Archaeological research at the ‘Mystetskyi Arsenal’ territoryMuseum

Archaeological research at the ‘Mystetskyi Arsenal’ territory

Archeological investigation of the ‘Mystetskyi Arsenal’ territory began in 2005, after the decision to create a museum and cultural center here was taken. The large-scale excavations of 2005–2009 covered, first of all, the inner courtyard of Arsenal. The areas inside the building were studied in 2006, objects in vaults and adjoining territory – in 2007. In 2008, fortifications were explored and documented.

The archaeological researches of the Arsenal territory revealed three chronological components: 1) 14th–17th centuries cultural layers and objects; 2) a complex of religious and household structures of the 17th century Voznesenskyi (Ascension) Monastery; and 3) various traces of the artillery court and the 17th–19th centuries Arsenal activities. Main objects of the study were: the architectural ensemble of the monastery; Voznesenskyi necropolis; material culture of the 17th century Ukrainian monastery; objects of the 14th–16th centuries chronological horizon which precede the written memories of the monastery.

The earliest archaeological finds here were sporadic fragments of 11th–12th centuries building materials, which could be associated with the Uspenskyi (Assumption) Cathedral of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra construction activities. The territory systematic development began later – at the turn of the 15th century. Late 14th–15th centuries finds come from 20 archaeological objects at the Arsenal site. These time materials are rare for Kyiv, so their historical value is very special.

17th–18th centuries history of the site is connected with the Voznesenskyi Monastery functioning. Historical data on it was poorly saved. The architectural ensemble of the monastery has undergone several stages of development; its building was first formed by wooden structures. Later, at the turn of 17th–18th centuries, there was a major reconstruction, after which at least four mason objects appeared – a cathedral church, a bell tower, a refectory, and walls of the monastery external fence. Only the remains of the cathedral and the monastery fence were found by the excavations. The cathedral was dismantled during the final stage of constructing the Arsenal building in 1797–1798. Its remains were preserved in the form of a backflow to foundation ditch. The cathedral was tri-apsidal, of approx. 23×34 m size. Since the end of the 18th century mentions of the Voznesenskyi Monastery gradually disappeared from Pechersk architectural landscape. This historical background actualizes the value of archaeological materials from the site.

The series of common household buildings existed around the monastery. More than 150 objects were recorded by archaeological research at the Arsenal. These were remains of houses and utility pits. Wooden religious 17th century buildings were not found.

Voznesenskyi necropolis developed in several stages: as a monastery churchyard, and as a parochial cemetery. More than 250 burials were recorded within it. In the majority, they were ordinary burials in soil pits and wooden coffins; rarely –brickwork and crypt burials. The only precisely attributed burial was discovered inside the Voznesenskyi Cathedral. It was the grave of major-general Semen Sukin, the governor of Kyiv, who died in 1740.

Archaeological finds from Arsenal territory are extremely numerous and diverse. Most of them are ceramics: pottery of various types, tiles, toys, etc. Glassware is another important part of the collection. Furthermore, over 50 coins of the late 17th to 18th centuries of Polish-Lithuanian, Baltic-Swedish and Russian origin were found there. Among the unique finds are: four bone chess-pieces from the 15th–16th centuries household; a two-sided icon on the oval metal medallion; and a small bone double-sided icon with different images of the Holy Mother.

The preliminary results of archaeological research were published in the ‘Pechersk Fortress and Kyiv Arsenal: New Studies’ journal (‘Lavrskyi Almanakh’ 8th special issue, 2008).

Archaeological finds, excavated by the Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, are transferred to the Mystetskyi Arsenal permanent collection. As of today, over 1000 archeological items are a part of the State Museum Fund of Ukraine. These materials are used within exhibition projects, i.e. ‘De Profundis’ (2009) and ‘Old New Arsenal’ (2014).

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