One of some fifty dolmens still remaining in the Sochi area of Russia
Image credit Lori, Legion Media
With the 2014 Winter Olympics beginning next month in Sochi, a city situated on the Black Sea coast of Russia, our readers might be interested in another reason to visit the area. Even without its fifth century bce connections to ancient Greece, Sochi holds a special place in Russian history, and it would be good to know that it is recognised, understood and promoted during the 2014 Olympic Games. Perhaps, too, some of the revenue from the Games could be allocated towards protecting and preserving these wonderful ancient monuments from Russia’s prehistory.
Sochi, according to Wikipedia, was –
…populated during the Lower Paleolithic more than 100,000 years ago by early humans migrating from Asia Minor through Colchis. They first formed open-type settlements, but during the Middle Paleolithic (100,000–35,000 years ago) moved to caves due to the global cooling. One evidence of that is known as a 40,000–50,000 old site in the Akhshtyrskaya Cave, 15 km from Adlersky City District. The cave is protected by the UNESCO and contains human remains, early tools and bones of bears, deer and other animals indicating the hunting nature of the inhabitants. In the Upper Paleolithic (35,000–10,000 years ago) they have developed techniques of producing elaborated stone tools.
The Ancient Greeks sailed to the Sochi area in the fifth–sixth centuries BC and kept visiting it till about first century BC. They encountered the Aehi, Zygii and other people who were apparently keen for the luxury goods brought by Greeks and exchanged them for slaves. Slaves were a major commodity of the time, and thus the Caucasian coast became a slave trade center. An ethnic group of a few thousands of Greeks still lives around Krasnaya Polyana. Between 2,000 and 1,800 BC, the coastal area around Sochi had one cultural entity. During this period, numerous stone monuments (dolmens) were built around Sochi, and at least fifty remain to the present day. It is still unclear how these tombs weighing tens of tons were built with such an accuracy (some stones match each other within millimetres), and what exactly their purpose was. Numerous bronze tools and trade objects, dated to 800–700 BC, were found near Sochi indicating active exchange with the nearby areas.