E. Nosov, V. Alekshin, (c)
RAS Institute of Material Culture History (IMCH) of St. Petersburg is among the largest archeological research centers in this country. The sphere of its academic interests reaches the remotest corners of Russia and the globe. Its domestic expedition projects involve researchers from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, UK and USA. The Institute's field studies attract students of numerous Western universities. Its most recent discoveries made by our researchers and their foreign colleagues are in the focus of this article.
By Yevgeny NOSOV, RAS Corresponding Member, Director; Vadim ALEKSHIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), Deputy Director, RAS Institute of Material Culture History
During 1991 and 1993 V. Lyubin and E. Belyaeva, scientists of the Paleolithic Archeology Section, became the first Russian researchers who got a chance to study artifacts of the Old Stone Age (over 2 mln ~ 10 ths years ago) in the primordial African birthplace of humankind. Their itineraries lay through Western Africa (the Republic of Cote d'lvoire), where whole paleologic records still have many gaps to fill. Having traveled about 2,000 km in the present-day tropic forest zone, Lyubin and Belyaeva have discovered traces of Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) population (about 200 - 10 ths. years B.C.), which repudiates the heretofore dominant notion of those territories as undeveloped by man. The excavations of Bete and Guabuo camps have unearthed cultural layers containing Mesolithic stone artifacts, with tiers of the more ancient stone industry of "sango" (more than 200,000 years old) going down for many meters beneath. Implements characteristic of this culture, e.g., spearheads, are attributed by some experts to people of the modern physique (Homo sapiens sapiens}.
The finding of a hand chisel in the savanna zone of the country's north was of great importance. This tool, widely used in early Paleolith (over one mln years back) in North Africa, appeared here at least 700 thous years ago evidencing the migration of ancient Sahara dwellers far south.
New data about the appearance in Eastern Europe of contemporary physique humans have been yielded by the excavation of the Kostenki 14 Upper Paleolith camp (Markina Gora) in the Khokholsky district of Voronezh region, dating back to the period -40,000-
10,000 years B.C. Here in 2000 an expedition led by A. Sinitsyn unearthed a cultural layer covered with volcanic ashes produced by the catastrophic volcanic eruption in South Italy 32 - 35,000 years ago. This natural disaster discontinued life in the ancient settlement but was unable to annihilate the rich hunting culture of that time in all its variety. The horizon of ashes contained ornamented earrings of Arctic fox bones and shells with hand-carved holes-the oldest decorations discovered in Eastern Europe. A layer way beneath the volcanic ashes called "a horizon of hearths" features a rich and diverse bone industry, the most ancient in the Russian plain (36 - 37,000 years old). These archeological finds testify: the bottom range of Upper Paleolith in Eastern Europe and, consequently, the appearance of Homo sapiens sapiens here date back to the period 5,000 years earlier than was previously conceived.
A most remarkable Mesolithic camp was discovered on the Island of Zhokhov in the north of the New Siberian Archipelago, dividing the Laptev and the East-Siberian Seas. This unique monument studied in 1989 and 1990 by V. Pitulko, an expert of the Paleolithic Archeology Section, evidences the man's penetration to the Arctic regions 8,000 years ago. The camp is the only known ancient ground of polar bear hunters (the polar bear hunting laid the basis of the ancient islanders' life support system). Due to the exceptional state of archeological material preservation in permafrost, the cultural layer yielded a great number of products made of organic substances, e.g., supposedly remnants of a basket.
The camp's studies were resumed in 2000 within the framework of the international Zhokhov-2000 Project directed by V. Pitulko, with the participation of Russian and US researchers. Their objectives, apart from archeological studies, include a broad range of paleographic efforts related to the studies of the nature, climate, flora and fauna of Arctic regions. The excavations of the camp elucidate the mode of the ancient man's adaptation to the high latitude (76N) habitat.
In 1997 our Kola expedition led by V. Shumkin discovered new petroglyphs at the Umbe River in the south of the Kola Peninsula, 40 km from its inflow into the White Sea (Murmansk Region). Similar petroglyphs were discovered on the islands of Kamenny, Yelovy, Gorely and on an onshore rocky outcrop. In 2001, 18 new petroglyph groups were found featuring over 400 images. They present an evidence of the spiritual culture and contacts among the inhabitants of an enormous region spanning from the contemporary Scandinavian countries to the extreme north-west of Russia.
