Archaeological excavation completed on Birzhevaya Square

Archaeological excavation completed on Birzhevaya Square
Work to preserve fragments of white-stone and brick foundations on Birzhevaya Square will begin on 15 August. They will be covered with geotechnical fabric and several layers of fine-grained sand.

More than a thousand artefacts dating back to 12th-18th century were discovered during excavation at Birzhevaya Square, including small items, such as household utensils, jewellery and coins. In addition, fragments of buildings that have been long lost were discovered.

“The excavation on Birzhevaya Square will be completed by 15 August, after which restoration experts and archaeologists will launch an effort to preserve small sections of brick and white-stone structures from the historical buildings. These efforts will be primarily aimed at preserving the foundation of the Annunciation Church from the 16th century Joseph-Volotsky Monastery that was demolished in the 18th century. The methodological council of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage recommended preserving the ruins by recovering them with soil,” Deputy Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, Moscow Chief Archaeologist Leonid Kondrashev said.

According to Mr Kondrashev, specialists continue to study almost a thousand artefacts unearthed on Birzhevaya Square, including coins from a copper shop, rare 12th century bracelets with glass threads, as well as clay pottery and even fragments of clothes. All these artefacts were taken from the excavation site for laboratory research and restoration. In the future they will be displayed alongside other archaeological discoveries unearthed during the My Street renovation programme, and will be transferred to Moscow museums.

“A section of a 16th century wooden staircase leading to the ground floor of a craftsman’s workshop within the monastery is another well-preserved artefact. It was restored and transferred to the Museum of Moscow, where it is displayed alongside other items discovered during the My Street programme. The exhibition opened on 15 August,” Mr Kondrashev pointed out.

The excavation on Birzhevaya Square covered over 100 square metres and went 3.5 metres deep with several dozen archaeologists working on the site.

“We were able to complete the excavation, more or less in line with the schedule that was agreed upon. Now we need to preserve the fragments of the ancient stone and brick foundations,” Mr Kondrashev went on to say.

He added that stone and brick structures will first be covered with geotechnical fabric, which will prevent deterioration from humidity. The fragments of the foundations will be then covered with several layers of fine-grained sand. Every layer will be 10 centimetres. This will create a safety cushion for preserving the archaeological site. After that the artefacts will be covered with soil. The decision to preserve this site was taken by the methodological council of the Department of Cultural Heritage, taking into consideration the opinion of archaeologists, as well as restoration experts and researchers from Moscow’s leading museums.

Mr Kondrashev noted that it would be technically impossible to extract these fragments and transfer them to a museum, since these parts of the foundation were not intended for open-air exposure.

“These archaeological items have been studied, and the descriptions added to catalogues. Our current objective is to preserve for future generations not only information about them, but also the artefacts themselves,” Mr Kondrashev said.

Moscow’s Department for Major Housing Repairs said the renovation of Birzhevaya Square will continue as soon as the conservation of archaeological artefacts is completed.

The renovation will consist of creating a belowground facility for the fountain that will be installed on the square. After that the square will be repaved and a granite fountain bowl will be installed. This will be followed by new lamp posts, waste bins and benches. The renovation will be completed in late autumn after the trees are planted.

Birzhevaya Square is one of the few small squares in Moscow surrounded by buildings on all four sides. Under the My Street programme, it will be transformed into a pedestrian area to become part of a promenade linking the Kremlin to Zaryadye Park, also covering Nikolskaya Street, Bogoyavlensky Pereulok and Rybny Pereulok. The square will be structured around a fountain with a flat round bowl.