17th century treasure found in Moscow

17th century treasure found in Moscow
Kopecks made out of alloy of silver and copper were found on Nizhnyaya Radishchevaskaya Street during the work carried out under the My Street programme.

A treasure of 41 coins dating back to the times of Tsars Vasili IV and Michael I was found on Nizhnyaya Radishchevaskaya Street by archeologists inspecting a construction ditch near St Nicholas’ Church on Bolvanovka Street. Now engineering communications are being repaired and utility tunnels are being laid in the area under the My Street programme.

The coins were buried deep into the ground. They have darkened overtime, so it was very difficult to see them with the naked eye. Whatever the treasure was hidden in has not been discovered. The treasure was found when the ground was examined with a metal detector. It is interesting that the utility works were done in this street before, in the 20th century. Researchers believe that workers did not notice the coins then. However, during the work they shifted from their original layer to a newer one, which is to say, they got reburied in a ditch dug several decades ago.

“The area where we found the treasure was part of so-called Zemlyanoy Gorod (now the area between the Boulevard Ring and the Garden Ring). Instead of Nizhnyaya Radishchevaskaya Street, there was a section of Bolvanovskaya Road from Moscow to Kolomna. In the 17th century, there also was Taganna Sloboda, a place where blacksmiths lived and worked, between the road and the Moskva River. It is most probable that it was a blacksmith who left the treasure there,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

This part of Zemlyanoy Gorod is famous for its treasures. According to Alexei Yemelyanov, 17th-century coins were found there in 1902 (on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment), in 1909 (Goncharny Pereulok), in 1930 and 1997 (Goncharnaya Street).

The coins that were found on Nizhnyaya Radishchevaskaya Street were likely issued between 1606 and 1645 but this is only a rough calculation. These are so-called Moscow kopecks used during the rule of Tsars Vasili IV and Michael I. The Moscow Mint made them out of silver or bullion, an alloy of silver and copper. A knight clutching a spear is depicted on one side and the inscription “Tsar and Grand Duke of all Russia” on the other. The weight of a kopeck is 0.64 g and its diameter is less than 1 cm. Besides silver and gold Moscow kopecks, Novgorod and Pskov kopecks were also issued in the 17th century. 41 kopeks were enough to buy twenty chickens or half a cow. It is possible that the owner of the treasure was saving up enough money to buy something really big.

Now the ancient coins are being cleaned of dirt and polished. When archeologists complete their examination, the kopecks will then be handed over to museum archives.

Over 10,000 artefacts have been found in the heart of Moscow since 2015 due to the My Street programme, including a “chess” piece dating back to the time of Ivan the Terrible found on Prechistenka: ten silver coins were hidden in a hollow bishop chess piece made from ivory. Before that, several dozens18th-century copper coins were found in Voznesensky Pereulok. All archeological finds under the My Street programme can be seen on display at the Museum of Moscow.