Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City's Building Sites Reveal Treasures

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's passion for construction projects has conjured up a pleasant side effect: a stream of centuries-old objects, including weapons, toys and coins, turned up in downtown Moscow this year.

Other freshly unearthed items unveiled Thursday by the city's chief archaeologist, Alexander Veksler, included jewelry, ceramic vessels and crucifixes.

Most of the finds came from Gostinny Dvor, one of Luzhkov's most ambitious construction projects.

Veksler said most of the ground under Moscow is just damp enough to preserve some artifacts in perfect condition. Archaeologists have unearthed near-perfectly preserved leather shoes, painted toy horses and even a piece of birch bark with a child's drawing - all 300 years old or older.

In 1995, Veksler's team of 200 scholars sifted through a 3,000-square-meter dig there and uncovered a gigantic 17th-century cache of 95,500 Russian and 330 European coins, weapons, toys and jewelry.

This year, 500 more coins and some gigantic ceramic vessels were found. Scholars believe the 16th-century toys and tools, also discovered recently, were originally intended for sale at Gostinny Dvor, which has been one of the biggest trading centers in Russia since the 15th century, Veksler said.

Muscovites will get a chance to see the artifacts in April 2000, when an archeological museum will be opened to the public underneath the Gostinny Dvor building.

Veksler hopes to display there as many as 3,000 items, some them left in the ground the way they were found, but under a protective glass cover.

Veksler said Russia's financial crisis has not hampered work by archaeologists at 87 different sites throughout Moscow, many at high-profile city construction projects within the Garden Ring - including those at Sadovnicheskaya Naberezhnaya, Sofiiskaya Naberezhnaya, Ilyinka Ulitsa, Nikolskaya Ulitsa and near the Pashkov House.

Remarkable finds turned up at the Sadovnicheskaya Naberezhnaya construction site include a garnet ring and a coin dating back to Ivan the Terrible and an amber ring from the era of Dmitry Donskoi, a prince famed for victorious battles against Mongol invaders.

More important than any individual find, however, is the broader opportunity Moscow city authorities now give to archaeologists to examine sites of potential interest, Veksler said.

A new city law mandates that the chief archaeologist and his team be given access to every construction site in central Moscow.

"It's good that the old times are gone, and that archeology has become a part of construction technology, just as it is in European cities," Veksler said.