Skip to comments.Dig Under Manezh Yields Suprises
Posted on 06/02/2004 1:59:17 PM PDT by blam
Wednesday, June 2, 2004.
Dig Under Manezh Yields Surprises
By Kevin O'Flynn
Alexander Veksler showing a rare sword from the 13th or 14th century that was dug up from beneath the Manezh hall.
She was a fashionable young woman of her time. Wealthy and sophisticated, with a bracelet on one arm and rings, she was buried close to the Kremlin -- where she lay entombed for about 850 years.
The young woman is among 40 human remains, a centuries-old sword, a rare Peter the Great coin and hundreds of other artifacts unearthed recently beneath the Central Manezh Exhibition Hall.
The opportunity to dig under the prime site so close to the Kremlin was a dream come true for the Moscow archaeological world. Permission came after the 19th-century building was gutted in a blaze on March 14 and, with City Hall promising to restore it by September, speed was essential. Practically every archaeologist in the city took part in the dig, with three shifts running 24 hours a day at the site in March and April.
In that short time, archaeologists came up with more than 2,100 objects of historical interest, the city's chief archaeologist, Alexander Veksler, said Friday at a news conference, where he showed off some of the finds. The objects are to be put on display during City Day celebrations in September.
Veksler recalled that one historian -- who he called well known but did not identify -- scorned their chances of finding anything valuable before digging began, saying it was all swampland underneath the building.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Archaeologists chose 10 separate spots for their work under the Manezh after deeming that digging in much of the area would be useless because any artifacts had long been destroyed by the earlier construction of metro tunnels and storage cellars under the hall.
Digging as deeply as 7 1/2 meters below the ground, archaeologists unearthed different layers of cultural residue from centuries past -- residue that is changing historians' views about what was at the site before the Manezh. Rather than a swamp, there was actually a road going from Tverskoi Square to the Kutafya Tower of the Kremlin, Veksler said. The finding of numerous pottery pieces indicates that houses were built along the road.
One of the first finds was a 2 ruble gold coin from the time of Peter the Great -- a very rare find, as very few of the coins were minted, Veksler said.
A more valuable discovery was a long, thin sword from the late 13th or early 14th century, when Russia was still under the sway of Mongol leader Tokhtamysh.
"Such a beautifully preserved sword has never been found in the capital," Veksler said, adding that the sword was probably hidden during the Mongol invasion and then forgotten.
"Images of such swords are abundant in manuscripts," Veksel said, but few have been found.
But the most exciting find was the graveyard of a previously unknown church, he said. More than 40 skeletons were found in the cemetery, close to the Kutafya Tower and dating to the 12th or 13th century. The church has yet to be found but, with the restoration of the Manezh up in the air, digging will continue in the summer.
Veksel said archaeologists are especially intrigued by one of the skeletons -- a young woman who was "a contemporary of Yury Dolgoruky," the prince who according to legend founded Moscow in 1147.
The jewelry on her hands show that the graveyard was reserved for the wealthy of that time, he said.
A petite young female journalist asked Veksler what the woman had looked like. He smiled and said, "Just like you."
'Stadium', or 'indoor arena' of some sort, but an older word. A modern Russian would much more likely say 'sportshall'.
I've had a couple of years + [at trhe college level] of Russian, but quite some time back. The word was unknown to me, but I know that there is always a problem in transliteration when you're dealing with different alphabets.
A thank you ping.