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Ancient finds. Volunteers from St. Petersburg discover antiquities at the Troitsky dig site


Tomorrow marks the archeologist’s day in Russia. Many of them will celebrate their professional holiday in the field. The digging season is now in full swing. In the real Mecca for historians digging into the country’s past – Novgorod Velikiy – the harvest of discoveries has been rich this year. Alexander Odintsov embraced ancient history.


A skilled archeologist can determine the value of a find without breaking too much sweat or even using a microscope. This volunteer reveals a lead print of a Novgorod official from beneath the soil. It’s a big luck – and it’s only the beginning of the international archeological camp’s 4th shift.

Volunteers hadn’t even expected – when set off for Novgorod Velikiy – how deep they would have to dig. Now they are rummaging through the cultural layer of the 15th century – with their own hands. They mostly find clay pot bits and bones. But everyone dreams of unravelling a genuine artifact. Alexander from Simferopol says that when he learnt of the Center of National Glory’s project, he didn’t think twice about going. To him, archeological digging is another way to learn his country’s history. 

Alexander Lysenko, volunteer from Crimea: “It’s my first time in the mainland. I want to learn how people lived, what houses they had and how they built them”

Nowadays the evidence of material culture is being searched for at the Troitsky dig site. It was opened in the 1970s. This is the 16th part of the site, over 500 square meters in size. This particular spot has already delivered more than 2 thousand discoveries and one is only left to wonder how many more there would be – even at the part alone where diggers are operating at now.

Viktor Singh, head of Troitsky dig site: “The mansion was located at the crossing of middle-aged Redyatina and Troitskaya streets. We know that mansion at intersections were always large, their owners had a high social status. And we have certain proof of that too. The number of discoveries here is large, because it’s the center of the town”

This shift of the international archeological camp has 25 students from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Crimea, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Baltics, Vietnam and Syria. Many had been here before.

Viktoria Dimova, volunteer from Bulgaria: “I finished in Germany, bought a ticket to Bulgaria to see relatives. Took my Russian passport. Then got here, without having much sleep. Wanted to meet new people from other countries who also study history. The nature here is beautiful. Digging and finding things which others can’t – that’s very cool”.

Novgorod Velikiy is one of the major archeological centers in Europe. All construction here is forbidden without preliminary expertise. Archeologists particularly value birchbark documents – and here, at the 16th area of the Troitskiy dig site, one such, consisting of 3 fragments, was found recently.

Alexander Odintsov, reporter: “Digs at Novgorod Velikiy started in the 1930s. The first birchbark document was found here in 1951. Back then, the head of the search – Artemiy Artsikhovskiy – emotionally said that he had been waiting for this day for 20 years. Now volunteers have uncovered the 1065th document. But they are not any less excited about it”

Artefacts from underground are in good condition, not rotten and even have visible carvings. That’s because clay soil doesn’t let in humidity and oxygen – as if conserving things which got here centuries ago. Thanks to determination of archeologists, the number of artefacts in the fund’s museum is closing in on 200 thousand.

Natalya Grigoryeva, General Director of Novgorod State Museum: “Of course, this dig site is a first-hand opportunity to refill our funds. Those are being filled by archeological discoveries annually, but after the season is over, we are making daily presentations sometimes”

The project of this international camp is being realized by the Center of National Glory together with the Novgorod Museum. Volunteers from different countries met at dig sites for the first time last June.

Zalina Medoeva, vice-president of the Center of National Glory: “It is crucially important to us not only to strengthen and preserve our own heritage, but letting people from other countries embrace it. Youths, first and foremost. This is, if you may, eradication of russophobia and distortion of our history. This is about setting friendly ties with the people who may be part of other countries’ elites in the future”

Many volunteers have become archeologists for a short spell – only for 2 weeks. Soon they will go back to studying their future professions – journalism, architecture, economy, language studies. But now they’re not thinking about it, having concentrated all their attention on crumbs of soil in their hands. And they hope that the sun will shine on them in their entire time at the camp. Digging through history is only possible in decent weather.