Historical dispute rages over ancient Black Sea land

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ANACOPIA, Georgia (AFP) - In an ancient land on the lush shores of the Black Sea, archaeology has become a battleground for those who claim this territory as their own.

The history of Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia in a 1992-1993 war, is no fusty academic debate. For the Abkhaz it is about the province's bid to be recognised as an independent state.

"We have to show people, the whole world, that Abkhazia has been a state for a long time," said Vadim Bzhaniya, the head of the separatist province's cultural heritage society.

"This is the task of archaeologists -- to show that Abkhazia is a real country," said Bzhaniya, a jovial historian who was one of the organisers of last year's First Abkhaz International Archaeological Conference.

"Many Georgian archaeologists are working for politics," he said.

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