* A selection of beaver bones from Novgorod excavations
* Collecting samples of wood offcuts
Project Co-ordinator: Mark Brisbane, Bournemouth University
The Results of the Project
This project examined a range of materials and resources that were obtained from a variety of landscapes in the local and regional territories of medieval Novgorod (approximately 10th to 15th centuries AD). It sought to determine how these materials and resources were selected, exploited, transported to Novgorod and turned into finished products. The organisation of this production was investigated, including the location and scale of production and the extent of craft specialisation. The implications of the various levels of the organisation of production were examined with regard to the social structures of medieval Novgorod and the Novgorod region.
The project took as its starting point a number of material types that could be investigated through the archaeological record. Primary amongst these were wood (its use for objects, buildings, roads and other structures, and fuel); plants (their exploitation for food and other uses, such as dyes); clays for ceramic use; metals (especially iron and copper alloy but also gold and silver); minerals such as iron ore and those used for glass-making; wild and domesticated animals and fish (for food, wool, hides and pelts, use of bone for objects, etc.). Animal bones of domesticates were also studied for evidence of butchery patterns.
All of these materials could be studied in Novgorod and many of the other selected sites due to the excellent preservation of organic materials.The exploitation of these materials within the Novgorod territory (hereafter Novgorod Land) was examined by Russian and EU specialists. The materials were put into context by experts studying the historic settlement patterns of the period under study and by those studying site and artefact data. This provided a means to examine differing distribution patterns across selected areas of Novgorod Land (specifically Novgorod itself; Ryurik Gorodishche some 3kms to the south of Novgorod; Stara Russa some 60kms to the south across Lake Ilmen; and sites in Byeloozero some 450kms to the NE of Novgorod on the very fringe of Novgorod Land).
Where possible, the location of specific activities were identified and studied (e.g. skinning areas for hides and subsequent processing in leather workshops) and comparisons made between rural and urban types of activities.
In addition, background data was collected on the following topics to put these materials into their environmental and geographical context: geological and historic land-use; soils, clays and mineral deposits; palynology; archaeobotany; and archaeozoology.
Impact of the Results
The results of this project impact on the field of archaeology by making a major contribution to multi-disciplinary studies in European archaeology. It has brought together environmental and field archaeologists with artefact and document specialists to examine in a co-ordinated manner previously diffuse and understudied material. For instance, it has produced the first comparable pollen diagrams for various parts of Novgorod Land, collected new data on animal, fish and plant exploitation from these sites, and compared it to the limited historical evidence from chronicles and the growing evidence from birchbark documents. It has begun to identify patterns of exploitation in the rural areas and their links to sometimes sophisticated workshop activity (e.g. metalworking). It has highlighted the remarkable scale of production within both Novgorod and Stara Russa for certain products (leather, pottery and iron working) and it has identified examples of the highly conservative nature of production in terms of product-types and level of technology over large periods of time (especially evident for local pottery production).
The project has integrated wherever possible Russian and EU knowledge and expertise that makes this work of interest to scholars on a number of different levels. Firstly, it has brought this well-preserved material to a wider audience, making it accessible to specialists and generalists alike. Second, it has produced a case study that will be of enormous interest to archaeologists, medievalists, historians, artifact specialists, environmentalists and others. And it has built upon previous INTAS supported projects (93-463 and 96-099) to develop knowledge transfer between the various teams and specialists involved, including the use and development of various technological analyses of materials (e.g. optical metallurgy of metals and crucibles, together with chemical and microprobe analyses). It has also provided training for young scientists in the use of new techniques (e.g. metal analyses and the identification of leather remains to species).
Finally, it has produced a model for craft production in medieval Russia within an archaeological, historical and environmental context.
Brisbane, M and Gaimster, D (eds.) 2001, Novgorod: The Archaeology of a Russian Medieval City and its Hinterland British Museum Occasional Paper No. 141. The British Museum. London. Contains 18 papers by Russian and EU specialists.
Brisbane, M and Maltby, M, 2002, ‘Love Letters to Bare Bones: A comparison of two types of evidence for the use of animals in medieval Novgorod’, Archaeological Review from Cambridge, Vol 18, pp. 99-119.
Orton, C (ed.) 2006, The Pottery from Medieval Novgorod and its Region UCL Press. London. Contains 13 papers on aspects of ceramics written by various Russian and EU specialists.
Brisbane, M and Hather, J (eds.) 2007, Wood Use in Medieval Novgorod Oxbow Books Ltd. Contains 25 papers on various aspects of wooden materials written by Russian and EU specialists.
Brisbane, M, Makarov, N and Nosov, E (eds.) forthcoming, Novgorod in its Wider Context: Craft Production, Environment and Landscape - An Archaeological Study of Centre/Periphery Relationships based on the evidence of the exploitation and processing of natural resources in medieval Novgorod and its region. Oxbow Books Ltd. Contains over 20 papers by specialists on aspects of settlement type and locations, environmental setting, and craft production.
For further information visit the website of the Novgorod Archaeological Research Centre (English and Russian versions)