Department of Archaeology
Phone: (812) 328-00-25
Head of Department
Gennadii KHLOPACHEV, Cand.Sc.
History of the Department
The first collections of Russian antiquities were acquired in the times of Peter’s Kunstkamera. The most important archaeological acquisitions of that period are the famous Siberian collection of gold articles assembled by a Tagil manufacturer A.N. Demidov and donated by him to Peter I in 1715, and that of gold and silver objects from Astrakhan’ Region. In later years, the influx of archaeological materials to the Kunstkamera was rather steady, and after a number of reorganizations a separate Department of Archaeology was founded in 1894 as a structural unit of the Museum.
In March 1894, Academician V.V. Radlov was elected Director of MAE. Already in his opening speech at the meeting of the Academy of Sciences on March 30th, 1894, he invited the audience “to appeal to the Imperial Archaeological Committee for help in the enrichment of the archaeological department of the museum”. In this address, for the first time, the archaeological part of MAE is referred to as a department, suggesting that this was the day when the history of the Department of Archaeology actually began.
The department’s first staff members were N.M. Mogilyanskii, D.A. Klementz, and B.F. Adler. Other persons associated with the department in the early 1900s were I.T. Savenkov and B.E. Petrie. In the mid-1930s, consultations were received from V.N. Chernetsov. Archaeologists who worked at the department in the 1900s – 1950s were V.I. Kamenskii, A.V. Schmidt, K.M. Polikarpovich, and V.V. Fedorov. A special part in the department’s history and in the emergence of its collections was played by outstanding figures such as P.P. Efimenko and S.N. Zamyatnin. The former headed the department in 1933–38. The latter, after having worked at MAE part-time in 1933–45, became Department Head in 1945 and ran it until his death in 1958.
Main Research Areas
These include archaeological aspects in the study of prehistoric society, mainly based on museum materials and new data, history of archaeological collections of the Kunstkamera, and the database Archaeological Materials of MAE.
Khlopachev Gennadii, Head of Department, Cand.Sc. (bone industry of Paleolithic sites in the Dnepr basin).
Popova Tatyana, Researcher, Cand.Sc., (interface between the agricultural populations of the southwestern part of Eastern Europe and eastern animal-breeding nomads in the Chalcolithic).
Yanshina Oksana, Researcher, Cand.Sc. (archaeological cultures of the Far East, with reference to Eurasian metallurgy and metalworking).
Gerasimov Dmitrii, Researcher (interaction between man and environment in the early Holocene).
Gizha Lyudmila, Chief Specialist (registration and storage of archaeological collections).
The most important recent publications of the Department of Archaeology staff members include the following:
- Khlopachev G.A. Les techniques de dibitage de l`ivoire dans les sites de la Plaine Russe au Paliolithique Superieur (25000 - 13000 av. J.-C.) // Pr50089histoire Europienne, T. 16–17, Li50089ge, 2000–2002. P. 215–230.
- Khlopachev G.A. Tekhnologiya rasschepleniya i ee mesto v protsesse obrabotki bivnya na stoyankakh verkhnego paleolita Russkoi ravniny (25-13 tys. l.n.) [Splitting technology and its place in the process of ivory processing in Upper Paleolithic sites of the Russian Plain (25 – 13 thousand years ago)] // Stratum plus. 2001. No. 1. P. 252–266.
- Khlopachev G.A., Sablin M.V. The earliest Ice Age dogs: evidence from Eliseevichi 1 // Current Anthropology. Vol. 43/5. 2002. P. 795–798.
- Osintsov Yu., Chistov Yu., Gerasimov D. The computer catalogue of the Kunstkamera museum collections and perspectives of an Internet-shared anthropological database // Computer Applications and Quantative Methods in Archaeology Conference 2001, Proceedings Archaeopress (British Archaeological Reports – B.A.R. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 2002. P. 475–490.
- Popova T.A. Mnogosloinoe poselenie Polivanov Yar (k evolyutsii tripol’skoi kul’tury v Srednem Podnestrov’e) [The Stratified Site of Polivanov Yar, with reference to the Evolution of Tripolye Culture in the Middle Dnestr basin)]. SPb.: MAE RAS, 2003. 240 p.
