REMAINS OF THE DAY: Excavations of Dmanisi's medieval city led to the discovery of the much older fossils. So far paleoanthropologists have thoroughly probed only 100 square meters of the site, which is estimated to span 11,000 square meters. Image: GOURAM TSIBAKHASHVILI
DMANISI, REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA, JULY--From the Republic of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, the village of Dmanisi is just a two-hour drive, yet it seems a world apart from the bustle of the diesel- and dust-choked city. Here in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, donkey-drawn carts outnumber cars and the air is fragrant with hay. The locals farm the rich soil and raise sheep, pigs and goats; children spend summer afternoons racing down a stretch of paved road on homemade scooters. Even the roosters appear to lose track of time, crowing not only at daybreak but in the afternoon and evening as well.
The leisurely pace of modern life belies the region's storied past, however. Centuries ago Dmanisi was a seat of great power, situated at a crossroads of Byzantine and Persian trading routes. Today the region is littered with reminders of that bygone era. Haystacklike mounds resolve into ancient Muslim tombs on closer inspection; medieval burials erode out of a hillside after heavy rains; and looming above it all are the imposing ruins of a citadel built on a promontory that once overlooked the Silk Road.