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Article in УTwinkleФ magazine on archeological excavations of a temple complex.

Vladimir Tihomirov:

A collision of two civilizations-ancient and Russian ones-took place in the middle of a seemingly undistinguished kolkhoz field by Vestnik settlement located at the very center of a sand strip dividing Black and Azov seas. The present time was presented by workers pulling the power line to the settlement. The excavator bucket hooked with a huge layer of soil and suddenly the powerful engine pulled to the surface a white Greek square block made out of limestone and refined by ancient masters. By pure chance this fact became known to employees of the Department of monument protection of Krasnodarskii region and scientists from the Archeological institute of the RSA decided to defend antiquity. 

-say the least of it, the construction workers weren’t happy to see us, says Nikolai Sudarev, the head of the Eastern-Bosporan expedition.-According to Russian laws, construction workers must receive archeologists’ resolution before conducting any construction works in Anapskii district. But-alas!- many companies not always respect this requirement. For construction workers it’s easier to destroy a historical monument then to call scientists. In short, when we arrived one power line support already was placed onto the ruins of an ancient temple so instead of excavations we had to conduct urgent guarding rescuing works.

It was figured out that the stone hooked by the bulldozer was a part of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Apollo the Delphinium, patron of all Greek colonists who arrived here 2,5 thousand years ago to explore this far-away land lost on the very end of Acumen.

 This finding is unique not only for our country but also for the entire world because simply there were no ancient temples from VI-V centuries B.C.  on the Russian territory, says Tat’yana Dadykina, the director of the Archeology Foundation which finances archeologists’ work.-Even in Greece itself there’s only a small amount of such old temples so our temple already became famous in academia of leading universities of the world.

 

What is absent in Greece?

Archeologists got interested in Taman’ peninsula the century before last when scientists found out that practically every settlement stands ion the remains of ancient Greek colonies. For example,  in place of Anapa a thousand years ago there was a port city named Gorgippia, in place of Taman’ there was Hermonassa found by Lesbos colonists and Sennoi settlement was built on the bases of ancient Phanagoria-a colony called in honor of its founder Phanagor. Besides, archeologists found such cities as Achiless, Cimmeric, Patrei, Tiramba and Kepa. This discovery turned all representation about history of the Black sea area upside down where according to historians there was only one Greek colony surrounded by opponent tribes of nomadic Sinds. And suddenly it’s figured out that Sinds weren’t wild nomads at all but quiet calmly lived at Greek colonies that turned Azov and Black sea shores into a small Greece.
Greek colonists were looking for something they weren’t able to find in Hellas, says Nikolai Sudarev. First, it was free land. According to Greek laws only land owner could be a full-righted citizen of a megalopolis even though there wasn’t enough land for everybody so many poor farmers started to seek for a piece of land in colonies in order not to lose a free citizen status. Besides, in Athens and other Greek metropolises there was constant lack of grain so step by step Black sea colonists became rich grain traders providing grain for the entire Hellas.

What were their relationships with local inhabitants?

 

Amphoras and quadras  are typical findings on the spots of Greek cities. According to  their forms and trademarks an experienced scientist can define the time of their manufacturing up to ten years.

— In general they were quiet calm even though it’s impossible to deny that there were instable periods. For example, we found a few warriors’ burials in full war vestment holding weapons-direct evidence of hostilities.  Also in an earth layer between two cultural layers we found bronze armory details, a spear end and a finger phalanx chopped off. As it can be suggested, there was a period of time when these lands endured a war and desolation but later life entered into a calm rut.

The most significant finding of our archeology became Semibratnee settlement –the remains of a Greek city named Labrita which is located a few kilometers away from Vestnik. The ruins of imposing walls were discovered in 1878 by a famous Russian archeologist Vladimir Tizengauzen who earlier explored Semibratnie mounds (IV century B.C.) that are known world-wide. Golden articles of Sind leaders taken out of these mounds are exposed at the Golden storeroom of Hermitage.

For the second time Semibratnee settlement drew archeologists’ attention at the very beginning of 90s after finding a statue with a dedicative inscription by a Bosporan king Levkon the First in which he was boasting that he gave the throne back to Sinds’ king Gekatei and in honor of this event installed a statue of Apollo, “Labris’ owner”. From that time every year at this settlement work groups of archeologists from the material culture institute and the South-Russian center of archeological studies while historians from the Archeology institute of the RSA decided to dig on the adjacent territories.

Probably, by Vestnik there was located a settlement of rich Greek farmers – we found remains of outbuildings and houses built in Greek style with roofs covered with tile, says Nikolai Sudarev.

The temple itself is also very big: his area is equal to 200 sq.m. There is a preserved sanctuary to which leads a path walk laid with white stone. On the sides of the sanctuary there are bases for four massive columns. And besides inscriptions dedicated to Apollo the Delphinium we found remains of a ceramic sculpture of Demeter, the goddess of fertility, holding her daughter Cora-Persephone on her hands. That is quiet predictable: the temple was located on a rural territory so the cult of this goddess was widely spread among peasants. Surely, until the end of all the works it’s too early to draw conclusions but I think that near this temple there must be one more. My suggestion results from general principles of structure of all Greek temples. If, for example, we will arrive to Greek Delphos where the oldest Apollo’s sanctuary was located, then we will see that really the temple consisted out of a few separate buildings. One building was constructed for a sanctuary the other one contained a storage for sacred relics, the third one was for Pythia the Futureteller, the fourth one was for kings’ gifts, the fifth one was for priests’ living… That’s why we hope that the temple discovered by us is not at all the main building of the complex but only a secondary construction but this will be figured out in the process of further excavations.

