A hoard of ancient coins unearthed near the Kremlin

A hoard of ancient coins unearthed near the Kremlin
A hoard of copper coins minted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, worth a mere 2.36 roubles, has been found by archaeologists overseeing a construction project near the Kremlin. The owner most likely hid the coins during the financial crisis of the First World War, when paper money was rapidly becoming devalued.

The hoard was discovered by Moscow archaeologists who were overseeing a construction project on the Sofiyskaya Embankment where a dense neighbourhood of two-storey and three-storey buildings stood in the late 19th century. It was probably one of the local residents who hid the money.

The hoard was found at a depth of 1.5 m and consisted of 135 copper coins ranging from a half-kopeck to five kopecks. It includes 32 half-kopeck coins, 32 three-kopeck coins, 29 two-kopeck coins, 36 one-kopeck coins and six five-kopeck coins.

“The total value of the hoard is only 2.36 roubles, while the daily wage of a worker in the early 20th century was between 30 and 50 kopecks, a bottle of fine Russian wine cost between 50 and 60 kopecks and French champagne cost up to three roubles. But this find is vivid proof of the financial crisis that hit Russia during the First World War. Paper money was rapidly losing its value by the end of 1915, which is why people were hoarding coins up for a rainy day,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, head of Moscow’s Cultural Heritage Department.

The earliest of the coins date back to the 1870s and the latest, to the year 1915. Experts found traces of leather on some of the coins, which led them to conclude that the hoard was buried in a leather purse or bag, which has completely disintegrated. The considerable weight of the hoard is proof that it was buried rather than lost. The coins have oxidised, and some of them are bent. After conservation specialists clean up the coins, they will be turned over to a museum.

Items of historical value indicative of the way of life in the past centuries are sometimes found in central Moscow during construction and renovation projects or when communication lines are being buried. Archaeologists routinely oversee these projects to ensure that the artefacts, if found, are not damaged, assess their state and value, study and decide how they can best be conserved and if they are worth displaying in a museum.

During a construction project on the Serebryanicheskaya Embankment, archaeologists found bits of two wooden houses that date back to the 17th or 18th century. Back then, it was a district of windmills, breweries, factories and paint shops and a neighbourhood of crooks, outlaws, fugitive peasants, convicts and homeless people. The archaeologists also found dozens of household items, decorations and coins on the river bank dating back to a period between the 15th and early 20th centuries.

Before that, archaeologists found a military badge – a crown button of a regiment with royal patronage dating back to between the middle of the 19 century and the beginning of the 20th century. Other finds included ancient toys, a milk jug, two cups and three saucers as well as a porcelain horse made in the late 19th or early 20th century. The porcelain horse is undergoing restoration and will be later displayed in a museum.

Over the past few years, archaeologists have found over 10,000 artefacts during various renovation projects, including 1,500 items on Birzhevaya Square the earliest of which date back to the 12th century. All the items are carefully examined and turned over to museums.