Finds on the Umbra River feature both carvings and drawings. Many of those are akin in style, technique, themes and images to the major graphic artifacts of Fennoscandia (Alta of Norway, Nemforsen of Sweden) and Russia (the Onega Lake in Karelia, the Panoy petroglyphic group on the Kola Peninsula). Chronologically, they range from Neolith (6,000 years back) to the Middle Ages. Those places are next to uninhabitable, no wonder they harbored a center of worship which, remote from dwelling, survived for millennia, although, possibly, with interruptions.
In 1995 the Kara Kum expedition led by A.Masson studied the ancient Eneolithic earthwork settlement (Copper Age 4,000 - 3,000 B.C.) of Ilgyndy-Depe (South Turkmenistan). In the course of this project N. Solovyova, a staff member of the Central Asian/Caucasian Archeology Section, has discovered a chamber with unique wall paintings dating back to the first half-mid-4th millennium B.C. Its north-western wall had seven layers of plaster. Five of them, except for the first one-the ground-and the last one deliberately applied over the painting, preserved the remnants of sgraffito*-style frescos. Layers 4 and 5 present the utmost interest as bearing practically identical compositions. The right part of the fresco depicts a tree with a biped mythological creature next to it combining anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features. Its head has not been preserved. The fore extremities (arms?) are raised. The fourth layer image features a tail (phallus?). The tree and the creature were initially bas-reliefs the extending parts of which were cut off when the last plaster layer was applied. All that is extremely interesting for the scholars of the culture and arts of primeval farmers of the Middle East and Central Asia.**
In 2000 new petroglyphs were discovered in the Sharypovsky District of the Krasnoyarsk Territory by the Siberian expedition members A. Subbotin, V. Semenov, S. Krasnienko and M. Kilunovskaya. Examining a Bronze Age sanctuary (3th-early 1st millennia B.C.) located on the mountain of Karatag, they came across unique meters-tall friezes depicting fantastic anthropomorphic figures (pagan priests?). The total of over 100 such drawings have been identified. Some of them belong to the late Iron Age (the Hunnish/Sarmatian time-1st millennium B.C.) when Karatag became again a place of religious worship.
The Tuva expedition of 1999 - 2000 headed by V. Semenov has found and registered over 1,000 drawings in Western Tuva (the Shanchig Range). They include Bronze Age multi-figure compositions, as well as those dating back to the Hunnish/Sarmatian time. In 2001 in the flood area of the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant on the banks of the Yenisei (the Mount of Sholde-Tei) about 900 new drawings were discovered. Most of them date back to the Bronze Age (figures of oxen, burdened
* Sgraffito-a mode of wall finishing whereby a drawing is harrowed in the upper layer of plaster exposing the bottom layer, different in color.- Auth.
** See: V. Gaibov, G. Koshelenko, "Margiana, a Land on the Fringe of the World", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2000. -Ed.
The Karatag Mount. A procession of animals accompanied by fantastic anthropomorphous creatures.
The settlement of Ilgynly-Depe. A fragment of a wall fresco.
The mountain range of Shanchig. A representation of a deer.
oxen, "mushroom-like creatures", etc.). No less interest is presented by the locality of Yime in the Kuilig-Khem River valley where exceptionally expressive depictions of deer, predators, boars, goats and ornaments have been uncovered. The studies of the Tuva petroglyphs present utmost importance for the understanding of the primeval arts history of Southern Siberia and Central Asia.
Since 1997 the West Caucasian Expedition led by V. Trifonov has studied dolmens* in the vicinity of Gelendzhik, in the picturesque Zhane River valley of the Krasnodar Territory. These Bronze Age constructions used to be not just crypts but also sanctuaries of sorts devoted to the cult of ancestors**. In the process of excavation specialists applied a unique reconstruction technique. It consists in a detailed fixation of all displaced constructive elements of dolmens, identification of their initial position with subsequent replacement. That restores a monument to an appearance relatively close to the original. As distinct from restoration, reconstructive archeology does not aim at complete damage repair, manufacture of missing elements, erection of fortifying structures or complete rebuilding of dolmens, especially their groundworks.
The key result of the expedition was the discovery and partial reconstruction of a unique architectural complex including 3 dolmens. It was the first time in the domestic archeological practice that a vast intercrypt area was researched and constructive features studied of the related banks, packings and yards. Especially impressive is the two-meter tall cyclopean wall separating the large paved yard in front of the central tomb facade from the surrounding bank with a flat top and almost vertical walls.
The advantage of this methodology is in preservation of a monument in combination with the key elements of the natural and cultured landscapes. Presently, a spacious natural and archeological preserve and an archeological park are under construction in the Zhane Valley not just to conserve the unique monuments but to form the focal point for highlighting the immortal values of the ancient Caucasian peoples' cultural heritage.
