Excavating the archaeological site is a multidisciplinary research effort, and is being conducted by an international team of scientists, each of which brings a different specialty to the project.
The main subjects of study at the site are: ARCHAEOLOGY, GEOLOGY, PALEONTOLOGY, PALEOANTHROPOLOGY, TAPHONOMY and PALYNOLOGY.
The main goal of field archaeology is to unearth cultural and biological remains, to determine their context and associations, and preserve them for later analysis. Each of these steps provides a source of information. Field archaeologists first search for sites by making surface surveys. Newly discovered localities are initially investigated by excavating test pits, which reveal information about the depth, contents and condition of the stratigraphy and buried materials. The results of testing are used to determine the significance of the site and help define a strategy for later excavations.
During excavations, all the objects such as artifacts, ecofacts, biological materials (like bones, plant remains, shells and coprolites) and features (activity areas) are carefully recorded, determining their horizontal and vertical locations, and association, or relationship, with nearby objects and features for later analysis. All of this information helps to reconstruct the different phases of activities that took place at the site of Dmanisi.
An important component of the fieldwork is the field laboratory. There, other members of the team clean, label and initially classify all of the recovered materials. They also create a computer data base of the finds and prepare the materials for transport to the museum where detailed analyses will be conducted after the field season.
ARCHAEOLOGY studies human culture through documenting and analyzing the material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, ecofacts and landscapes.
GEOLOGY is critical for understanding site formation, studies the earth’s rocks and sediments, their composition, structure, and reconstructs the sequences of processes such as erosion, volcanic action and mountain-building, that formed them.
PALEONTOLOGY studies the fossil remains of animals. By comparing the fossil sequence with that of other sites paleontologists can infer the relative age of the fossils as well as provide important information about past environments.
PALEOANTHROPOLOGY studies the biological variations and evolution of humans and their environmental adaptations by examining human fossils, as well as genetics.
TAPHONOMY studies the deposition, decay and preservation of organic remains at the site. In addition, taphonomists study the evidence of human activities, such as cut marks and breakage of bones which reveal buttery patterns.
PALYNOLOGY studies fossil plant pollen which is recovered from sediments in the site. The pollen grains indicate which trees, shrubs and grasses grew in the area – shedding light on early man’s habitat and diet.
Excavation photograph by Guram Tsibakhashvili