About the discovery of a new birch bark letter in Veliky Novgorod

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
February 3, 2024

At the beginning of September, the Novgorod expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences laid an excavation with an area of ​​230 sq.m. on the Sofia side of Veliky Novgorod at the site of construction of a residential building. This place falls in the central part of Lyudin at the end of medieval Novgorod. The layers of the 14th century are currently being studied. The pavement of the medieval Vozdvizhenskaya Street runs through the northern end of the excavation, adjoining it are estates with the remains of residential and outbuildings. Four tiers of pavement were uncovered, showing traces of severe fires.

Over 1000 Birch-Bark Documents Discovered in Veliky Novgorod

Over 1000 Birch-Bark Documents Discovered in Veliky NovgorodGeneral view of the excavation

Numerous individual finds from the 14th–16th centuries have been discovered. made of non-ferrous metals, wood, bone, ceramics and glass, fragments of leather shoes and woolen fabric, characterizing the economy and life of the inhabitants of the estates. A large collection of pectoral crosses, rings, bracelets, amulets, etc. was collected. Western European trade seals and fragments of barrel lids with signs of ownership were discovered. Six hanging lead seals of the 14th–15th centuries were discovered, which indicates the high social status of the people who lived here, who were related to trade and power structures.


14th c. birch bark letter found in Moscow – The History BlogSeal of the Novgorod mayor Yuri Ivanovich

On September 29, a fragment of birch bark letter No. 1132 was discovered on the 4th tier of the pavement of Vozdvizhenskaya Street. In ancient times, the letter was torn. Only the lower part of the text of two and a half lines has survived. The text of the letter is being studied. Now we can only report that the author asks his addressee the question: “he will go to fight for Volok,” and also asks him to tell him whether to beware of this military detachment.

 The moment of finding the letter

The letter was written and sent, probably, from Zavolochye, the eastern historical region of the Novgorod land, located beyond the “volokos”, in the basin of the Northern Dvina and Onega, on the territory of modern Vologda and Arkhangelsk regions.

Birch Bark Manuscript: Most Up-to-Date Encyclopedia, News & Reviews

Fragment of birch bark document No. 1132

The document can tentatively be dated to the third quarter of the 14th century, since next to it, on the territory of the estate adjacent to the pavement, the seal of the Novgorod mayor Yuri Ivanovich, who held this post in 1354–1380, was discovered. A more accurate dating of the new written document will be given after a dendrochronological analysis of the paving blocks of Vozdvizhenskaya Street, on which the letter was found.