Discovery sheds light on medieval Kiev

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When archaeologists performed a routine check on a construction site in central Kiev in late February, they were astonished to discover a medieval street hidden seven meters underground.

Discovery sheds light on medieval Kiev
Archaeologists from the Kiev Center of Archaeology dig out a 11th-13th century
 street on Poshtova Square in Kiev on March 10. The unique findings s
how that ancient Kiev was bigger than historians had presumed 
[Credit: © Anastasia Vlasova/Kyiv Post]

The remains of the wooden buildings that date back to Kievan Rus were found at the mall construction site at Poshtova Square in the Podil neighborhood near the Dnipro River.

The finding generated excitement among archaeologists and the general public.

“Podil is very well studied, which is why everyone was very surprised when we first saw the fragments of the 12th century wooden fence and house,” says Ivan Zotsenko, one of the archaeologists working on the spot.

During the past three weeks, the team of nine archaeologists dug out several wooden fences, the foundation of a wooden house, coins, beads, pots and one amphora – all estimated to date back to the 11th-13th centuries.

“It looks like we dug out a fragment of a densely populated medieval street,” says Zotsenko. “These findings demonstrate that people lived on the bank of Dnipro River already during Kievan Rus times. It means that Kiev territory was bigger than we used to think.”

Earlier, historians believed that the borders of ancient Kiev ended on the modern Borychiv Tik Street, some 500 meters inland from Poshtova Ploshcha.

“The main value of this archaeological finding is that the medieval Kiev borders have become more clear,” says Zotsenko.

In the 18th-19th centuries, there was a wharf on the modern Poshtova Square, so when the researchers began the check in December, they didn’t expect to find anything other than fragments of pavement or household items from that era.

“Podil is lowland and we are very lucky to find ancient log houses here. The upper city’s soil is dry and does not preserve any wooden buildings of Kievan Rus times,” explains archaeologist Serhiy Taranenko. They plan now to work the whole street to “give us a clear idea of the medieval city planning.”

The nine archaeologists work from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, trying to gather all the antiquities as soon as possible. “Fragments of the clay pots are the most valuable findings for us as their earthenware ornaments help identify the precise time when the pottery was made,” Zotsenko says.

Recently they were given permission to dig a new spot near the Nativity Church on Poshtova Square. “There was an ancient cemetery there. If we dig there I am sure we will find even more items of Kievan Rus time,” Taranenko says.

Initially the Kiev City Council planned to build a shopping mall on the square. But after the discovery caused a stir, Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko ordered a halt to construction for a possible museum there.

Preserving the relics, however, will cost “tens of millions of hryvnias,” Pavlo Ryabikin, deputy chairman of the Kiev City State Administration, estimates. Officials will have to hurry if they want to have something left to save.

“The wood that has been in the ground for the past 10 centuries will get rotten in less than two years without proper preservation,” Zotsenko says.

Author: Nataliya Trach | Source: Kyiv Post [March 13, 2015]

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