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Staraya Ladoga: The Ancient Capital of Russia
18 February, 2003 - 20 April, 2003

The exhibition celebrating the 1250th anniversary of Staraya Ladoga shows 500 archeological finds. The first mention of Staraya Ladoga in the most ancient Russian chronicle The Tale of Bygone Years dates back to 862 when Novgorodians invited the Varangian chief Rurik who made Ladoga his capital. The town itself arose much earlier (about 753). Funeral and architectural monuments of Staraya Ladoga began to attract scholars' attention in the 19th century but it was only in the beginning of the 20th century that the early medieval artifacts started to be systematically examined.

Excavations in Zemlyanoye Gorodishche, the earliest settlement area of Staraya Ladoga, were commenced in 1911. From 1938 to 1959 they were continued by Prof. V.I. Ravdonikas. The expedition of A.N. Kirpichnikov resumed the examination of archeological monuments of Staraya Ladoga which continues to the present day. Finds are preserved and analyzed at the State Hermitage Museum and the Staraya Ladoga Museum.

The exhibition (Rooms No. 28-32) is opened by objects showing the everyday life and housing of the ancient town's inhabitants. Finds unearthed in Staraya Ladoga give an idea of its residential and auxiliary constructions. Food was cooked in earthen pots. Specimens of tableware, which was usually made from wood, spoons, bowls, cups, glasses and ladles, are showed in the exhibit. It is hardly possible to reconstruct the clothing of Ladoga's earliest inhabitants based on the scarce fragments of fabric and felt found so far. Most of them are woolen material fragments of interwoven serge including an almost fully preserved sieve and the flap of a child's overcoat. In the 7th-9th centuries, people of Ladoga wore low leather footwear. The exhibition shows children's and adults' boots.

The major importance of handicrafts for Ladoga's inhabitants is attested to by the extant instruments such as a hackle, flax comb, spindle with a bone appendage, plumb bob for a vertical loom and boot-trees. Such instruments as knives and axes were made from metal.

In the 11th century Ladoga became a major center for propagating the new Christian faith in the vast territory populated by Slavs and Finno-Ugrians. Ladoga's Christian civilization is represented in the exhibition by fragments of the 12th century window frames from the Church of St. George, which were found in the window apertures bricked up during later repairs. This unexpected find helped reconstruct one of elements of the interior of the 11th-13th centuries Russian churches.

Specific group of finds are small objects which were carried by their owners such as small icons or crosses. Such crosses could have belonged to either clerics or pious laymen preserving mementos of pilgrimages to holy places in Russia or overseas.

The fresco fragments which close the exhibition originate from the ancient Churches of St. Clement, St. Peter and Resurrection which do not any longer exist and the Church of St. George in the Ladoga fortress.

Reconstructions of early medieval clothes showed in the exhibition are provided by the military history reenactment club "Black Raven".

Plaster fragment with a cut inscription in Slavonic characters
8th-10th centuries
Larger view

Plaster fragment with a fresco showing the upper part of a face
8th-10th centuries
Larger view

Copper pendant with a runic inscription,
Zoomorphic copper pin,
Bronze pendant with Rurik dynasty’s
8th-10th centuries
Larger view

8th-10th centuries
Larger view

Horn combs
8th-10th century
Larger view

Two toy swords and toy spear
8th-9th centuries
Larger view

Iron spear and javelin
8th century
Larger view


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