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In gorgeous detail, publication depicts ancient hunting and forest customs in Georgia

Old and unique Georgian manuscripts, documents and illustrations depicting the use of forests and the history of hunting in Georgia are presented in a unique album from FAO titled “Hunting and Forest Management Customs in Ancient Georgia.”

“This album is the first attempt of its kind,” said Zaza Abashidze, director of the Korneli Kekelidze National Centre of Manuscripts of Georgia. “More than 10 000 manuscripts and 40 000 historical documents are kept in the National Centre of Manuscripts, and this heritage holds the most important information about the past of the country, in almost all fields. With the help of FAO, we have applied to these sources to revive the history of forest management and hunting customs.”

With 40 percent of its land occupied by forest ecosystems, Georgia houses more than 4 100 varieties of vascular plants, 300 species of birds and 172 species of other animals. To ancient Georgians, the forest bore special meanings. It was a significant source of resources, such as firewood, building materials and food, and it was a shelter during enemy invasions.

However, despite the significant role of forests in the history of Georgia, until now nobody had studied and published the manuscript heritage in forest and hunting history preserved at the Centre.

The historical documents presented in the album are diverse, with the most ancient dated from the fourteenth century and the latest from the nineteenth century. Among the issuers of documents are kings (King Teimuraz II, King Erekle II), Catholics, feudal lords and ordinary citizens. Information in the documents covers such topics as forest use in Georgia, resources obtained from forests, forest ownership or expropriation, preparation for royal hunting, and the ritual for inviting the king to a hunt.

The edition also contains a fragment describing how to take care of a hunting falcon’s nest – the location of the nest, its protection, the procedures for looking after it, as well as details of the person and villages responsible for it.

The study of manuscripts has revealed that Georgians of the past had followed the principles of sustainable forest management long before they were developed on an international level.

Besides the manuscripts, the album presents historic visual materials related to hunting. An illustration from the manuscript “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin,” a Georgian poem written in the twelfth century, depicts a hunting scene with amazing dynamics. An image of the last King of Georgia – King Giorgi XII – shows him chasing a deer, and details from The Vani Gospels ordered and owned by Queen Tamar also are included.

The album has been prepared by FAO in the framework of the ongoing project “Capacity building for sustainable wildlife Management” in Georgia. The publication is intended for both history and forest or hunting specialists, as well as for the broader community.

28 November 2018, Tbilisi, Georgia

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