The ancient cave city may be as old as 3,000 years, and it long served as a major religious center of pre-Christian Georgia. Uplistsikhe, literally ‘Fortress of God’, then continued to thrive for nearly a millennium after the country’s conversion, ultimately meeting its demise at the hands of the Mongols in the 13th century. Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artifacts dating from the late Bronze Age all the way up to the late Middle Ages.
The place was founded in the late Bronze Age, around 1000 BC, and continued to be inhabited until the 13th century AD
Uplistsikhe was a cult temple city, a large pagan center prior to Christianity’s introduction in Georgia
Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a sun goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity. When Christianity arrived in Georgia, the city lost importance in favor of the new centers of Christian culture, most notably Mtskheta and Tbilisi. Nevertheless, life continued in Uplistsikhe, Christian structures have been built, and for a short time, Christianity and the old faith coexisted in the city.
Uplistsikhe is remarkable for the unique combination of styles from rock-cut cultures of the region, most notably from Cappadocia (in modern Turkey) and Northern Iran. The Uplistsikhe complex can tentatively be divided into three parts: south (lower), middle (central), and north (upper) covering an area of approximately 8 hectares. The middle part is the largest, contains a bulk of the Uplistsikhe rock-cut structures, and is connected to the southern part via a narrow rock-cut pass and a tunnel. Narrow alleys and sometimes staircases radiate from the central “street” to the different structures. The southern part has a complex of structures. Among them, a ceremonial hall is the most notable.
In the 19th century, Uplistsikhe was lost under layers of dirt and sand. Huge efforts of many experts in the excavation, cleaning, strengthening, restoration, and studying of this outstanding historical monument in the history of Georgian culture revived Uplistsikhe which is listed among the historical monuments protected by UNESCO.