Cowry shells and silver coins: treasures of the land of Moscow

Cowry shells and silver coins: treasures of the land of Moscow
A major project awaits Moscow archaeologists who, over the next two to three months, will be exploring the Kitai-Gorod Wall.

In the past 18 months, archaeologists have discovered 21 kg of ancient coins in central Moscow, commercial seals made of fabric, ceramic jars and even exotic cowry shells, according to Konstantin Voronin, Director of the Moscow Archaeology Bureau.

“Everybody knows that Moscow is a commercial city. Muscovites have been involved in trade since the 14th century. The earliest finds date back to that period. Artifacts from the 14th century have been discovered across all historical areas of Moscow. They are related both to Western European culture (arms, glassware, commercial fabric seals, wine and oil jars) and Oriental culture (textiles and exquisite gems),” Mr Voronin said.

Archaeologists have also found some truly extraordinary objects, such as cowry shells. “Cowry shells were brought to Moscow in the 16th century from Southeast Asia. These finds show the potential of Moscow’s cultural and economic ties in the Middle Ages,” the bureau director explained.

Scientists also discovered one of the biggest troves of silver coins. “It was an incredible discovery. The coins were found in Zaryadye in the autumn of 2015. They were found in a small shop between Velikaya Street and the Kitai-Gorod Wall. It is a complete treasure, 21 kilograms. The money was not long-term savings over years but a Moscow merchant’s working capital,” Mr Voronin said.

The opening-up of the Zaryadye area, currently in progress, will finish within three days. The archaeologists are still expecting more extensive works in the area, mainly at the Kitai-Gorod Wall, which will be under examination for the next two to three months.

Centuries ago, residential buildings and shops were located in the area. Merchants from all over the world visited markets. According to Alexander Likhanov, Director of the Moscow Street Markets state company, Moscow festivals, in particular, the Our Produce festival, continue the centuries-old traditions.

Seasonal markets have been regularly held in Moscow since the 14th century. In addition to trade, the markets offered entertainment programmes. Market squares were beautifully decorated. Eateries were open for merchants and customers.

Archaeologists working at Tverskaya Street also discovered fragments of a white stone arch and a fence of the Strastnoi Monastery. Other finds included fragments of a wooden road, pottery from the same period and a false coiner’s tool from the times of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich.