Pomade jars, horseshoes and stove tiles: discoveries made during research on Moskvoretskaya Embankment

December 21, 2019

Over 900 artefacts dating back to different centuries have been discovered by archaeologists during excavations on the grounds of the former Orphanage on Moskvoretskaya Embankment. The complex of buildings of the 18th–20th centuries located at 9 Kitaigorodsky Proyezd is now being prepared for restoration. Recently, specialists have launched research and surveys including archaeological excavations.

There are ancient drainage and intake wells, as well as gutters partially extant on the Orphanage's grounds. They have been identified by fragments of fencing log frames and plank sides. Archaeologists have discovered numerous artefacts in wells and ditches, hundreds of household items that belonged to Muscovites in different centuries. These are copper cross pendants and signet rings, coins, smoking pipes, buttons, belt buckles, horse harness parts, glass beads, iron knives, as well as nails, lead bullets and other artefacts. The most ancient of them belong to the 12th century, with the newest ones dating back to the 20th century. The exact dating of all finds is currently being established.

However, there were artefacts whose age was easier to determine. These are fragments of pottery with brands visible, almost completely extant polished red clay pots, white clay jugs and an iron arrowhead. Archaeologists date these finds back to the 16th–17th centuries. Items of a later period, 18th–19th centuries, have also been found in the wells, namely horseshoes, stove tiles and pomade jars for beauty products and medical ointments.

'This set of archaeological finds diverse in dating and composition is not accidental, as in ancient times, there was Vasilyevsky Meadow here. It used to be flooded now and then, so over time, there were many structures built on the meadow to drain water. Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Vasilyevsky Meadow served as a grazing site for the Grand Prince's herds, and hosted gatherings of horse squads before military campaigns. There was a road connecting Moscow with Vladimir, Suzdal and Ryazan running along the meadow. Now it is Solyanka Street. In the 16th century, Vasilyevsky Palace orchard was laid on the meadow. In the second half of the 18th century, during the reign of Catherine the Great, the Imperial Orphanage was built here, a closed educational institution for orphans, foundlings and street children,' told Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov.

He also noted that there were not only household utensils found, but also the remains of domestic animals, dogs, goats and a horse, too. Archaeologists suggest that it could be a horse belonging to one of the Grand Prince's herds that used to graze here eight to nine centuries ago. Archaeological excavations are still underway. All the findings are being carefully examined and registered. Over time, they will replenish the holdings of Moscow museums.

The architectural ensemble of the Orphanage (9 Kitaigorodsky Proyezd, buildings 12, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31) is listed as a cultural heritage site of federal significance. It will be restored over time. Meanwhile, scientific studies of historical buildings and the surrounding area are underway to become a basis of the restoration project.

The Imperial Orphanage was founded by Catherine the Great on 1 September 1763. It was the Empress's Secretary Ivan Betskoy (1704–1795) who proposed to open a charitable educational institution for orphans and street children. The building had been under construction for nine years. The architectural design of the ensemble was developed in St. Petersburg by architect Karl Blank (1728–1793). The complex of buildings is a piece of St. Petersburg classicism style standing out by its austerity, symmetry and simple decor. The front facade of the main building overlooks Moskvoretskaya Embankment. There is a belvedere on the rooftop, a tower built to enjoy the view of picturesque surroundings, with a spire on top. Throughout the Orphanage’s existence, the greatest architects of their time, including  Giovanni and Domenico Gilardi (father and son), Afanasy Grigoryev, Konstantin Bykovsky, Pavel Samarin and others, managed its restructuring and renovation.

Boys learned reading and writing, mathematics, history and foreign languages here. Also, they engaged in crafts, shoe, dyeing, glove and textile business. Girls were taught housekeeping, needlework, sewing and lace weaving.  These children had privileges: they were free people, that meant that no one could turn them into serfs.

In Soviet times, the complex was occupied by Dzerzhinsky Artillery Academy of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (today the Peter the Great Military Academy of Strategic Missile Troops). It was housed here until 2013.

Archaeologists often find household items of citizens of past centuries in Moscow. This autumn, similar artefacts were discovered during excavations near Sretenka Street, with fragments of smoking pipes, coins and ceramic candlestick parts among them.

Source: mos.ru

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