Monuments of the antique culture of the Russian south present an exceptional interest and are a key to the understanding of contacts between the Hellenes
* Dolmens-Bronze and early Iron Age burial structures of enormous stones put on the edge and covered with a stone slab on top. They are encountered in Europe, India, the Crimea and the Caucasus.- Ed.
** See: A. Dmitriev, "Stone Giants", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2000.- Ed.
and the Barbarians. One of them is the Semibratny Gorodishche (township) (the Hellenic Labrit) in the Krasnodar Territory located 40 km from the present-day resort of Anapa and 2 km from the Kuban River bed. 2,500 years ago when a town rose here, in the lands of the Sind tribe, the river flew right under its walls.
In 2001 the township was studied by the Semibratny team of the Bosporus expedition led by V. Goroncha-rovsky. In the line of the northern defensive wall the foundation of a round tower (a rotunda) belonging to the 3rd-1st centuries B.C. was fully excavated. In the south-western part of the site specialists uncovered fragments of a large building dating back to the late 4th-first half of the 3rd centuries B.C. Inside, on the clay puddle floor they found 12 copper coins minted in major towns of the Bosporus Kingdom, Ponticapeus and Phanagoria and bronze arrow heads, fragments of black-varnish ceramics and other artifacts. Among the rare finds of special interest was a lead balance weight of approximately 400 g bearing the design of "AB" cut on the reverse side for "Labrit"-the town name. This rectangular plate 1.2 cm thick is the standard of 1 mina*. From the perspective of the powerful cultural layer of the township and its well-preserved architecture this is an ideal place for an archeological preserve.
Studies into the culture of ancient Eurasian steppe nomads make up still another of the Institute's key research trends. Thus, in 2001 an expedition headed by S. Krasnienko studied the Beresh III mound in the Sharypovsky District of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Under its 2m high bank archeologists discovered a partially-destroyed wall of vertically standing stone slabs fencing off three graves. Two of them contained square log vaults (4th century B.C.) with a common log roof, reinforced over the perimeter with stone blocks and covered with several layers of birchbark. Judging by the found vessels, in each grave rested no less than 10 people. In the bottom of the crypts and in their filling researchers discovered numerous articles of gold foil, glass and sard beads and some bronzeware (mirrors, knives, stamp, plaques and awls).
The square log vault of the third grave (2nd century B.C.) was not just looted in antique times like the for-
* Mina- ancient Greek weight measure about 430g.- Auth.
mer two, but partially burnt, with fire started from the inside. Therefore, the log ceiling of the vault and the birchbark topping are poorly preserved. Found inside were iron knives, daggers, buckles, miniature clay vessels, sard and glass beads. Despite the time gap between this vault and the former two, gold foil items (e.g., "panther plaques") are much alike.
New data about the ancient nomadic culture have been also obtained by the Transbaikal archeological expedition headed by S. Minyaev. For a few years in the Tsaram fold (the Kyakhta District of Buryatia) they have been studying a burial mound ostensibly concealing the shrine of a Hunnu* king. The mount is the biggest of the presently known Hunnu structures in Russia. Experts are keen not just on the mound but on the burial ground surrounding it where 10 smaller graves have been uncovered to the east and the west. Those are the burials of persons killed to accompany their master to the afterworld in accordance with the pagan beliefs.
The 1m-tall rectangular bank (26x29 m) is laid round with large stone slabs placed vertically in 2 - 3 rows. From the south it can be accessed via a 20m long passage ("dromos"). The mound covers a vast grave. Its upper part contains a structure arbitrarily termed "a wooden array". It is formed by 1 linear and 7 crosswise log partitions. The former partition passed through the entire grave and "the dromos" from north to south.
Two meters underneath the wooden array archeologists came across the roof of the burial chamber made of birchbark, logs and big stone slabs. Another 1.5 m down there was still another bridging made of logs, stone slabs and organic material filling (possibly, felt). There are signs of a third layer 10 m deep. The excavation of the Tsaram mound is planned for completion by 2003.
The utmost importance for the studies in the Slav colonization of North-Western Rus and the origins of the Russian state is presented by the works carried out by the Staraya Ladoga expedition headed by A. Kirpichnikov.
Since 1975 the Institute expedition led by E. Nosov is practically annually involved in the excavation of the so-called "Ryurikovo Gorodishche" (Ryurik's Burg) local -
* Hunnu - a nomadic people emerging in the times of old in Central Asia. Some of them migrated west where they assimilated among the aborigines producing the Huns.- Ed.
