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The hillfort of Staraya Ryazan was traditionally viewed as the site impressively mirroring catastrophic results of the Mongol-Tatar invasion, a kind of “The Russian Pompeii”. The site does provide certain grounds for such an opinion. While the centres like Kiev, Chernigov, Vladimir, Suzdal, Rostov devastated by the incursion exist at present as cities and towns, Staraya Ryazan has survived as a small village. Still, the real picture of the town’s downfall, its tempo and mechanics are not clear in details. One of the reasons is insufficient state of investigation of the hillfort (only ca. 5% of the fortified territory has been archaeologically examined). Accordingly, there is no consent as for the period when Staraya Ryazan ceased to function as an urban centre.
A.L. Mongait was inclined to suppose its gradual decline after the crushing defeat; V.P. Darkevich put forward the idea that Staraya Ryazan had lost its urban status immediately as a result of the catastrophe. Both points of view were confirmed by serious reasoning. We should dwell upon them briefly, as well as on the new excavations undertaken in 1994-2000.
The medieval “Tale on Batyj’s invasion upon Ryazan” comprised in “The tale on Zaraisk icon of St. Nicholas” evidently originating from some local chronicle contains the information on the town’s re-settling after the devastation, in particular, on the church services resumed in the temples. Known historical song telling about Avdot’ya of Ryazan also produces a picture of urban life being restored. In the chronicles a prince from the local dynasty bured in the town cathedral is mentioned, some data con-
cerning the location of Episcopal chair in this town are dated to the late 13 th с.
The archaeological records on the late period of Ryazan existence are difficult for interpretation. The upper part of cultural deposit is disturbed by ploughing, and the finds of later periods are scattered all over the site’s area. But up to now we have not discovered undisturbed layers dated back to the 14th—15th cc., though potsherds of this period are abundant practically within the whole fortified territory of the site. A number of dwellings in the hillfort date from the period after the Mongol incursion, for instance, that one excavated in 1995 near the ruins of the Saviour cathedral. An imitation of coin struck by khan Tokhtamysh was found here accompanied by coeval pottery.
Evidently, the status of Staraya Ryazan after the invasion still was high enough. This is proved by the find of a bronze plate from gilded church gates with the image of the Baptism. V.N. Lazarev suggested the 14th c. as the date of this find. Similar bronze gates were used to adorn the most revered cathedrals of the wealthiest towns in ancient Rus’.
A stone plaque with Arabic inscription including the name of a khan (it might serve as a kind of paitse) found in Staraya Ryazan may demonstrate that even after its devastation by Batyj’s troops it was considered by the Horde an important strategic and political point.
The above data lead to a conclusion on the necessity of further investigations of the site and its vicinity to build up a more congruent idea on the events of 1237, their real scale and historic results.
From the capital of principality to a district town (contributions to historical topography of Rostov in the 10th—14th cc.)
The earliest city in north-eastern Russia, Rostov was once the capital of principality. At present it is a small town in Yaroslavl region laiown for its architectural monuments dated back to the 16th—17th cc. The town is situated on the north-western shore of the lake Nero on the first lake terrace (Fig. 1). The article discusses initial stages in development of Rostov urban territory proceeding from the historical and archaeological data now available (Fig. 2).
The ancient Russian town had emerged in the territory of the Meryian dwelling site, as it was reported in the chronicle. The lowermost horizon of the cultural deposit corresponds to this early settlement; it is characterized by specific pottery and finds, as well as by some features in osteo-logical material. According to our data, the area inhabited by the Merya population stretched out along the lake shore in north-west direction from the Pizherma river estuary (filled up with earth in the 18th c.) not less than for 350 m,
and inland for 200 m (Fig. 4,1). There are no data as for the Meryan site layout. Only its periphery was investigated archaeologically, the remains of bronze-casting and blacksmith production were discovered. The settlement functioned until the mid - third quarter of the 10th с. and probably reserved its specific status later on, in the 11th с. having become a part of urban area.
The earliest buildings of the ancient Russian town date from the 80-90-s of the 10th c. Rostov’s area in the late 10th c. was situated close to the estuary of the Pizherma, the lake Nero tributary, and may be evaluated as not less than 15 ha (Fig. 4, 2). During the next 200 years the town was growing constantly. In the early 13th c. Rostov stretched out along the lake shore for more than 3 km, this stripe being up to 400 m wide on the average and 1 km wide in the centre (Fig. 4,3, 4). The urban territory might cover an area of ca. 200 ha according to minimal estimation, and this indication permits us to qualify the town as one of the largest cities in ancient Rus’ of the period.