Copper and silver coins: Treasure trove unearthed on Dologorukovskaya Street

Copper and silver coins: Treasure trove unearthed on Dologorukovskaya Street
The money was unearthed during excavation work on a vacant plot where a building had been pulled down in the 1960s. It appears that the trove was hidden inside one of the walls of the building during a financial crisis, triggered off by WWI. At that time, banknotes became depreciated, and people tried to hoard any metal coins they could get hold of.

Moscow’s archaeologists found a treasure trove with 19th−20th century coins on Dologorukovskaya Street, while digging at a fenced-off construction site. In all, they unearthed 97 coins ranging from half a kopeck to one rouble, including 36 copper coins and 59 silver ones. The entire trove is worth 35 roubles and 50.5 kopecks.

The trove was located inside a layer of broken bricks. According to experts, a city resident hid it inside his flat’s wall on the first or second floor. The building was pulled down in the 1960s, and the coins were buried together with the debris.

“This was a substantial sum in the early 20th century, equaling a skilled Moscow worker’s monthly pay package. It should be mentioned for comparison’s sake that, in the early 20th century, a loaf of bread cost between four to seven kopecks, a sandwich three to seven kopecks, a litre of milk was about 14 kopecks, and it was possible to buy a pair of boots for five roubles. A cow cost 60 roubles, and 100 roubles were enough to build a wooden house. This find echoes the Russian financial crisis, triggered off by WWI. Banknotes became depreciated by late 1915, and people tried to hoard metal coins,” Head of the City Department of Cultural Heritage Alexei Yemelyanov explained.

Some of the coins are stuck together forming piles making experts believe that the trove was initially hidden inside a woven bag that eventually disintegrated. The money lay in the ground for a long time and became seriously oxidised after being subjected to the aggressive local environment. The artifacts are now being restored. They will be painstakingly cleaned and delivered to the Museum of Moscow. So far, a 20-kopeck coin, minted in 1915, is the most recent coin inside this trove.

“This is the second trove with 19th and early 20th century coins to be found in central Moscow. A similar artifact was recently unearthed on Sofiiskaya Embankment. However, each trove is unique in itself because it represents a certain historical period,” Mr Yemelyanov added.

Valuable items from bygone days are regularly unearthed during construction and improvement projects and during the relocation of utility mains in central Moscow. They help explain city life of previous generations. Archaeologists oversee these projects, preventing workers from damaging any items of interest. Experts assess their state and value, study them meticulously and then decide how best to preserve and display them at the museum.

Archaeologists found a 17th−18th century pectoral cross (quatrefoil) on Bolotnaya Square. Experts believe the cross, decorated with the images of saints, belonged to a middle-class city resident.

Sections still intact of two 17th−18th century wooden cabin frames were found during a construction project on Serebryanicheskaya Embankment. Several hundred years ago, there were many mills, breweries, factories and dyeing workshops here. The area was also swarming with all kinds of shady characters, including con artists, robbers, fugitive peasants, convicts and vagabonds.

Over a period of the past few years, archaeologists have unearthed over 10,000 artifacts during improvement and renovation projects in central Moscow, including 500 items on Birzhevaya Square alone. The oldest of them dates back to the 12th century. All finds are carefully studied and then delivered to local museums.