The exhibition consists basically of material obtained in recent years by Soviet scholars during archaeological research on ancient Slavonic settlements and burial-grounds, and on old Russian towns.

Room 143. An important place is occupied in the exhibition by items found during excavations on the sites of eighth to tenth century Slavonic settlements-Novotroitsky (Sumy region), Borshev-sky (Voronezh region), and the Monastyrishche site near the town of Romny. The collections of agricultural implements and household utensils testify to the fact that the inhabitants of these settlements were engaged in agriculture, cattle-breeding, hunting and fishing. The existence of crafts is confirmed by an iron-smelting furnace of the ninth and tenth centuries discovered in the province of Vinnitsa near the village of Grigorovka. Interesting material has come from the Old Ladoga excavations, including some well preserved wooden objects – parts of a weaving loom, a spindle, a comb for carding flax, oars and parts of a boat.

Pendants. Gold, cloisonne enamel. Kiev, 12h century

Exhibited in room 144 are groups of objects which illustrate the way of life and the culture of rural communities in old Russia. The material in room 145 is devoted to a display of urban culture, based upon the example of Old Ladoga and Belaya Vezha, important centres of trade and crafts from the tenth to twelfth century.

Archaeological research on the latter was carried out between 1949 and 1951 in connection with the construction of the Volga-Don Canal.

Icon of St Nicholas. Novgorod School, 13h century

Room 146. Weapons and armaments used by the Russian warrior- chain mail, the sword and the spear heads found on the site of the Raikovetsky settlement near the town of Berdichev – are evidence of the heroic defence and the destruction of this small fortress-town during the invasion of Russian lands by the Tartar-Mongol hordes of Batu-Khan.

The exhibitions in rooms 147-149 provide an introduction to the architecture, art and relics of writing of the tenth to thirteenth century. Of particular value are some frescoes and a mosaic floor from the church of the Mikhailovsko-Zlatoverkhy monastery in Kiev (early twelfth century). Examples of stone carving, used to embellish the facades of shrines and palaces, reflect the great mastery of the Russian builders and craftsmen, among whom the stone carvers of the Vladimir-Suzdal principality were particularly renowned. There is also some splendid jewellery, adorned with the most exquisite cloisonne enamel, granulation, filigree and niello. The Tmuto-rokan Stone is an ancient relic indicating the early development of writing in Russia. It is a large marble slab bearing the inscription of the Russian prince, Gleb, which speaks of the work, carried out in 1068, of measuring the distance between Korchev (Kerch) and Tmutorokan (Taman). A letter written on the bark of a birch tree found during excavations at Pskov, denotes the growth of literacy during the twelfth century among the middle strata of urban society (room 148). The culture of Pskov and Novgorod is represented in the exhibits of room 150, which contains fragments of architectural ornamentation, a collection of icons, examples of craft work and various articles of domestic life.

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3 May 2007