One of Ukraine’s most important burial mounds, it contained the bodies of two Norse warriors dated back to the 10th century when Vladimir ruled.
The first stone church in Rus, the Chronicles date its origins to 989. Prince Vladimir, the Baptizer, allocated a tenth of his income (desiat) to the maintenance of the church, a tithe, from whence came its name. Lying essentially in ruins in the 1820s, Kiev amateur-archeologist K. N. Lokhvitskii became embroiled in the fight to resurrect it rather than, as had been happening, simply removing the rubble and building a new church on the spot. Excavations at this site continued throughout the century, uncovering other parts of Old Kiev.
Sometimes called the “Dvina Stones,” from the location of the first major finds, in the basin of the western Dvina River, these massive boulders are also known as the “Borisov Stones,” from the inscription that characterized them: “Lord, help your slave Boris, a reference to Polotsk Prince Boris Vseslavich these massive boulders date back to 1171. Noted first in the 2nd half of the 16th century, the seven stones remain enigmatic testaments to the coming together of religion and politics in medieval Belarus.
In 1867 workers building the Orel-Vitebsk railroad found a cache of silver jewelry, in what turned into a major discovery of a settlement from 10th-century Rus. Of particular interest to archeologists is material about Scandanavian burial customs. Sizov raised controversies when he presented on the kleima – or seals on a number of the clay implements, suggesting a developed cultural identity. Systematic excavations have been conducted since; when the Germans occupied Smolensk during World War II, they sent artefacts back to Berlin.
Excavations began here in 1872 by A. A. Ivanovskii, to the northwest of St. Petersburg; he discovered an ancient settlement where Slavic had mixed with Finnish tribes. Nikolai Roerich, an artist with a deep affection for archeological digs of Slavic settlements, also worked here. In 1907, students at the Petersburg Archeological Institute conducted excavations, but nothing remains of their field notes.
Known today as two sites, distinguished by “right-bank” and “left-bank” of the Don River, near the Tsimlyanskoe settlement excavated in the 1880s was a right-bank Khazar fortress, built in the 840s, a line of defense along the Silk Road by the Khazar Khaganate. The left-bank fortification is referred to as Sarkel, also the name of a nearby village. Inside the walls were found Khazar dwellings, rich and poor alike. The dry sandy soil permitted the preservation of numerous iron objects as well as ceramics formed on a potter’s wheel, including amphoras. The fortress was attacked in the 9th century, attested to by the skeletal remains of women and children; where were the men? Religious identity is also problematic, as Khazaria had adopted Judaism. The fortress was built with technical assistance from the Byzantines, who had left behind sufficient remnants that V. B. Antonovich characterized it as “Christian” in 1884. Grand Prince of Rus’ Sviatoslav Igorevich conquered it in 965, and the white stones inspired the renaming it “White Vezha.” Prince Vladimir Monomakh used it as a garrison, but the Polovtsy ravaged it in 1117. The white-stone blocks of the fortress stood until 1744, after which the walls were dismantled and used in the construction of the Starocherkasskaya fortress.
Digging the Ladoga Canal in 1866, animal bones and weapons turned up. The area was turned over to Inostrantsev and other natural scientists.
In 1792 the “Tmutarakan’ Stone,” mentioned in the Lay of the Igor Campaign, was discovered on the Taman Peninsula. The inscription, credited to Prince Gleb made it the first source of an epigraphical history of Russia. President of the Academy of Arts A. I. Musin-Pushkin published the inscription in 1794, and its authenticity still remains a source of controversy. Tmutarakan was the capital of a 9th-century kaganate, Russian-Varangian, that controlled a trade route in defiance of Khazar dominance in the region that would become New Russia.
Site of both an ancient Greek colony and the place where Vladimir I was baptized. It remains an active archeological dig-site, with a museum in situ.