Pipes, pomade jar and pharmacy weight: everyday items dating back to the 17th–18th centuries found in the centre of Moscow

Pipes, pomade jar and pharmacy weight: everyday items dating back to the 17th–18th centuries found in the centre of Moscow
Excavations were running in the area of Sretenka Street, which was considered one of the main streets of Moscow until the late 15th century. The street was occupied by merchants’ and artisans' residential houses, shops and workshops.

During excavations near Sretenka Street, archaeologists have discovered many items that used to belong to Moscow citizens two or three centuries ago, with pieces of pipes, coins and parts of ceramic candlesticks among them.

Also, experts have found some individual artefacts, such as a metal folding icon, a cross pendant and a pectoral cross, a tiny ceramic jug, an iron padlock, two copper buttons, a pomade jar and a small brass pharmacy weight. All items are dated to the 18th-19th centuries.

"There is a reason for these items to be found in Sretenka Street, since until the late 18th century, it was considered one of the main Moscow streets. Inhabited by merchants and artisans, Sretenka and neighbouring alleys housed shops, pharmacies, workshops and facilities popular with Muscovites. If you needed a caster, a skinner, a ragman or a carpenter, you could find them in Sretenka," said Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov

Pieces of Turkish pipes and coins

According to Alexei, there are some 30 pieces of pipe stems that are particularly interesting. These are parts of the so-called 'Turkish' pipes, a local substitution of imported counterparts. They became widespread in Moscow after the Russian-Turkish wars of the second half of the 18th century and were popular until the mid-19th century. All pipes found were used repeatedly, many of them even broken, supposedly while dumping out ashes.

Also, archaeologists have found seven coins of various denominations: from a half-kopeck coin to 5 kopecks. The oldest coin dates back to 1734, with the most recent one being of 1851. Six pieces of ceramic candlesticks are another numerous category of items found in Sretenka. Experts date these fragments back to the first half of the 19th century. Archaeologists suggest that such candlesticks were more popular than metal ones because they were cheap. But they broke more often, as the ceramics were fragile.

Folding icon

Among individual finds, Alexei Yemelyanov highlights a metal icon triptych with biblical scenes. Usually, folding icons had three parts. People used to take them when going on long journeys or to help them in some big deal.

The folding icon found near Sretenka has only the central part extant, with side shutters lost. The outer side shows the cross of Calvary, with the inner divided in half: above are iconographic kleimos (separate, usually square parts of an icon developing or explaining the central image) of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Resurrection of Christ and the Ascension of the Lord, with kleimos of the Descent of the Holy Spirit and the Dormition of the Mother of God below. All images have inscriptions.

Small brass weight and pomade jar

Two more artefacts that witnessed the life in Sretenka area 200-300 years ago are a brass weight and a pomade jar.

The small brass weight was made in Germany. Most likely, it was used at a pharmacy to precisely weigh drugs. It has a clear manufacturer's brand (a shield with three hearts and the letters GHS— Georg Heinrich Sichler).

Master Georg Sichler lived in Nuremberg till 1869. The apothecary system of weights adopted in Russia in the early 18th century originated from this city.

The pomade jar is from France. Such containers were used to store beauty products: powders, ointments, pomades.

According to the markings, the jar was made in Paris in the second quarter of the 19th century. The inscription has the name of the perfumer — Laugier, and the address of his Parisian shop in Rue du Bourg l'Abbé. In 1828, a shopping gallery (still working) was opened in this street, which probably housed Laugier's perfume shop.

According to Alexei Yemelyanov, all the finds are currently carefully studied and registered. They will replenish Moscow museums' holdings.

Earlier, during excavations near Sretenka Street, archaeologists found traces of a small foundry, which was located here in the 17th — early 18th century. Experts found fragments of a water tank, a large wooden barrel, as well as craft tools, two ceramic crucibles — special pots that were used for primary smelting of metal from ore, as well as part of a stone-made mould.

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