The Study of Bronze- and Iron-Age Sites along the Moscow River

There are obvious gaps in our archaeological knowledge of the settlement of the Moscow area when a production centre was emerging there. Many questions relating to the archaeology of the Bronze Age result from the virtual absence of radio-carbon dates for the sites concerned. In addition nothing is known about any sites from the Middle Bronze Age in this area, which means that it is not clear whether there was cultural continuity between the tribes, who populated it at that time and to whom the Fatyanovo sites belonged, and the corded-ware culture which followed on from it. Nor has the time been determined when the first fortified settlements appeared and Iron-Age burials have not been found either. The fate of the population which left behind it fortified settlements of the Dyakovo type, in the third quarter of the I millennium AD is still a subject hotly debated. There are also disagreements when it comes to determining the date and initial centres of medieval Russian colonization of the region.
Field research carried out by the Institute of Archaeology, together with the Zvenigorod Museum for Art and the History of Architecture, was directed towards solving these key problems.
In the basin of the Moscow River near Zvenigorod a number of key sites were identified and excavated: among these were the RANIS flood-plain settlement of the Fatyanovo Culture and the Mount Olympus (Dyutkovo) settlement from the final stage of the Bronze Age, the Dyutkovo fortified settlement, the Dunino 4 settlement (where an Iron-Age burial was found) and the medieval Russian village, Khotyazhi 1.
The RANIS flood-plain settlement has been dated on the basis of the buried soil in the layer of the flood-plain alluvium. The multi-disciplinary palaeo-geographic research carried out in this area has made it possible to reconstruct the natural conditions at the time it was first settled, which to judge from the radio-carbon data falls at the very end of the III or beginning of the II millennium BC. Several dwellings with hearths, which have been excavated, make it possible to arrive at a likely reconstruction of the site — a fairly large but very short-lived settlement, apparently used on a seasonal basis by livestock-breeders and tillers of the land. Pots with round bases and holes in their lower parts probably served as utensils for milk products: parallels for these are found at Fatyanovo-Balanovo sites in Mordovia, while the range of flint items in which drilling and punching tools predominate, bears witness to the specialization that was taking place in economic activity.
At the fortified settlement of Dyutkovo the earliest system of defences in the environs of Moscow was found: it consisted exclusively of ditches, which were up to 1.5 m deep. The assemblage of finds from that site including a pin made of two different metals with a terminal consisting of a double spiral and pottery decorated with imprints of a stick at an angle points to the 9th–7th centuries BC as the most likely date for the emergence of the settlement. At this same site a hoard of bronze items of female jewellery was found dating from the 1st–2nd centuries AD, typical precisely for the population of the Moscow River Basin.
A unique burial of the Early Dyakovo period was found in the large village of Dunino 4 — the first of its kind found in the environs of Moscow. Thorough archaeological and anthropological investigation of this cremation without any grave goods made it possible to piece together a complex “multi-stage” funerary rite and opened up prospects for finding further burials of this kind.
The range of medieval Russian sites at Khotyazhi is one of the largest and most revealing in the Moscow Region: it sheds light on the initial stage of the colonization of the region by a new population. To judge from the results of the research carried out by specialists from the geophysics department in the Geology Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the cultural layer was up to 1.5 m thick. In the excavated area at Khotyazhi a property dating from the second half of the 11th century was discovered and a series of earlier finds — hand-moulded pottery, glass beads for stringing and
10th-century dirhams.

N.A. Krenke

Digital publication