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Engovatova, Cand. Sc. (Hist.) (RAS Institute of Archeology, Moscow), published an article in the Priroda (The Nature) magazine (No. 12, 2006) devoted to the excavations in the center of Yaroslavl in which she took part together with her colleagues in 2004, which turned out to be the most scaling excavations in the history of the city. Their area made up 2,000 m", and achieved quite impressive results: a lot of dwelling, household constructions and burials were discovered, the traces of great fires were examined, including fires of 1501 and 1658 mentioned in written sources.

As the legend has it, this outpost on the left bank of the Volga river, which ensured safety of the waterway, was founded in 1010 by Prince Yaroslavl the Wise (the city was named after its founder). Initially, the inhabitants seemed to live within the limits of the Rublenny Gorod (Log Town) (local kremlin). Although, according to the latest data of the Moscow researchers, the territory was previously used as a farm land - plowing and vegetable gardens (11th century). Dwelling houses appeared here at the turn of the 12th century, and the building density of the area became higher and higher. The study of the foundation remains showed that in place of decayed or burnt houses there had been built new ones. Thus, the original layout remained unchanged till the 17th century.

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In the course of recent excavations, the scientists succeeded in finding out the exact location of the main Yaroslavl temple - the Cathedral of the Dormition, and getting together fragments of its architectural millwork and interior. This architectural monument was laid down in 1215, when the first stone church - the Dormition of the Virgin - was established. At the end of the 15th century, when the roof had come down after the fire, the church was rebuilt as a looklike of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Moscow Kremlin, according to the surviving architectural materials.

A catastrophic fire of 1658 that almost wiped out Yaroslavl did not spare the Cathedral of the Dormition either. Some years passed and there were launched major construction works around it, inclusive of the construction of a big stone temple. The old church was redesigned to match the new image of the city. Later on (till the end of the 19th century), the church was reconstructed several times in order to expand it and unite it with other buildings. In 1918, during suppressing a White Guards rebellion, the Cathedral was damaged and was once again renewed six years later.

In 1937, however, the ancient monument was ruined to clear space for a Palace of Soviets.

One of the most intriguing objects, studied by Moscow specialists in 2004 - 2005, is a household construction burnt in the 13th century (the character of the construction is proved by a millstone, an axe, and carbonized grain found at the place of fire), which became a burial site for 97 people, disorderly put one on another in several rows. They met a violent death: the bones bear traces of stabs and chopped wounds. The analysis showed that the wounds were inflicted on the people lying on the ground (basically, women and children). Together with their remains, the scientists found decorations - temporal earrings, bronze rings, and fragments of body crosses. Apparently, this tragedy - massive destruction of peaceful population - happened in the time of fierce attack on Yaroslavl by the Mongolian and Tartar army in 1238. In future it is planned to determine the sex, age, ethnic background of the deceased, and reconstruct graphic and sculptural portraits of ancient city residents.

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There was discovered a remarkable thing in the earth cold cellar of the house built in the 17th century: people living there at that time set a drain pipe (162 cm long, made of four 4 cm-wide boards), the like of which the archeologists had never seen before. This unique installation was carefully dug out of the ground and made part of the collection of the Yaroslavl Historic-Architectural and Art Reserve Museum. More than 1,500 household articles discovered in the course of the excavations will supplement the collection of the museum funds. An iron spur with a cogged wheel (13th century), which, perhaps, belonged to a member of the Prince's bodyguard, a washstand in the form of a sheep (17th century), metal spherical buttons (16th - 17th centuries), fragments of imported ceramic crockery (13th - 16th centuries) - all these evidences of the past help us to imagine how the ancestors of inhabitants of present-day Yaroslavl lived and let us read one more fragment of the history of this ancient city.

A. V. Engovatova, "The Archeological Excavations in Yaroslavl", Priroda, No. 12, 2006

Illustrations supplied by the Priroda magazine editorial office

Prepared by Olga BAZANOVA


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