18th century button with Maltese cross unearthed on Ostozhenka Street

18th century button with Maltese cross unearthed on Ostozhenka Street
Workers have unearthed an artefact, as well as about 300 other objects dating to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, on Ostozhenka Street. Artefacts include red glazed stove tiles with battle scenes and an elk-horn belt shaft.

City archaeologists have found an old button with a Maltese cross during construction works on Ostozhenka Street. The copper-alloy button has a diameter of three centimetres and is decorated with an eight-pointed Maltese cross symbolising the Order of Malta, the world’s oldest religious order. Russian Emperor Paul I closely cooperated with the Order of Malta and even received the title of Grand Master and Protector.

“Officers and warrant officers of the Life Guards’ Cuirassier Regiment wore Maltese cross buttons on their uniforms during the reign of Emperors Paul I and his son Alexander I. City archaeologists consider this artefact to be particularly valuable because Russian service personnel wore Maltese uniforms only from 1799 until 1803 when these uniforms were abolished,” Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov said.

The works were conducted in November-December 2017, with archaeologists studying a one-metre cultural layer in a section measuring 10 by 10 metres. They managed to locate the remains of a 19th century building’s solid-wall-type foundation, a 19th century brick pavement section, several fragments of various utility structures dating to the 17th and 18th centuries and elements of a drainage well that was later used as a waste hole.

“Household waste, useless or broken items accumulated here for a long time. In all, we discovered about 300 separate artefacts. What seemed useless to our ancestors allows modern archaeologists and historians to unlock the mysteries of the past and to learn more about the life of the city and its residents centuries ago,” Mr Yemelyanov added.

Another important find is the red glazed stove tiles dating to the late 16th or early 17th centuries. These decorative stove-facing tiles were made using red clay. Each tile showed some ornament, flower, animal, fabulous creature or scene. Those found on Ostozhenka Street feature two-headed eagles and battle scenes showing the capture of a fortress.

Other artefacts include an elk-horn belt shaft dating to the 16th-17th centuries. This component was fastened to the end of a textile belt, prevented the belt’s wear and tear, and made it easier for the user to buckle up. The shaft’s obverse section is decorated with circular and linear ornaments, and a few belt fragments have survived.

Experts continue to study all old artefacts unearthed on Ostozhenka Street, said officials at the Department of Cultural Heritage press service. Most of these artefacts will be added to the Moscow Museum collection.

A year ago, archaeologists found a 16th century English medallion with the Tudor Rose emblem while digging in Zaryadye Park. This interesting artefact is linked with the Old English Residence that accommodated English merchants and other officials.

In the past two years, over 1,000 artefacts have been found in the city during excavation work and archaeological monitoring of construction, improvement and renovation projects. These items are being preserved and displayed in line with different arrangements. For example, the authorities are establishing small open-air archaeological museums on local streets.