Restoring Bolshaya Ordynka finds

September 7

Archeologists working in Moscow have restored artifacts, mostly kitchen utensils and tableware, dating back to the period between 16th and 19th centuries. Over 20,000 ceramic fragments were found during the excavations on Bolshaya Ordynka Street (Property # 8) and Kadashevsky Tupik Street (Property #3), which started in 2015 and lasted until 2017. During the two years, restoration workers have recreated 20 vessels, including white-clay pots, pitchers and a korchaga (a large pot) for keeping grain, green-glazed bowls and mugs, as well as a black enameled pitcher.  

These artifacts were found on the site of the former Kadashevskaya Sloboda  (a large village inhabited by free peasants). The first mention of it dates back to the 16th century. At that time, it was the biggest sloboda in the Zamoskvorechye District, whose residents, known as the kadashes, manufactured wooden barrels, vats, and other utensils. In the 17th century, the sloboda spawned a weaving industry and emerged as the richest community in the city. Its advantages attracted the Moscow aristocracy, who began acquiring domains in the vicinity. The construction of mansions continued into the 19th century. The kitchenware that was found on the site was owned by wealthy people, who lived in different periods. 

“The scientific restoration of pottery is a very complicated and labour-consuming process. At first, archaeologists sort out the fragments based on the colour of the clay. Next, parts of the vessels are grouped together by their proper type of item, such as a pitcher, a pot or a bowl. A more meticulous selection proceeds within these groups. For example, sides are found for the crown of a black glazed pitcher or the bottom of a white-clay pot.  Thus, broken kitchenware is recreated practically in full through careful selection and gluing,” head of Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov explained.

For example, the collection boasts a black glazed pitcher, an exemplar of 16th-century presentation dinnerware. Its black colour is due to a special method being used in the kiln and treatment with pebbles. This type of tableware was highly popular in the city because it imitated more expensive iron ware. At that time, this  was beyond the means of most people in Moscow.

Apart from this, specialists have restored white-clay kitchenware – 17th-century pots, grain korchagas, and a pitcher.   The latter has a characteristic contemporary ornament in the form of two horizontal rows of notches. Interestingly, white-clay kitchenware was made in Moscow in rather small batches.  The majority of kitchenware was brought from Gzhel or Kolomna. The thing is that 16th-century Moscow potters switched to the production of more expensive black glazed ware. There are also pieces of this kind in the collection, such as glazed and painted bowls, pitchers and mugs dating back to the 18th and the 19th centuries.

“Pottery is not something rare among archeological finds. But each found artifact expands specialised knowledge of Moscow pottery.   For example, pitchers made in the period from the 16th to the 19th century differ in shape from those that the specialists recorded before,” Mr Yemelyanov explained.

Later, the restored artifacts will be donated to one of the Moscow museums.  

Archaeologists periodically find objects that shed light on the life of Moscow and its residents. Specialists determine their state and value and take the decision on the mode of their preservation.

During the summer of this year, for example, archaeologists found more than a thousand artifacts dating back to anywhere between the 14th and 19th centuries in the Troitsky and Novomoskovsky Administrative areas, including baptismal crosses, pieces of decorations and horse harnesses, as well as Golden Horde coins. These were discovered on the banks of the Malaya Sosenka river in southwestern Kommunarka.     

In late 2019, excavations on the site of a former orphanage in Moskvoretskaya Embankment revealed over 900 old household items, such as copper baptismal crosses, seal rings, coins, smoking pipes, buttons, belt buckles, pieces of horse harness, a glass bead, iron knives, as well as nails, lead bullets, and other artifacts dating back to the period between the 12th and the 19th centuries. Apart from all this, archaeologists found a unique series of fragments of hand-molded vessels with a pit ornament, which could belong to the late period of the Neolithic Lyalovo culture (IV-III millennia BC). They may testify to the existence of an ancient fishermen’s camp on the bank of the Moskva River.   


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