Archaeologists find another theft tool from Catherine the Great times

Archaeologists find another theft tool from Catherine the Great times
The makeshift pickpocketing tool was made from a copper coin minted between 1763 and 1796. It was probably used for both cutting bags and pockets as well as for self-defence.

During the utility maintenance works at the intersection of Armyansky Pereulok and Maroseika Street, archaeologists discovered a theft tool, a sharpened five-kopek copper coin. Pickpockets used it to slash the bags and pockets of their unsuspecting victims.

The archaeologists found a fragment of a copper coin from the Catherine the Great era with sharpened edges. Coins like this were minted in the Russian Empire between 1763-1796. The coin was 4.6 cm in diameter so the thief only used a small part of it as a sharp tool.

“We already announced a similar find in late April that was made in Soimonovsky Proyezd. Now the archaeologists discovered another trace of criminal Moscow, a tool called “piska” (from French “depicer” or “to cut”). The pickpockets used the tool not only to slash bags and pockets but also for self-defence. These artefacts are commonly mentioned in detective stories; however, it is a real stroke of luck to find one. Last spring, archaeologists found a similar object, a two-kopek copper coin, in Soimonovsky Proyezd,” commented Alexei Yemelyanov, Head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

The finds related to the criminal world of the past centuries happen although very rarely. Earlier, in May 2016, when the digging was taking place on Tverskaya Street, archeologists found “matochnik,” a 17th century tool for minting counterfeit coins. Another find most likely related to counterfeiters was a treasure trove of copper coins from the Tsar Alexis Mikhalovich times. Found in Kadashevskaya Sloboda, one in every ten coins in the treasure trove was counterfeited.

During the digging process on Manezhnaya Square, the Skachek tavern was discovered, an 18th century hole in the wall.  The walls of cellar in the tavern were supported by tombstones stolen from the nearby Moiseyevsky Monastery cemetery. Another interesting find on the site was a jug with a false bottom used by sellers of expensive perfume to trick their customers in the 17th century.

Construction, maintenance and utility work in central Moscow often produce items of historical value that preserve the memory of the city and previous generations. Archaeologists are usually involved in monitoring any such operations. They make sure no artefacts get damaged. Experts evaluate their condition and value, examine and determine how the items will be preserved and displayed in museums.

In the past years, archaeologists have found over 10,000 artefacts during the maintenance and landscaping work in central Moscow. On Birzhevaya Square alone, they collected some 500,000 items, the earliest dating back to the 12th century. After thorough examination, all the finds are handed over to Moscow museums.