- Timofeev V.I., Gerasimov D.V., Lavento M., Halinen P., Saksa A.I. An Archaeological field survey of Stone Age and Early Metal period settlement at Kaukola (Sevastyanovo) and Raisala (Melnikovo) on Karelian Isthmus in 1999 // Fennoskandia Archaeologica. Vol. XVIII. 2001. P. 3–25.
- Yanshina O.V. Problema vydeleniya bronzovogo veka v Primorye [The problem of separating the Bronze Age period in Primorye]. SPb.: MAE RAS, 2004. 212 p.
- Yanshina O.V., Klyuev N.A. Bronzovyi vek Primorja: sovremennoe sostoyanie problemy [Bronze Age of Primorye: State of the art] // Sravnitel’nye arkheologicheskie issledovaniya kul’tur doistoricheskogo perioda v Severo-Vostochnoi Azii. Kitasyusyu, 2002. P. 138–154 (in Japanese).
Each year, the department staff members conduct field research in places such as Bryansk Region (G.A. Khlopachev), the Karelian Isthmus, Novosibirsk Islands (D.V. Gerasimov), and Primorye (O.V. Yanshina).
In 2004 the first Zamyatnin Lectures were held, consecrated to the memory of the outstanding Russian archaeologist S.N. Zamyatnin. The event is designed as a biennial one. Items on the agenda will include specificity of archaeological work at the museum, storage and exposition of archaeological finds, and legal support for archaeological activities aimed at preserving and studying the nation’s archaeological heritage.
Current Research Projects
In the years immediately ahead, the department will implement a project titled Corpus of Archaeological Collections of the Kunstkamera. It opens a series of publications describing archaeological materials owned by the Department of Archaeology and addressing their history and interpretative potential.
In 2003, the support of the Russian Foundation for the Humanities (RFH) enabled the staff members to launch a project concerned with the database of the department’s archaeological collections such as those from Kiik-Koba (G.A. Khlopachev), from Tripolye sites in Moldavia (T.A. Popova), and from the first Far Eastern expedition led by A.P. Okladnikov (O.V. Yanshina).
The most important areas of departmental research and museum activities are exhibition projects including inter-institutional and international ones (elaboration of their theoretical background, selection of exhibits, writing catalogues and annotations), and the electronic catalogue of the Kunstkamera’s archaeological collections (supported by two grants from RFHR).
The archaeological depository of MAE is the oldest and one of the largest in Russia. It contains vast and unique materials related to prehistoric cultures of Eurasia and other continents and spanning the periods from the Lower Paleolithic (500 thousand years ago) to the Middle Ages (AD 1000–1200).
The first stage in the accumulation of the museum’s archaeological materials was rather long: from the establishment of the Kunstkamera (1714) to the emergence of MAE on the basis of its collections (1879). An important part during that period was played by the Imperial Russian Archaeological Society, the Imperial Russian Geographical Society as well as by L.I. Schrenk, P.V. Alabin and A.S. Uvarov, who donated their collections to MAE. The contribution made by Academician Karl von Baer was enormous.
The second stage in the accretion of archaeological collections spans the period between the foundation of MAE and the establishment of the Department of Archaeology within it (1879–94). The time was marked by the acquisition of antiquities from remote regions of Russia such as Siberia (I.T. Savenkov) and Sakhalin (I.S. Polyakov).
The third stage coincided with the turn of the century and the final pre-revolutionary years (1894–1917). During that time, the Department gained an organizational status within MAE and a goal-oriented enrichment of its collections went on.
The period between 1917 and 1970 was the most productive since the influx of archaeological finds from expeditions working all over the USSR was especially intense.
Today, the archaeological depositories of MAE contain over one thousand collections comprising nearly 600 thousand specimens.
Number of collections
Number of specimens
Bronze and Iron Ages
Stone Age materials are especially numerous. In terms of their abundance, the archaeological depository of the Kunstkamera ranks first among the museums of Russia and CIS, and one of the first among world museums.
