Old Testament stories and mythological creatures: archaeologists discover stove tile fragments dating back to the 18th century

Old Testament stories and mythological creatures: archaeologists discover stove tile fragments dating back to the 18th century
These artefacts have been found during the excavations near Gogolevsky Boulevard. The tile patterns feature an intricate technique of painting on raw enamel.

During the excavations near Gogolevsky Boulevard, archaeologists have discovered about 500 stove tile fragments dating back to the 18th century. They belong to stove decorations, such as front and corner tiles, belts, cornices, columns and lintels.

Ceramic tiles are painted in monochrome technique with manganese oxide on white enamel, which gives them a rare purple hue.

"These patterns are made with the use of a sophisticated technology that came to Russia during the reign of Peter the Great. After the first firing, a tile was covered with white enamel, with the pattern applied to a raw surface, not on traditionally dried-up one. The paint got absorbed into the enamel and then set during the second firing. This technique provided strong coating and clear images. However, it required a lot of skill, as you cannot change the painting once it set on the raw enamel. By the way, such tiles were expensive, and only wealthy people could afford them," said Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov.

Tile splinters were buried when a stove in one of the houses was rebuilt. As experts suggest, it happened in the first half of the 19th century. They are currently studying the findings, trying to restore the tiles using the well-preserved fragments. After the research, the collection will be transferred to one of the Moscow museums.

Artists used themes from Western European collections, mostly Dutch ones, translated and published in Russia, to decorate the tiles. The albums included hundreds of engravings with explanatory inscriptions made in several languages. You could find both biblical and mythological themes. Also, collections included drawings related to morality and education.

For an educated person of the 18th century, familiar with the interpretation of biblical and mythological symbols, a set of subjects depicted on tiles served as a reference to literary sources. Drawings had state and social ideas, the principles of Christian morality encrypted.

In particular, archaeologists have restored a tile with an Old Testament story: the whale that swallowed the prophet Jonah for disobeying God lets him out on the land surface. The prophet spent three days and three nights in the whale's belly  begging for forgiveness.

One of the fragments discovered shows a girl with an oar. It is an allegorical image, symbolizing control of her feelings.

Valuable items from bygone days are often unearthed in Moscow. They help explain the city life of previous generations. Experts assess their state and value, and, following a thorough inspection, decide on the best way to preserve them.

In August, experts found traces of a small foundry, which was located near Sretenka Street in the 17th — early 18th century.

Archaeologists have found fragments of a water tank, a large wooden barrel, as well as craft tools. These are two ceramic crucibles, special pots that were used for primary smelting of metal from ore, as well as part of a stone mould.

In July, archaeologists discovered polychrome painted stove tiles of the second half of the 18th century near Novokuznetskaya Streets.

In Yuzhnoye Medvedkovo, archaeologists have discovered an upper part fragment of a carved white-stone column and a part of a mammoth tusk figurine. Experts date these finds back to the 18th century. Most likely, it was the time the column was carved from stone to decorate the façade of one of the estate buildings.  The mammoth tusk figurine is dated to the same century.

In spring, experts discovered a 19th century revolver and a militia cap badge in Dolgorukovskaya Street. Earlier, a treasure trove of 97 silver and copper coins dating back to the reign of Nicholas II had been discovered in this street.

Over the past 8 years, Moscow archaeologists have found more than 35,000 artefacts.