Kartli (Georgisch: ქართლი) is de grootste en meest bevolkte historische regio van Oost-Georgië. Het omvat de Georgische hoofdstad Tbilisi en twee andere grote steden, Gori en Roestavi. Het grenst aan de bergketens van Grote Kaukasus in het noorden, in het oosten aan Kacheti, Azerbeidzjan en Armenië in het zuiden, Samtsche-Dzjavacheti in het zuid-westen en de regio (mchare) Imereti in het westen. Het is een historische regio (mchare) die nu onderverdeeld is in Tbilisi als de nationale hoofdstad en de drie administratieve regio's Sjida Kartli (als hoofdstad Gori), Kvemo Kartli (als hoofdstad Roestavi) en Mtscheta-Mtianeti (als hoofdstad Mtscheta).
The landscape of Lower Kartli consists largely of steppes and forested steppes. The lowlands in the region are characteristic of semi-deserts. Some of the biggest rivers of the region include the Mtkvari, Khrami and Algeti. There are a number of volcanic lakes in Lower Kartli. Kumisi Lake is an interesting area due to the fact that its mud is used for curative purposes in Georgian spas and resorts.
Algeti National Park in the Trialeti region is especially interesting, offering a large diversity of flora and fauna. It is often referred to as Floral Junction, since it supports such an array of flora, including plants native to Colchis, Persia, Iberia, Iran, the Middle East, and the Caucasus area.
The animals in Lower Kartli include rabbits, hedgehogs, step mice and moles (in the lowlands), as well as wild pigs, jackals, wolves, marten, bears, badgers, deer, foxes, and wildcats. There are also great numbers of turtles and cliff lizards.
Lower Kartli was settled by eastern Georgian tribes during the pre-Hellenic time. During the 15th century Turkish tribes started settling into Georgia. In the same period, several areas of fiefdoms* were also created in Lower Kartli. This region was one of the first parts of Georgia to convert to Christianity, which explains the large number of churches and monastery complexes on its territory. Georgian kings also kept summer residences in Lower Kartli.
Nowadays Lower Kartli is populated by many peoples: Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, some Greeks, Russians, and Ossetians. The Georgian population, with historic roots in Lower Kartli, tends to live in the lowland villages of the region. More recently settled groups live mostly in the mountainous area and come from various parts of Georgia. The population of Lower Kartli is well known for its tradition of handcrafts, especially metalwork.
*fiefdom-ruled over by a feudal lord or nobleman
Lower Kartli is especially interesting in terms of its archeology. Significant archeological excavations have taken place in this region, especially in Dmanisi. The Dmanisi settlement dates back to the medieval ages but was internationally unknown until ancient human remains were discovered there a few years ago, capturing the world’s attention.
Specialists believe that the human bone fragments found in Dmanisi belonged to a people which lived here 1.7 million years ago. Previously, scientists believed that the first prehistoric human beings lived in central Africa, and from there they settled in Eurasia about 600,000-1,000,000 years ago.
Discoveries from Dmanisi forced them to reconsider some existing theories. Now it is thought that the human remains discovered in Dmanisi may be from the oldest known human being in Europe and Asia. The discovery at Dmanisi is of a global importance and is widely considered a major archeological discovery of the 20th century.
The skulls found in Dmanisi are currently kept in the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia.