10 august 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits the excavation site of the ancient Greek city of Phanagoria on Russia’s Taman Peninsula


Vladimir Putin's tour of the excavation site of the ancient Greek city Phanagoria started with the Boyur Gora burial mound dating back to the 4th century BC. Archaeologists began studying this site earlier this year and will finish their work by the end of the season. The excavation has already reached seven meters below the surface, resulting in an astonishing discovery about the plundering of the mound. Inside the structure they found well-constructed reinforced passages – dromos in Greek – made by ancient robbers.

The head of the archeological expedition, Vladimir Kuznetsov, informed the prime minister about their work on the mound and pointed out that most of it has to be done manually with spades and other manual tools. But the archeologists use heavy machinery to remove large amounts of earth. According to Kuznetsov, Boyur Gora is not only historical and archeological monument, it is also a unique piece of architecture. "The mound is 10-11 meters high and about 100 meters in diameter. It is in fact a complex piece of architecture, a building made of earth," noted Kuznetsov.

Archeologists doubt that Boyur Gora will give up all its secrets, including the main one – who was buried there. "We suppose it was one of Phanagoria's prominent officials, but we will probably never know the person's name," Kuznetsov said. He showed the prime minister the passages dug by ancient robbers. Archaeologists believe that they were Genoese. The Genoese came to the Taman Peninsula from the Crimea in the Middle Ages. "Let's just blame the Genoese, case closed," the prime minister joked.

The prime minister also visited the burial vault tiled with shell-rock brick, the main discovery made at the site so far. Archeologists have just reached the entrance to the vault and hope to find valuable artifacts inside. Kuznetsov said that after the excavation is finished they will make a 3D model of the original mound showing all the passages and trenches dug by the robbers at different periods.

Archeologists showed the prime minister the excavation site of the acropolis, where the palace of Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus, was located. Vladimir Putin noticed an archeology student removing soil from an ancient amphora. The young man was using his knife and brush very carefully, as the amphora was cracked in several places. The prime minister asked how old it was and what it had been used for. The young archeologist said that the amphora dated back to the 4th century BC. "Any wine left?" Vladimir Putin asked. "No, unfortunately," the student answered. He then asked the prime minister if he'd like to help. Vladimir Putin eagerly agreed and spent a few minutes brushing off the amphora.

Students who were making sketches of the excavated artifacts presented Vladimir Putin with a sketch of an ancient Greek lamp, which they signed at the prime minister's request.