Every now and again, the realisation hits of all the misspent years not paying attention in geography class. Find yourself asking where in the world is The Caucasus? Apologies to all geography teachers out there but we’re listening now.
The Caucasus is a mountain range and regional area between the Black and Caspian Seas and is occupied by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Put simply, it’s a region at the border of Europe and Asia. Ringing any bells yet?
The most recognised use of the term perhaps relates to anthropology, and the term Caucasian. In 1775 German, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, published the first draft of his thesis dividing the world into five types – Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, American Indian and Caucasian. The differences were predominantly craniology-related as Johann had a skull fetish. Caucasians meant Europeans and the inhabitants of a region stretching from the Obi River in Russia, to the Ganges, to the Caspian Sea, plus northern Africans.
The Caucasus mountain range is probably the most variegated ethnological and linguistic area in the world – Richard Nelson Frye
Dmanisi is an archaeological site in Georgia where 1.8 million year old human bones have been found which show anatomical similarities to Homo erectus. Similar remains have been located in eastern Africa, but Dmanisi, about 85km southwest of Tbilisi, puts The Caucasus on the map as one of the most ancient human habitation sites anywhere in Eurasia.
Love a tipple
Legend has it that Noah, of Ark fame, came to rest on Mount Ararat, across the border from Armenia. He journeyed down the mountain to plant a vineyard from which he ‘became drunken’. The region is thus claimed as the first to domesticate the vine with Georgia and Armenia owning winemaking equipment some 8000 years old.
Mud volcanoes and petroglyphs
Otherworldly, mystical and completely undeveloped, the Gobustan desert will have you thinking you’ve stepped on Mars. The UNESCO World Heritage Site features all the good stuff including ancient rock art engravings, tonnes of mud and therefore opportunities to get dirty.
Let there be fire!
The first known fireplace was discovered in Azikh Cave, the largest cave in Azerbaijan some 700000 to 500000 years ago. Yanar Dag, or the Fire Mountain, in Baku Azerbaijan, is a natural spectacle where the hillside continuously burns due to a pocket of natural gas that erupts into flames. Spectacular night photography, get your cameras ready!
TripADeal travels to The Caucasus here.
Image: Mud Volcanoes, Gobustan National Park