AZOKH CAVE: EXCAVATIONS FROM 2001-2005
Azokh cave, located in the district of Chadrut, was extensively excavated from the 1960s until the 1980s, and a hominid mandible of Homo heidelbergensis in association with fauna and Acheulian stone tools. This middle Pleistocene mandible, at that time, was the oldest hominid fossil in the Caucasus. More recent discoveries of fossil remains from this region ( the earliest European at Dmanisi, Georgia, and the latest Neanderthal at Mazmaskaya, Russia), indicate that this mountainous region was occupied by several different hominids species during the last two million years. Fossil and archaeological remains from excavations at Azokh cave, re-opened by us in 2002, may bridge the gap between the first African hominids in Europe and the last Neanderthals, and thus provide a more extensive understanding of human occupation of this region during the Pleistocene.
Azokh cave is a large karstic system in the Lesser Caucasus and still retains important information about our relatives in this area referred to human behaviour and hunting strategies (e.g. the killing of bears as they hibernated in the cave). Furthermore, recent discoveries of new entrances to the cave provide new in situ sediments that may supply more complete information on the transition from Homo heidelbergensis to Neanderthals and from Neanderthals to Homo sapiens. Our communication outlines the history of excavations at Azokh cave and the importanse of discoveries spanning the middle Pleistocene to recent times that include evidence of Mousterian, Bronze Age and Middle Age cultures.