Record breaking number of artifacts: summing up Moscow archaeological season

December 22, 2021

Moscow completed the 2021 archaeological season. It became record breaking in terms of the number of artifacts found and processed. This is the information from Head of the Moscow's Department of Cultural Heritage Alexey Yemelyanov.

"275 thousand items were found, with 15 thousand of them being individual finds. This is explained by the fact that this year’s works were not just archaeological observations, but full-fledged excavations at several significant sites — Ilyinka, Sretenka, Dynamo and Goncharnaya Streets, in Zamoskvorechye and Kitay-Gorod Districts. These are territories with extremely interesting rich cultural deposits, where trade routes intersected historically and workshops operated, i. e. active urban life was existing," he said.

The area of archaeological excavations exceeded 11,500 square meters, which is comparable to the area of the Depo food mall. In just 11 years, archaeologists found over 75 thousand artifacts.

"Most of the time the finds are studied in archaeological workshops. The process is divided into two stages — cameral treatment (when soil is removed) and the restoration itself, to last from a week to several years depending on the complexity of the find and its condition. 650 finds were restored this year. A total of 8,200 finds were handed over to the State section of the museum fund this year," Alexey Yemelyanov added.

From a black-glazed flask to a coronation glass

Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage spoke about findings that reflect the New Year's Eve life of Muscovites. The first group of artifacts relates to the process of cooking and serving festive dishes. It includes:

- a red clay jug of the 16th century, decorated with white spots of engobe. The jug belongs to ceremonial dishes, it was found in Ilyinka Street;

- a white clay frying pan of the 18th century with traces of carbon deposits specific for active using. Such dishes were used for stoves. Clay for making a frying pan was produced in the area of contemporary town of Gzhel. The frying pan was found in Goncharnaya Street;

- a black-glazed flask that plays the role of ceremonial tableware. It is made as a kind of saddle flask, but was intended for a table setting, this is evidenced by four legs in its lower part. The flask is made in the technique of regenerative firing (with a lack of oxygen in the furnace). To obtain dark color on the surface, resinous spruce firewood was added to the furnace at the last stage of firing. The flask surface is glazed, before firing it was polished with pebbles to achieve a silvery glow. This is an imitation of expensive metal tableware. The flask was found in Goncharnaya Street, the artifact dates back to the 17th century.

The second group of finds are stove tiles. During long winter evenings, Muscovite families gathered around stoves and recalled stories that were often captured on such tiles. So, Alexey Yemelyanov used as an example three red tiles of the 16th century. They were found in Goncharnaya Street, in Ilyinka Street and in Zamoskvorechye District. The first one depicts a winged horse, the second one shows the Storming the Fortress story — a rider in heeled boots holds a horse by the bit and climbs the stairs to the fortress, and the third one displays a double-headed eagle.

The next collection of finds is related to children. Traditionally, gifts-toys were prepared for them before holidays. For example, a red clay saddle horse could be a gift. Such a toy of the 16th century was found in Ilyinka Street. Besides, archaeologists found two duck-whistles in Dynamovskaya Street and in Sretenka Street. The first one refers to the 18th century, the second — to the 17th century.

Two fragments of painted white clay flutes of the 17th century were also found in Dynamovskaya Street. Children could play such instruments on holidays. Similar finds are known throughout the entire European part of Russia. Items for holidays are decorated with red painting on the white background.

The last group of artifacts refers to home decorations that could become a holiday gift for adults. For instance, a porcelain figurine shaped as a Christmas lamb, a miniature Japanese sculpture of an ivory okimono and a painted bird for watering were found in Dubininskaya Street and in Zamoskvorechye District. The finds belong to the 19th century.

Another interesting artifact is a "Drayman No. 6605" template of 1888, such templates were issued to each drayman. One can imagine that this drayman was in a hurry to someone's house with a fir-tree, festive trees were a common thing for Moscow of the 1880s.

Alexey Yemelyanov mentioned the most ancient find of this season — women's glass bracelets of the XII century found in Ilyinka Street. "It turns out that Moscow beauties flaunted expensive outfits as early as the XII century, when, according to our data, Moscow was just founded. These finds have an exact chronological range. According to archaeologists, they indicate that even before the city of Moscow appeared, the settlement surrounded by a fortress wall was economically and socially developed," Head of the Department said.

Glass bracelets

Another special artifact is a coronation glass of the 18th century, found in Goncharnaya Street. This is an extremely rare example of ceremonial tableware that were made using a complex technique of applying thin glass lines to the glass body of the vessel. In this case, the image of two state imperial coat of arms eagles, as well as a two-line inscription was created: ‘Vivat to her Imperial Majesty’ and a decorative frame.

Such glassware was manufactured in exceptional cases of the accession to the throne of the next ruling person (in this case, one of the Russian empresses of the 18th century) and were intended for use at official celebrations on this occasion. The glass, like some other artifacts, will be studied in detail by scientists.


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