Based on finds from many key sites, sections were opened such as Prehistory of Russia and CIS, Lower Paleolithic, and Upper Paleolithic. That of the Lower Paleolithic includes finds from Teshik-Tash, Sukhaya Mechetka and other sites in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Western Central Asia. The Upper Paleolithic section comprises collections from world-famous sites on the Russian Plain (Tel’manskaya, Kostenki-1, 2, 3, 4, 14, and 15, Gagarino, Eliseyevichi, and Yudinovo) and in Siberia (Afontova Gora, Mal’ta, and Kokorevo). These places have yielded numerous first-rate works of early art. Suffice it to mention an amazing series of female figurines, a large group of animal figurines made of ivory and chalk, ivory plates, and ivories decorated with geometric patterns and zoomorphous images. Importantly, the number of Upper Paleolithic female figurines made of ivory and chalk is ten. This is an impressive set, given that the total number of such specimens excavated in Russia is about sixty, and Western European museums own no more than a dozen similar images
Highly important collections come from Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in northwestern Russia and Siberia. One of the best known is Oleneostrovskii burial ground on Yuzhnyi Olenii Island, Lake Onega, the richest and the most unique among the synchronous sites in Northeastern Europe, one that contained the largest number of prehistoric works of art.
The department possesses materials from chronologically diverse sites of Tripolye – an original Chalcolithic culture (4000–2000 BC). Tripolye people were agriculturalists and animal breeders, and among the finds from their sites in the Dnestr basin (Luka-Vrublevetskaya, Rakovets, Kudrintsy, Darabani) are a beautiful pottery decorated with incised and painted patterns, and numerous anthropomorphous and zoomorphous clay figurines of Tripolye type.
The archaeological collections of the Kunstkamera were formed through the efforts of several generations of prominent Russian researchers such as I.S. Polyakov, I.T. Savenkov, K.S. Merezhkovskii, B.E. Petrie, P.P. Efimenko, G.A. Bonch-Osmolovskii, V.A. Gorodtsov, V.I. Ravdonikas, A.P. Okladnikov, V.N. Chernetsov, A.V. Schmidt, S.N. Zamyatnin, S.N. Bibikov, P.I. Boriskovskii, N.N. Gurina, A.N. Rogachev, V.V. Fedorov, etc.
The Department owns numerous documents and archives of photographs (more than 1,500 items).
Archaeological collections of MAE are described in several publications some of which are catalogues:
- Nechaeva L.G., Popova T.A., Fedorov V.V., Fradkin E.E. Arkheologicheskoe cobranie Muzeya antropologii i etnograpfii im. Petra Velikogo AN SSSR [Archaeological Collections of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography] // 250 let Muzeya antropologii i etnografii im. Petra Velikogo. Leningrad, 1964. P. 151–168. (MAE Collection, Vol. XXII).
- Popova T.A. Kollektsii A.P. Okladnikova v arkheologicheskom sobranii MAE [A.P. Okladnikov’s collections in the archaeological depositories of MAE] // Problemy drevnikh kul’tur Sibiri. Novosibirsk, 1985. P. 38–45.
- Popova T.A. Drevnie kul’tury Sibiri (po materialam arkheologicheskogo sobraniya MAE) [Prehistoric cultures of Siberia (based on the archaeological collection of MAE)] // Material’naya i dukhovnaya kul’tura narodov Sibiri. Leningrad, 1988. P. 159–187. (MAE Collection, Vol. XLII).
- Popova T.A., Ravnushkin L.V. Kollektsii S.N. Zamyatnina, khranyaschiesya v otdele arkheologii MAE RAN [S.N. Zamyatnin’s collections at MAE Department of Archaeology] // Materialy mezhdunarodnoi konferentsii “Lokal’nye razlichiya v kamennom veke”, posvyaschennoi 100-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya S.N. Zamyatnina. SPb., 1999. P. 18–27.
The permanent exposition illustrating human origins and the early history of mankind has been closed down for many years. The reason is technical (the roof and the attic above the exposition hall need a costly repair). The exposition had three main sections: “Origin of Man”, “Stages of the Prehistoric Society”, and “Biological Unity and Diversity of Human Populations”. The repair is forthcoming, and after it the exposition will be reopened on a modern technical and informational level.
The theoretical background for the archaeological part of the future exposition is being elaborated. Hopefully it will agree with the state of the art. While the educational aspect will be the top priority, finds from key sites, housed at the Department of Archaeology and illustrating the main stages in cultural evolution, will be preferred. Works of prehistoric art owned by the museum will feature very largely.