Medieval Kiev from the Perspective of an Archaeological Study of the Podil District

Medieval Kiev from the Perspective of an Archaeological Study of the Podil District

By Mykhailo Sahaydak

Ruthenica, Vol. 4 (2005)

Introduction: Archaeological commentary on the early history of medieval Kiev has long attracted scholars’ attention. Regular large-scale excavations, which opened new pages of the city’s history, have contributed much to this. The 1970s and 1980s became the most important landmark in this process. It was the time of summing up the results of more than twenty years of research (1969–1982), the most distinctive feature of which was considerable expansion of the scope of excavations. Traditional excavations in the Upper Town were supplemented with large-scale in vestigations in the Podil district of the Lower Town. Despite frequent floods and disastrous episodes of deposition, this territory turned out to have been populated early and to have remained densely populated for a long time.

Excavations carried out along the construction of the second (Obolon’) subway line revealed the remnants of a large urban settlement, which arose here in the late ninth century and came to occupy approximately 150 hectares within 30 to 40 years. The town began to form along the river, above the general level of the river valley, on the terrace above the flood plain. The terrace stretched between the precipitous slopes of the waterfront and the course of the deep Dnieper’s tributary, the Pochaina River, which served as a convenient harbor.

From the very beginning of the excavations in the Podil district it be came clear that it was definitely the beginning of a new stage in the study of the city. The major factor that changed attitudes toward the potential of archaeological study was the excellent preservation of the organic material in the earliest horizons of the cultural layer, primarily wood, the basic and principal building material of the Middle Ages, which is rarely preserved in soil. Everything that made up the material basis of life, from the timber dwellings that formed whole quarters of the city and to burial complexes with various wooden inventories, presented itself to the archaeologists in its original appearance in the cultural layer of Podil.

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