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Excavating a memory: the British in Georgia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 November 2012

Paul Everill
Affiliation:
University of Winchester, UKPaul.Everill@winchester.ac.uk
Corresponding

Abstract

This paper describes the discovery of a sherd of mid 19th century British pottery during excavations at the site of Nokalakevi, in Samegrelo, western Georgia in 2002. The transfer-printed design on the sherd, though only partially surviving, was clearly identified as representing Horse Guards Parade, London. Standard archaeological practice might have seen the sherd, a modern artefact retrieved from the topsoil, discarded, as having no archaeological significance. However its true significance was to lie in its instigation of a period of research, discussion and reflection on the recent history of Anglo-Georgian relations. Unbeknown to the British archaeologists, from 1918 to 1920 British troops were garrisoned across the southern Caucasus in an attempt to support the Whites against Red and Nationalist armies. It is a peacekeeping action that is remembered negatively in modern Georgia and almost forgotten in Britain. This paper provides an historical outline of those events and urges a reconsideration of the value of archaeological finds, to recognise that their real significance might transcend capital and perhaps sometimes even archaeology. In cases such as this, the decision not to discard an apparently insignificant artefact can provide access to forgotten pasts, and force us to think critically about our own recent history.

Özet

Bu makalede, 2002 yılında, batı Gürcistan'daki Samegrelo'da yer alan Nokalakevi yerleşim yerindeki kazılarda bulunmuş olan ve 19. yüzyıl ortalarına tarihlenen bir İngiliz seramik parçasının keşfi anlatılmaktadır. Parça üzerindeki desen, sadece kısmen görülebilir olsa da, çok belirgin bir biçimde Londra'daki ‘Horse Guards Parade' yapısını betimlemektedir. Standart arkeolojik uygulamalar bu parçayı yüzey toprağından alınmış ve hiçbir arkeolojik önemi olmayan modern bir eser olarak görüp bir kenara atabilirdi. Ancak bu parça Anglo-Gürcü ilişkilerinin yakın tarihinin araştırılması ve tartışılması sürecinde çok önemlidir. İngiliz arkeologlar için meçhul olan 1918'den 1920'ye kadar İngiliz birliklerinin Kızıl ve Milliyetçi ordulara karşı Beyazları desteklemek amacıyla güney Kafkasya'da garnizon kurmuş olmalarıdır. Bu durum, modern Gürcistan'da olumsuz olarak hatırlanan ve İngiltere'de de neredeyse unutulmuş olan bir barış koruma eylemiydi. Bu makalede, bu olayların tarihsel ana hatları sunulmakta ve arkeolojik buluntuların gerçek öneminin bazen arkeolojik kazançları bile aşabildiğini anlatmak ve arkeolojik buluntuların değerlerinin yeniden gözden geçirilmesi gerekliliği üzerinde durulmaktadır. Bunun gibi durumlarda, önemsiz gibi görünen bir buluntunun atılmaması kararı, unutulmuş geçmişe erişim sağlayabilir ve bizi kendi yakın tarihimiz konusunda eleştirel düşünmeye zorlayabilir.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The British Institute at Ankara 2012

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