This year, Moscow celebrates the Day of the Archaeologist in a big way, with themed tours, lectures and master classes held in the parks throughout the week. Director General of the Moscow Archaeological Bureau Konstantin Voronin told about the large-scale excavations in Tsaritsyno and Lefortovo, the history of these two estates and parks and the most interesting findings.
Tsaritsyno: from Chyornaya Gryaz to the Museum
The site of today's Tsaritsyno Museum Reserve is a unique location boasting an eventful history. Archaeological research suggests that the area was inhabited in the Bronze Age, that is, in the first half of the 2nd Millennium BC. In the 12th–13th centuries, it was inhabited by Vyatichs, with extant remains of settlements and burial mounds.
Late in the 16th century, the lands called Chyornaya Gryaz (Black Mud) belonged to the boyars Godunov. In 1633, Chyornaya Gryaz, abandoned during the Time of Troubles, came into possession of a top-ranked boyar Streshnev, who built a boyar homestead here, and a few decades later it was owned by Prince Vasily Golitsyn. Later Chyornaya Gryaz was owned by the Tsar. It was under the charge of the Palace Board until August 1711, when it was granted to Dmitry Kantemir.
In 1775, Empress Catherine the Great bought the village. She wanted to make it a royal residence, not far from Moscow. This homestead was renamed to Tsaritsyno, with the estate complex construction entrusted to the famous architect Vasily Bazhenov. He worked on its design for more than ten years and built all the estate premises. However, Catherine the Great visited Tsaritsyno in 1785 and all of a sudden ordered to break some of the buildings and re-design the estate.
Architect Matvey Kazakov proceeded with construction. Having devoted to Tsaritsyno about six years, from 1787 to 1793, he dismantled a part of the buildings by Bazhenov and started to implement his own projects. By 1793, the building of the Grand Palace was erected, with other buildings almost completed. After Catherine the Great's death, the construction suspended, Tsaritsyno was abandoned, eventually turning into overgrown ruins.
In the 19th century, Tsaritsyno became one of the most favourite walking locations. Visitors liked the picturesque Palace's ruins and the landscape Park with pavilions, bridges and grottoes built in the late 18th century. In addition, in the 19th century, this failed Imperial residence was occupied by a greenhouse complex.
In the 20th century, Tsaritsyno fell into decay, again. Even though there was a Museum open there, the grounds were mostly unkempt, buildings destroyed and dilapidated.
In 2005, Moscow authorities decided to restore the Palace and the Park. One of the most important parts of the project was the archaeological research of historical monuments, as well as the restoration and museumification of discovered buildings. 40 experts archaeologists and many skilled diggers took part in the excavations. Archaeological work continued for three years.
Experts explored the entire interior of the Grand Palace. The total area of excavations covered 3,900 sq m. Archaeologists discovered architectural elements and structural features of the building (brick and white-stone stove foundations, columns, brick floors, white-stone backfilling), and also found fragments of older buildings, foundations of which could be traced inside the Grand Palace.
As a result of dynamic economic activity on the grounds of the Bread House in the 20th century, the cultural layer has been severely damaged, but archaeologists found remains of the wooden drainage system of the 18th century in the yard. The opened area covered over 1,200 sq m.
During the study of the Grand Cavalry and Kamer-Yungfarsky buildings, experts have fully exposed the foundations of buildings, built of regular white-stone lime-white blocks, and then prepared foundations for museumification.
The Grape Greenhouse and the Gardener's House were studied in the territory of the former greenhouse complex.
Archaeological work covered more than 60 ha of the Park. In particular, experts studied foundations of Milovida, Nerastankino and Tower Ruin pavilions, explored grottoes, bridges, paths' surface in the Park. Archaeologists have found a partially extant shaft, which marked the border of the Park in the 18th–19th centuries, and determined historical outlines of Orekhovsky and Greenhouse ponds.
The findings discovered during the excavations were used to open an archaeological exhibition occupying three halls of the Grand Palace. It gives an idea of different stages of Tsaritsyno's history. Archaeologists highlight the white-stone carved blocks of Kamer-Yungfarsky and Grand Cavalry buildings' masonry built by Bazhenov, collection of enamelled, relief-and-polychrome and smooth painted tiles of the 17th–18th centuries, illustrating all the stages of Tsaritsyno's development, and remains of a later time featuring a variety of household items.
Lefortovo: from the Golovins Estate to the unique Park
Lefortovo Palace and Park were forming during the 18th century. It all started when Peter the Great bought the estate and the parterre left-bank part of Lefortovo Palace's Park from Golovin's heirs in 1722. During the 18th–20th centuries, the Park's composition had multiple changes: with ponds, canals, gazebos, fountains and palaces appearing and vanishing. Golovinsky, Krestovy, Lower, Large and Oval ponds, and Annengofsky channel have survived to this day.
The first large-scale archaeological research of the Lefortovo Palace and Park ensemble started in 1999 and lasted until 2003. The excavations covered more than 2,000 sq m. The work was mostly focused on the study of the Park's ponds. Experts researched Big, Octagonal, Krestovy, Oval and Golovinsky ponds, and buildings of the 18th century — Church of the Assumption, stairs in Golovinsky Palace, the Venus dam, the site of the fountains at Rastrelli's grotto and partially Annengofskaya Cascade.
Archaeological research in Lefortovo Park was resumed in 2008. Archaeologists' key objective was localisation, identification and examination of the Palace and the Park's architecture elements buried in the cultural layer. In different parts of the Park, 5,500 sq m of earth has been exposed, with outstanding buildings of the 18th–19th centuries discovered, design elements of the Park (bridges, paths, gazebos and channels) and its water system studied, stages of cultural layer formation throughout the ensemble's area researched. This information is very important for reconstruction of the Park's design in its historical appearance.
Among the important finds are coins of 18th–20th centuries, relief-and-polychrome and smooth painted tiles, ceramic utensils dating back to the 17th–19th centuries. Next to Golovinsky Palace's stairs, experts have discovered two black-glazed jars and restored them.