Joint fieldwork in Krasnogorodsk and Sebezh district

On October 17-19, international joint fieldworks, participated by the University of Tartu (Partner 1), NGO Archaeological Centre (Partner 3) and Pskov Archaeological Centre (Partner 8) took place in Pskov oblast. The aim of the trip was to visit archaeological monuments in Krasnogordosk district, i.e. area that was formerly inhabited by Kraasna maarahvas – a Finnic group of southern Estonian origin. This small ethnic group was visited by Oskar Kallas in 1901 and two years later by him the book Kraasna maarahvas that reflected his fieldwork data was published. Linguistic analyses of the texts collected by Kallas has enabled to identify the language as of Seto origin.

The aim of the trip was to get a survey about the character of archaeological monuments in the area populated by the people originating from Setomaa, as well as to get information about their fate. Already during the trip of Kallas the Finnic population had greatly lost their identity, being melt among the Russians.

1. Visiting Vel'e medieval stronghold

1. Visiting Vel’e medieval stronghold

2. Grave stones of Old Believers on Lukino villag cemetery

2. Grave stones of Old Believers on Lukino villag cemetery

After crossing the border, monuments of Izborsk were visited first. On the way to the southern part of Pskov oblast we also visited Vel’e medieval stronghold. In Krasnogorodsk area, first, cemetery with possible medieval grave stones was studied in Platishino village. Next we attended the villages of Mehovo and Lukino. New information was gained about the cemeteries and grave stones of the Old Believers of the region. It appears that simple grave stones with engraved cross marks which can be found on local cemeteries are not of medieval origin, as suggested before, but that they represent the local Old Believers’ tradition. Simple gravestones were home-made by the Old Believers up to the 1930s. Close to Lukino a hill fort that was considered to be perished by gravel digging, turned out to be still existing.

3. Boris Harlashov studies a grave stone

3. Boris Harlashov studies a grave stone

4. Rampart of Krasnogorodsk stronghold

4. Rampart of Krasnogorodsk stronghold

5. Old farm at Shutovo  (Sülätüvä) village

5. Old farm at Shutovo (Sülätüvä) village

In Krasnogorodsk area, in addition to the district centre, the villages of Ivantsevo/Ivatsova, Shutovo /Süllätüvä, Gorbunovo, Podsadnitsa and Poddubnaja, once inhabited by the “Chuhny” (or relatives of the Seto) were visited. It appeared that during earlier fieldwork no data about prehistoric or medieval cemeteries had been collected from the area. Also during the field trip no additional information about cemeteries at the villages of the Kraasna maarahvas (or “Seto”) population was gained. This enables to suggest that the south Estonian population of Krasnogorodsk area were rather late immigrants, and not descendants of the native Finno-Ugric substrate population. Most unexpectedly, however, information about a hill where the „Chuhny“, i.e. non-Russians used to gather and pray was gained from a local inhabitant at Rumuli. During the visit no descendants of Kraasna maarahvas were found in the formerly big villages that had become greatly or fully empty now. The household where the last descendants of the “Chuhny” had lived in Ivantsevo village had perished in fire this spring.

6. The sacred hill at Rumuli village

6. The sacred hill at Rumuli village

7. Poddubnaya - empty village

7. Poddubnaya – empty village

8. On Sebesh hill fort

8. On Sebesh hill fort

The third day was dedicated to the Sebezh region where the medieval stronghold, two hill forts and three groups of barrows, representing their so-called Smolensk group were visited. The famous barrows of Prihaby were heavily plundered by local grave looters. On the way back we visited the excavation site of this year where grave of a Viking Age woman was still open. The shallow grave of an 11th-century woman with a Latgallian type headband was cut into the limestone bedrock.

9. Plundered barrow at Prihaby

9. Plundered barrow at Prihaby

10.Viking Age grave pit at Izborsk

10.Viking Age grave pit at Izborsk

Thanks to a lucky chance, also the caves of the Pechory Monastery could be visited on the way back to Tartu.

Rescue excavations at the churchyard at Kose

Photo by Martin Malve

Rescue excavations at the churchyard at Kose were undertaken due to the construction of pipelines in the church. The work was directed by bioarchaeologist Martin Malve. As a result of the field work, the churchyard at Kose is currenly the most thoroughly excavated parish churchyard in northern Estonia.
During the field work althogether 120 inhumation burials were unearthed; occasional burnt human bones were also observed. The burials date from Middle and Early Modern Ages. More than half of the recovered individuals were sub-adults, which is a common phenomenon at burial grounds of the mentioned period. The skeletons will be subjected to detailed osteological study at the University of Tartu, to determine the sex, age at death and the most evident pathologies of the deceased. The most interesting diseases and injuries detected from preliminary observation at excavation include a fatal blade injury on a male skull and traces of osteoemyelitis on lower limbs of a child. Common ageing-related diseases were also observed: osteoarthrosis on limb joints, and spondylosis and sponyloarthrosis on vertebrae.

Photo by Raido Roog

Artefact finds collected at the excavations include numerous iron knives that had served as grave goods, and occasional coins of a Middle Age date. Worth of separate mentioning is a burial of a sub-adult with a necklace of cowry shells and bronze rumbler bells around his/her neck. Numerous decorative bronze mounts were collected as stray finds. A limestone pavement was also unearthed during the excavations.

Photo by Raido Roog

Excavations on Paloveere hill fort

On May 24-26 small-scale archaeological excavations took place on the hill fort of Paloveere, Võrumaa county, Vastseliina Community. The aim of the works was to study the character, chronology and preservation of the cultural layers on the top of the hill called Liinamägi, The hill top had unfortunately been levelled by bulldozer works and most of the cultural layer had been removed from there and pushed down to the slopes.
From a 10 x 1 m trench it appeared that a ca. 10 cm thick in situ layer had preserved only for 1/5 of the length of the trench. The thin cultural layer contained both hand-made and wheel-thrown pottery. The coexistence of these two pottery types indicates to the Late Viking Age and enables us to date the fort preliminarily into the 10th century and the first half of the 11th century. As the cultural layers turned out to be partly preserved, in spite of hard damages, the site will be presented to state protection.