Medieval Russian Memo

Digs & Discoveries March/April 2016

(Courtesy Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences)
SHARE:

During excavation of a medieval road near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russian archaeologists recently unearthed a birchbark letter dating to the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It was probably written by a servant to his master, and describes unforeseen travel expenses he incurred on an ill-fated trip to the city of Kostroma, about 200 miles to the northeast. According to the text, somewhere along the journey he was stopped by someone named “Yuri,” possibly an administrator, who fined the hapless servant twice. The letter reports that Yuri helped himself to 36 belas, a unit of currency at the time. “It is probably about a debt collection or an unpaid custom duty,” says Leonid Belyaev of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology, who is supervising the dig. “Or maybe just extortion.” This is only the fourth medieval birchbark text to have been discovered in Moscow. The other three are drafts of legal documents.

MORE TO DISCOVER

Letter from Nigeria

July/August 2024

A West African Kingdom's Roots

Excavations in Benin City reveal a renowned realm’s deep history

Artifacts July/August 2024

Etruscan Oil Lamp

Read Article
Etruscan Hanging Oil Lamp
(Courtesy Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona; © DeA Picture Library/Art Resource, NY)

Around the World July/August 2024

TONGA

Read Article
(Phillip Parton/ANU)

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2024

Bronze Age Beads Go Abroad

Read Article

Features July/August 2024

The Assyrian Renaissance

Archaeologists return to Nineveh in northern Iraq, one of the ancient world’s grandest imperial capitals

Read Article
(Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project)