Secret of archaeological find from Sretenka revealed

December 7, 2021

The toy is a dreidel — one of the traditional attributes of the Hanukkah celebration.

Moscow archaeologists managed to clear and read the letters printed on a lead toy-a spinning top of the XIX century. This item was found among other artifacts during excavations at Sretenka. On each of the four sides of the spinning top are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet "nun", "gimel", "hey", "shin". The phrase is encrypted in them: "A Great Miracle Happened There."

The artifact is connected with the history that took place in the Jerusalem temple in the first century B.C. The temple was desecrated, and in order to purify it from filth, it was required to burn a special oil burner for eight days. But the believers had very little suitable oil. And there was no time to make a new one. The miracle was that the burner did not go out within the required time.

The archaeologists found a dreidel, or sevivon. A traditional toy and one of the attributes of the Hanukkah celebration.

"During the archaeological work on Sretenka Street in the summer of 2021, there were many finds. Some of them are of particular interest and have significant museum value. So, among the discovered finds there was an unusual object — a traditional Jewish toy — a spinning top made of lead. The game was played by both adults and children. Thanks to careful clearing, archaeologists have deciphered the inscriptions on the spinning top. Now it is waiting for restoration. After that, it will be handed over to the fund of one of the city museums," Alexey Yemelyanov, Head of the capital's Department of Cultural Heritage, said.

The spinning top consists of a long vertical faceted handle, a ribbed body and a short faceted leg. The height of the toy is 2.89 centimeters. The body is made up of four blades that look like pages of a book. The letters "nun", "gimel", "hey", "shin" are placed at the junction of the blades. The toy was cast lead, and the letters were cast simultaneously with the body.

Children and adults play a fun game spinning such a spinning top. The win depends on which letter will be on the edge when the top stops. Bets can be small coins and sweets.

It is assumed that dreidel could belong to someone from the community of the Jewish Boundary Chapel, which existed from 1830 to 1930. It was one of the oldest synagogues in Moscow. It was located near the place where the toy was found.

The chapel got its name in connection with the fact that it was built by soldiers from the Moscow boundary team.

At the end of the XIX - beginning of the XX century, the synagogue was located in a rented room on the second and third floors of a building on the corner of Myasnoy Lane (since 1907 — the Posledniy Lane) and Grachyovka Street (since 1907 — Trubnaya Street), owned by Gerasim Ievlevich Vorobyov. This is a three-storey house built in 1888. On the third floor there was a room for women, on the second — for men.

The chapel was located in one of the most dangerous areas of Moscow. Representatives of the poorest part of the city's population, as well as those who for some reason had to fear too focused attention of the authorities, settled on Grachevka and in Myasnoy Lane.

In 1930, the chapel was closed and a dormitory for demobilized Red Army soldiers was placed in its premises.

The building where the chapel was located is now a four-storey residential building. Its address: Posledniy Lane, house 1/22.

Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday of absolution and renewal. It is celebrated on a certain date of the Jewish calendar, which usually falls in the Gregorian calendar at the end of November or the beginning of December. This year, the celebration fell on November 28. The Hanukkah Week will last until December 6.


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