Situated on the eastern shore of the Black Sea and nestled in the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia has always been the crossroads of the ancient world. Greeks, Iranians, and local nations interacted to create a rich culture. One of these traits is the Georgian alphabet, which was influenced by Greek and Iranian scripts but shaped into something uniquely Georgian.
The most ancient Georgian inscriptions date back to at least 4th-5th centuries, but the evidences prove that the written Georgian alphabet (considered derivation from the Ancient Greek and Aramaic alphabets) existed long time before. Georgian historical sources date the invention of the alphabet back to the pre-Christian period. The invention of the Georgian alphabet is connected with the name of king Parnavaz (3rd century B.C.), the descendant of Kartlos, the great ancestor of Georgian or Kartvelian nation, after whom the name of the countrySakartvelo (Georgia) derives.
The modern Georgian alphabet, called "Mkhedruli" (mkhedari -- knight), has been in use since the 11th century A.D. It derives from the "Nuskha-Khutsuri" (nuskha -- cursive hand, khutsesi -- priest, monk), the ecclesiastic script, which itself comes from the "Asomtavruli" (capital script found in the monasteries of the 4th-5th centuries).Georgian alphabet is one of the 14 existing alphabets in the world. It consists of 33 letters: 5 Vowels and 28 Consonants. There are no upper or lower case letters. Some consonants distinguish the voiced, voiceless aspirated and glottalized stops.
Ancient Georgian script - Asomtavruli or Mrgvlovani is one of the archaic writings in the world. The letters of this alphabet are characterized with geometric straightforwardness and symmetry. Letters from the inscription of Bolnisis Sioni are equal in height and located in between two parallel lines.
Nuskhuri is the four linear writing. Nuskhuri letters vary in height, with ascenders and descenders, and are slanted to the right. Letters have an angular shape, with a noticeable tendency to simplify the shapes they had in Asomtavruli. This enabled faster writing of manuscripts.
At first Mkhedruli was used only for secular writing, while for religious writings a mixture of the two older alphabets was used. EventuallyNuskhuribecame the main alphabet for religious texts andAsomtavruliwas used only for titles and for the first letters of sentences. This system of mixing the two alphabets was known askhucesi(priest) writing. Eventually the two older alphabets fell out of use andMkhedrulibecame the sole alphabet used to write Georgian.
The first printed material in the Georgian language, a Georgian-Italian dictionary, was published in 1629 in Rome. Since then the alphabet has changed very little, though a few letters were added by Anton I in the 18th century, and 5 letters were dropped in the 1860s when Ilia Chavchavadze introduced a number of reforms.
Georgian scripts hold the national status of cultural heritagein Georgia, and are currently nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO's list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.