Geoarchaeological Investigations of the Lower Paleolithic Orozmani Site and the Greater Mashavera Drainage Basin, Dmanisi, Georgia

Project: FDCRGP

Project Details

Grant Program

Faculty-development competitive research grants program for 2023-2025

Project Description

This project seeks to expand our understanding of the first early human dispersals into Eurasia from Africa by way of excavations at the Lower Paleolithic site of Orozmani, Georgia, and geoarchaeological survey of the surrounding region.

Project Relevance

This research expands excavations, initiates more exploratory test trenches in the immediate vicinity of the Orozmani site, locates the extensions of Early Pleistocene sediments and basalt formations in the drainage basin of the upper Mashavera River, and establishes a firm context for the current archeological research, which includes site stratigraphy, radiometric dating, site formation, paleoenvironmental analysis, and zooarchaeology/taphonomy. The primary research questions at this stage of the project aim to solidify the context of Orozmani within the broader picture of early hominin presence in Eurasia. These questions include: How does the site compare temporally, behaviorally, environmentally, and geomorphologically to Dmanisi and how can Orozmani contribute to our understanding of early hominin range expansion? What were the hominin and carnivore contributions to site formation? Ultimately, fitting Orozmani into the bigger picture of the hominin presence in Eurasia will add to the robusticity of the archaeological record during a very important period of human prehistory.

Project Impact

There are only a handful of stratified Early Pleistocene archaeological sites in Eurasia that predate 1.5 Ma. Orozmani plays a key role in the expansion of our body of knowledge during this important time period in human prehistory. At the very minimum, this project will result in a greater understanding of site formation processes, human technological behavior, and human impacts on the archaeological assemblage at Orozmani and its relationship to the contemporary Dmanisi site. Beyond that, this site has the potential to be as prolific as the Dmanisi site, which could turn into a decades long, internationally renowned, paleoanthropological project that reshapes our understanding of early hominin presence in the Caucasus, and, by extension, Eurasia. With an affiliation to NU, excavations at Orozmani would bring international attention to our university, our anthropology program, and a strong relationship between Georgian and Kazakhstani institutions that could lead to numerous tangential projects rife with student opportunities.
Within the plan of this project are ample opportunities for student involvement in different phases of the research implementation. Socially, the research opportunities for students will create more interest in the early parts of the Paleolithic and train students on how to excavate, collect data, and analyze data in an archaeological context. This can translate into more archaeological work in Kazakhstan, which at present has very few research projects examining the Paleolithic time periods despite the potential for such research. For example, numerous Middle and Upper Paleolithic sites are located less than 100km from the Kazakhstan border in the Russian Altai, including Denisova Cave, which continues to reveal developments related to the coexistence of modern humans, Neanderthals, and a third species of human called Denisovans. With a small contingent of trained students, there will be a more prepared infrastructure for Kazakhstani-led prospections into different regions of Kazakhstan. If such sites are found, this could be a boon to archaeological tourism and international academic interest, which in turn could bring more funding for archaeology in the country. All of this stems from fundamental skill building and fostering interests.
Effective start/end date1/1/2312/31/25


  • Paleoanthropology
  • Paleolithic
  • Orozmani
  • Site Formation
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Dmanisi
  • South Caucasus


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