvili (1978): Arkheologicheskie Pamyatniki Tsutskhvatskogo Mnogoetajnogo Peshernogo Kompleksa (Archaeological Sites of the Tsutskhvati Cave Complex), Tbilisi: Metsniereba (141 p.).
Address: Neanderthals in the South Caucasus, Tsutskhvati Cave, Tel: +995-598-79-17-00.
Tsutskhvati Cave, Tsutskhvati Cave Natural Monument, Tel: +995-577-10-14-17. E-mail:
Imereti Caves Protected Areas Administration, Jumber Leladze, Tel: +995-577-977272. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1970s first archaeological studies by the State Museum of History of Georgia and the Institute of Paleobiology.
2007 declared a Natural Monument.
2016 archaeological excavations.
2017 international excavations project Neanderthals in the South Caucasus.

Description

The vast cave system of the ცუცხვათის მღვიმოვანი (Tsutskhvati Cave) complex has 13 levels and a vertical range of 300 m. The cave is located about half an hour walk from the homonymous village. It is locally called მაღარა (maghara, Mine), which is quite strange, as magarasi is the Turkish word for cave but not the Georgian, which is mghvime. The cave is partly developed, mostly due to the archaeological excavations which needed trails and electric light. As far as we understand there no regular open hours, so either ask at the village for the guide/key or book a guided day trip, which includes the cave visit. The cave is of great speleological and archaeological interest.

The lowest level of the cave is waterfilled and not even accessible to cave divers. The river which springs from this level called Chishura is a tributary of the Shalataghele River. The second level is what most people see of the cave, a huge passage with a big entrance portal. Immediately above the active level, it is reactivated during floods, eg after heavy rains. The passage is 200 m long, between 10 m and 30 m wide, and between 10 m and 28 m high. This part of the cave is frequented by man since prehistoric times, archaeological excavations revealed remains from the Stone Age until the Middle Ages. The presence of Homo sapiens between 80,000-12,000 BP was proven. Neanderthal presence was proven between 400,000-40,000 BP with stone weapons and other findes, including some bones and teeth. Also the bones of forty species of animals have been found. The fifth level is also called the Bronze Cave, because it contained 13 m sediments with Bronze Age remains. The eleventh level is called the upper cave and contained primitive cult objects like specially arranged bones and teeth of sacrificed animals. Outstanding are the specially arranged cave bear skulls. The seventh, eighth, and ninth level were fortified in the პატრონყმობა (patronqmoba, Georgian feudalism era) which lasted from the 8th to teh 14th century. The stone walls, staircases, and pitchers are well preserved.

The cave, although known since prehistoric times, was first excavated in the 1970s. There were also excavations in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s. But most interesting results were made in an international excavations project called Neanderthals in the South Caucasus. The international team includes archaeologists from Georgia, France and the United States, as well as about 50 local students. They excavate the cave since 2017 with support of the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation.

The cave is also famous for its cave life. Bats frequent the open levels of the cave, especially the Medieval levels. True troglobionts are the Laemostenus, Mesogastrura, Pygmarrhopalites, Heteromurus, Plutomurus and Amerobelba found in the cave. Insects, mostly springtails, are common in any cave though.