From Archaeological Dig to the Lecture Room
In 2013 the HSE Saint Petersburg Campus organized archaeological field work for students over the summer in Staraya Ladoga, about 120 kilometers away from the city. Adrian Selin, HSE Professor of History, told us about his impressions of the expedition and his future plans for archaeological research.
— Why did you choose Staraya Ladoga for the student field trip?
— It is the site of an ancient settlement dating from VIII – Х centuries, the Viking Era and earlier. The sub-strata of the Earthern Settlement has been under excavation for more than 100 years. The settlement strata of Staroladozhskoe, partly because of the dampness of the soil and partly because of the intense activity of early-medieval life, has kept antiquities made of leather, bone, and wood in very good condition. Unfortunately, our archaeological sources don’t give us information about who the dwellers of the place were, but they give us a pretty good idea a of what everyday life was like in VIII-X centuries. In fact we are sure that daily life, house building traditions, and applied arts of the Scandinavians are better characterized by the antiquities in Staraya Ladoga, than by the burial mounds in Scandinavia and Finland, where there are hardly any ancient monuments of that era with such well-preserved cultural strata.
— Where there other reasons that influenced your choice of location for the students’ field trip?
— One of the main reasons is the high professional standards of the leaders of the excavation team at Staraya Ladoga (in particular, A. Volkovitsky and A. Spelman) who have made it a great place for education and have taught us their archeological skills. I am deeply grateful to them and hope we can continue working together in the future.
European and American researchers of the Viking Era consider Staraya Ladoga to be one of the most important memorial complexes of the Eastern Baltics. The best way to evaluate its significance is in the Scandinavian context. In 2011, Swedish archaeologist Dan Carlsson, and I drew up an analytical note about the Viking antiquities in Russia for the Council of Europe.Researchers are highly interested in these antiquities. The Nordic Dimension Partnership for Culture is looking into the potential for archeological tourism to ancient sites in Russia. The HSE Faculty of History in Saint Petersburg could use its wide experience in organizing archaeological field trips to organize international trips for foreign students. We have the potential to do it.
In 2019, HSE will begin accepting students to its new Master's programme in Classical and Oriental Archaeology for the first time. Prior to admission, however, prospective students had the opportunity to participate in an archaeological school in Sicily, where they discovered rare bronze phialae dating back to the 6th century BC during the excavations.