Ring, Pendants and Bone Ear Picks: First Finds of the 2020 Season at Unorozh Hillfort

Раскоп в Унороже. Фото предоставлено Костромской археологической экспедицией

The summer field season of 2020 of the Kostroma complex archaeological expedition to the settlement of Unorozh brought the first finds relating to the period of the 10th-13th centuries. The expedition, organized with the assistance of the Kostroma regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society, has been exploring this unique area since 2015.

Ancient Unorozh is one of the largest trade and cultural centers of medieval Russia, a place of intersection of trade routes, of meeting and mutual exchange of cultures of the East and West. New finds at the excavations in this area are metal pendants, a "lattice" ring made of copper alloy, a button, a pectoral cross, and bone items. All finds date back to the 10th-13th centuries.


Перстень решетчатый, сплав медный. Крест нательный, cплав медный. XII -XIII вв. Фото предоставлено Костромской археологической экспедицией

Alexander Novikov, Deputy Director of the Kostroma archaeological Expedition, a member of the RGS: “We began our excavations this year in Unorozh from an excavation known to us from previous seasons, which has already brought many finds. In the cultural layer we are still at about the level of the 10th century. Now, a unique building of the first half of the 10th century has been exposed - the timber set of a log structure with an area of about 20 square meters. It is very interesting that the houses of the Unorozh craftsmen of that time were sort of two-chambered - there was a workshop next to the residential part of the house. Here we see that this is a workshop for smelting non-ferrous metals (bronze and brass), as well as for manufacturing  products from these materials. Now we are looking forward to discoveries that await us even "lower", in the layers of the early 10th century - the end of the 9th century."


Бусы, бисер. Стекло. X-XI вв. Фото предоставлено Костромской археологической экспедицией

According to the scientists, the found multi-colored beads are most likely from Western Asia - from Mesopotamia, where in the 10th century there was a center for the production of similar items from colored glass. Metal items are also imported, but these are the goods of traders from the western borders. Such pendants with horse heads were made by the masters of the Finnish-speaking people of Muroma, who lived hundreds of kilometers south-west of Unorozh, in the lower reaches of the Oka.


Подвеска в виде якорька, сплав медный. Подвеска зооморфная коньковая двуглавая с шумящими привесками, сплав медный. XII -XIII вв. Фото предоставлено Костромской археологической экспедицией

The bone ear picks and an elegant pendant in the form of an animal claw are of local production. The elegance of these items cannot go unnoticed - the Unorozh masters were well acquainted with the harmony of form and were able to achieve it.


Подвеска-амулет в форме когтя, кость. X в. Копоушка, рог. X-XI вв. Копоушка с гравированным изображением птицы. Сплав медный. Предварительно XV-XVI вв. Фото предоставлено Костромской археологической экспедицией

Unorozh is the point where the paths of the traders of the then medieval Ecumene crossed, a place of mutual enrichment of cultures. The finds indicate that the craftsmen from Unorozh, over time, began to follow the "trends" of medieval material culture, making items of ever more graceful shapes from high-quality materials. The Unorozh jewelers made the trade of the city flourish once more.


Венцы сруба древней мастерской. Фото предоставлено Костромской археологической экспедицией


According to archaeologists, in the 11th – 12th centuries they had imported raw materials - brass with a high zinc content, similar in color to gold. Such brass was smelted in medieval Northern Europe on the territory of Sweden and the island of Gotland. To Kostroma area of the Volga Region, to the distant forest land, the ingots of the metal were brought, probably, by the enterprising Novgorod merchants who came to Unorozh for valuable furs.

Kostroma archaeologists move further and further into the depths of the centuries, exploring even more ancient ties between the peoples of the times of the formation of Rus.


All photos are provided by Kostroma archaeological expedition