By George Nikoladze
Lower Paleolithic hunting-gathering encampments formed the first known settlements on the territory of modern-day Abkhazia. The earliest examples have been unearthed at the sites of Iashkhtva, Gumista, Kelasuri, and Ochamchire. Upper Paleolithic culture settled chiefly the coastline. Mesolithic and Neolithic periods brought larger permanent settlements, and marked the beginning of farming, animal husbandry, and the production of ceramics.
The earliest artifacts of megalithic culture appeared in the early 3rd millennium BC and continued into the Bronze Age as the so-called dolmens of Abkhazia, typically consisting of four upright mass stones and a capstone, some of them weighting as much as 50 tones. A dolmen from the Eshera archaeological site is the best studied prehistoric monument of this type. Patriarchal society is believed to have emerged to replace matriarchate and pastoral economy seems to have begun to develop roughly at the same time. The Late Bronze Age saw the development of more advanced bronze implements, and continued into the Iron Age as a part of the Colchian culture (c. 1200-600 BCE), which covered most of what is now western Georgia and part of northeastern Anatolia.