The Beresh III mound. Decorations of gold foil: a gryphon, goats, "panthers", a deer, semi-spherical plaques, embroidery.
Ryurikovo Gorodishche. Scandinavian mascot pendants with runic inscriptions.
The Semibratny Gorodishche. Lead scale weights (left-a weight from a layer, right-a chance find).
ed near Novgorod at the effluent of the Volkhov. The annals have it that at least since the late 9th century this place was the residence of Novgorod princes but its earlier history remained open for speculations. Dr. Nosov has proven: the township was a direct predecessor of ancient Novgorod. It originated no later than in mid-9th century in the very heart of the Slav habitat area on the Ilmen Lake shores. It was the focal point of the major water routes of the East-European forest zone, a military, administrative and trading settlement similar to those of the Baltic Region. Numerous finds bear the evidence of the broad ties of the settlement's inhabitants (Cufic and Byzantine coins, sard and crystal beads, a Saltov ring and other artifacts characteristic of Scandinavia, Finland, England and Estonia). However, the core of the population was made up of Slavs and Varangians.
In the number of Scandinavian-type finds (including bracteates with runic inscriptions, iron necklaces with Thor's hammers*, pins, all kinds of plaques) the Ryurikovo Gorodishche, along with Gnezdovo near Smolensk, was unparalleled in Ancient Rus and can be placed next to the early townships of Scandinavia, such as Birka in Sweden or Hedeby in Jutland. Thus, the chronicle legend of "the calling of Varangians" has received its corroboration if not literally then at least in the form of a convincing historic background**.
In the recent two years this place has become a ground of studying unique earth-fill oak structures which surrounded the historic site and must have had a defensive purpose. They were destroyed as early as before the end of the 9th century and had no analogs elsewhere in Northern Rus.
This narrative would be incomplete if we missed the groundworks of medieval structures unearthed in the center of the township which are likely to have made up the household complex of Novgorod princes' homestead. Numerous glassware fragments of Byzantine, Syrian and Oriental origin have been discovered here.
A common trend in the European archeology of the recent decades has been the choice of much younger objects for excavation (up to the 19th and even the 20th centuries.). The obvious reasons are the needs of restoration projects and, hence, the search for solid data about the decayed memorials of the past. That is true of townships whose intensive housing construction completely wipes off cultural layers.
In the mid-1990s the expedition led by P. Sorokin launched a regular planned research work within the framework of the St. Petersburg Archeological Program. The objective of the program is to study and preserve newly discovered objects and list them as historical and cultural monuments of the city. In 1998 passports for the first 10 sites were approved. They include Neolithic camps of the Sestroretsk flood area and Lakhta, downtown Niena with the Nienschanz fortress of the 17th century, the Battle of Neva field of 1240, the late Middle Age settlements and the earthwork fortress in Ust-Izhora, the earthwork encampment in Krasnoye Selo and the Trinity Peter Cathedral.
Further on it is intended to create mockups of lost objects in the sites of their location, to erect memorial boards, plaques and signs and restore the old toponymy. For example, in the place of the fortress of Nienschanz in 2000 a commemoration granite bulwark was erected with Swedish cannons installed on it. The effective disposition of archeological finds expands the historical and cultural heritage of St. Petersburg.
We are studying 18th century monuments in Pskov Region too. There in 1999 - 2001 an expedition led by S. Beletsky excavated the Voskresenskoye manor in the State Pushkin National Park. It was built in the 1750s by the prominent military engineer A. Hannibal ("the Moor of Peter the Great"), an ancestor of Alexander Pushkin. The excavation unearthed the lower brickworks of two late 18th century buildings: "the landlord mansion" and the northern aisle which dominated the park in the north. It was the focal point of the central parkway which might have been accessed from the aisle via a stairway descending a steep (probably, earthwork) slope.
The studies carried out during the recent decade by expeditions of our institute provide qualitatively new data for approaching dramatic mysteries of old times. They help preserve the historical and cultural heritage of peoples of Russia, create historical and archeological national parks, preserves and restoration projects. Their yields replenish the funds of Russian museums, encourage new permanent expositions and temporary exhibitions.
Illustrations supplied by the authors.
* Thor-the god of thunder, storm and fertility, one of the chief gods of the Scandinavian mythology.- Ed.
** See: A. Valuyev, V. Kulakov, "Teutonic Cross and the Thunder God" Science in Russia, No. 6, 1999.- Ed.
Опубликовано на Порталусе 07 сентября 2018 года
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