Museum complex

Monetary-material Gnezdovo hoard

Eastern ancient unfortified settlement, Gnezdovo, Smolensk Oblast
The second half of the X century
Druzhina culture
On one of coin-like pendants two lines forming T-shape sign are scribed (it is interpreted as a symbol of the Scandinavian god Thor).
Silver, iron, copper-alloy, glass, cornelian, crystal; granulation, casting
Donated by T.A. Pushkina, who leaded the Smolensk archeological expedition of Lomonosov Moscow State University that discovered the hoard in 1993
Showcase 18

The hoard was found during archeological excavations of the complex of inhabited and support structures of the ancient unfortified settlement to the east from the Central hillfort (fortified settlement) in a shallow hole that was most likely dug for it.
Totally the hoard includes 395 items: many silver woman’s jewelry (earrings, temple rings, lunulas, pendants, button, beads), balance plummets for measuring weight of silver, Arabian coins – dirhems. To some of these coins a tag is soldered, meaning they were used as pendants-jewelry. Among all, the hoard contained more than 200 beads made of glass, crystal and cornelian. All items were laid tight and probably wrapped to the birchbark only several patches of which remained. Also small fragments of leather were found (remains of the bag?), and on some of coins – marks of textiles. The knife was stuck into the parcel on the top – the lower part of the blade’s spike-ending remained in the vertical position.
On one of coin-like pendants two lines forming T-shape sign are scribed (it is interpreted as a symbol of the Scandinavian god Thor).
Questions about reasons fro hiding the hoard or his owners are very difficult. It was discovered inside the above-ground structure – the place where it was found does not allow calling it ritual. It contains no debris, no fragments of jewelry, ingots or wire (objects-blanks or objects for melting) – the hoard could not be defined as a reserve of jewelry materials. It is more likely that these valuable for their owners, items were hidden because of some coming danger. The knife probably was a protective amulet of the hoard.
In virtue of analogies and considering the content of coins the hoard could be dated 50-ies of the X century.

More information...

Gnyozdovo (Gnyozdovo archeological site) is one of the biggest trade and craft early-city centers of Ancient Rus and a predecessor of historic Smolensk – the capital of the Ancient Rus of the XII-XIII centuries.
Gnyozdovo is located in 13 km from modern Smolensk. It includes several archeological sites on both banks of the Dnieper river: 1. The central hillfort and a settlement near the place where the river Svinec fall into the Dnieper river; 2. Olshansky hillfort and settlement near the place where the river Olsha fall into the Dnieper river; 3. Eight burial mounds’ groups on both banks of the Dnieper river: Central, Forestal, Glushenkovskaya, Left-Bank, Dnieper, Olshanskaya, Zaolshanskaya, Nivlenskaya.
The first description of these burial mounds’ groups and the hillfort was made in the beginning of the XX century by S.I. Sizov. In the 20-ies of the XX century in burial mounds’ groups about 4500 mounds were counted.
Examination of Gnezdovo, its burial mounds at the first place, started in 1874 after one of the richest ancient Russian hoards was found.
After the longstanding research of the Gnezdovo complex discussions around its historical interpretation and its chronology, type and political status in the times it existed are continuing.
Some researchers assumed, that Gnezdovo was a point of control over snaking trails (a snaking trail is an area between two waterways through which the vessel was dragged to continue the way) from the Dnieper river to the Dvina river, “an open trade and craft settlement” with an inconstant structure of population, which rise and fall was connected with serving the waterways: moving merchants and military groups on the Dnieper river and also functioning of the market.
According to the other point of view, Gnezdovo was one of the points of national settlements headed by Kiev, trading post, connected to the administrative-fiscal activity of druzina of the grand prince – poliudie. Vast necropolis of this archeological site is interpretted as a cemetery of a druzhina. Population of Gnezdovo besides the druzina members consisted of craftsmen and farmers who served in grand prince’s land. Not denying the importance of craft and trade in population’s life, supporters of this idea suppose, that its smithcraft and gold-work were oriented to the needs of druzhina in the first place, including crafting expensive items that were meant to decorate the everyday life of druzhina elite.
The third conception states that Gnezdovo was an early-city center of the period of the infancy of the Ancient Russian state with developed trade and craft functions, stable demographic situation and obvious differentiation of its population. According to materials of the burial mounds and settlements, Gnezdovo’s society included groups of people connected with military service, distant and close trade, crafts and agricultural activities. Aristocratic elite existed in Gnezdovo as good weaponed warriors and mostly of Scandinavian origin.
The latest burials of Gnezdovo are dated the last quarter of the X – turn of the XI century.
Along with the adoption of Christianity in Rus and in Scandinavia the transformation of the pagan culture and funeral rituals happened. In the end of the X – the first half of the XI centuries specific traits of Scandinavian funeral ritual became lost, the number of things of northern origin decreased rapidly.
The decline of Gnezdovo is mainly connected to the graduate end of Arabian silver coins import in the end of the X century. Simultaneous entrenchment of power of princes of Kiev in the end of the X – the beginning of the XI centuries decreased the Scandinavian flow to Rus and changed their position: in times of Vladimir and Yaroslav they served as hired warriors in druzhina of the grand prince. It is not excepted that one of the factors of Gnezdovo decline was the climate change in the region, starting from the XI century, it became warmer and more humid, regular floods had been resumed (the rise of the water level because of fast melting of snow and rains) in the flood plain of the Dnieper river.