Archeologists’ enemies.

Anyway, the temple’s building now is very questionable. The matter is thatright after the temple was excavated it was buried again in order to save it from strangers.

-Ideally this place must be taken out of land tenure and crop rotation since now in place of ancient cities there are average fields and during plowing plows damage stones, says Nikolai Sudarev. –There must be set security or the monument which already can be turned into an excellent open air museum just like in Greece will inevitably be robbed. But officials of Krasnodarskii region only wave our finding away saying “You find it so you figure out what to do with it”. It doesn’t matter how long I haunt their thresholds. Everywhere officials just avert their eyes and say “We need time to think”. There’s nothing to think about, it’s necessary to save the temple!

 

Amphoras and quadras are typical findings on the spots of Greek cities. According to their forms and trademarks an experienced scientist can define the time of their manufacturing up to ten years.

Surprisingly, the main enemies of archeologists are not elusive squads of “black archeologists” but local inhabitants who are used to use historical monuments for their own needs. The most wide-spread conflict: an ancient city is located in somebody’s field. It’s amazing but even in times of USSR ancient Labrita’s excavations regularly were plowed up by kolkhox tractors. The USSR Ministers’ Council’s bill of 1960 about taking custody of this archeological monument didn’t matter anything! Every year archeologists begged the officials, demanded to follow the law, but everything was to no purpose. As a result, scientists say, because of the constant plowing information about the last three hundred years of city’s live was lost forever-the cultural layer was simply cut.

And it’s not only the matter of deficit of land for plowing. Such an attitude to archeologists is normal everywhere in Russia, from Moscow to Chukotka.

For example, if during construction works of any objects in the capital will be found remains of ancient basements, unlikely a foreman will call scientists: archeologists may stop construction works and a construction company will suffer from material losses. As a result the ruins of ancient Gorgipiya (Anapa) turned into a tiny block surrounded with a fence which is impossible to be passed by tourists. There is a little left from Hermonassa (Taman’) even though in the beginning of last century archeologists marked that place as the most perspective for excavations.  Not it’s impossible to create something like Cretan Knossos out of Greek colonies where tourists walk among carefully restored ruins. We lost our ancient heritage changing it for a one-moment benefit.

For example, last fall some businessman from Anapa while rebuilding a hotel decided not to stop construction works but to pour cement into a ditch with remains of ancient buildings and streets. Thanks to locals, scientists got to know about such a Barbarian act and wrote a petition to the police but he case wasn’t sued.

Archeological monuments’ destruction is not considered to be a serious crime so the police doesn’t pay attention to such cases, says Nikolai Sudarev. On the base of the case occurred a flabby correspondence between the prosecutor’s office and the police and at the end the case was closed being formulated as one without corpus delicti because the businessman didn’t know what exactly he saw in front of him.

Scientists escape such officials’ outrage as they can. For example, archeologists of Chelyabinsk University who excavated an ancient city Arkaim, purposively spread pseudoscientific rumors about mystic sacred nature of Aryans’ homeland. There is no such thing you won’t do to save a unique finding from flooding by waters of Karagan reservoir. As a result under pressure of outraged society Arkaim was given a nature preserve status. But such a happy end is more like an exception than a rule. Even president of the Academy of Science of USSR’s pleading before Stalin didn’t save famous Khazar city named Sarkel from flooding with waters of Tsimlyanskii reservoir in 1952 even though Khazar fortress was explored less than by one-third.

But it’s not only the matter of officials. Locals damage monuments by taking ancient cities down for construction materials.

There is great deficit of construction materials on Taman’ peninsula while excellent Greek quadras are right under the feet, says Nikolai Sudarev. Locals consider them to be their rightful trophies and use them for building houses and utility buildings. Nobody knows how many ancient monuments they already have taken apart.

Namely these locals form elusive bands of “black archeologists”. There is a stimulus: a legend about unreal treasures found by Tizengauzen near Semibratnii settlement is being transmitted from generation to generation.

I’m tired of explaining to them that they won’t find any gold there!-says Nikolai Sudarev. – here lived only average peasents, they couldn’t have any gold! I ask them whether they have any gold at their houses. It’s all to no purpose. Any archeological monument left without security inevitably endures “black” robbers’ attacks who with help of metal detectors take out all metal artifacts and trun all cultural layers upside down making them unusable for further studies.

As a result, when archeologists saw a perspective of taking Apollo’s temple apart they decided to hide it from society and buried it under the ground again. But it’s only a temporary decision. If there won’t be any actions undertaken then in spring this territory will be plowed again and tractors will be falling into areas that were excavated earlier, plows and tracks will be displacing stones and finally after a short time the complex will be destroyed.

May be, it was better for Apollo’s temple not to be found?

25 centuries ago Azov and Black seas were connected not only by Kerchenskii strait (or Cimmerian Bosporus) but also by Sind Gap-a disappeared strait that was located in place of the old Kuban’ bed. Greek colonists settling on the shores of both straits seek to control all grain shipments from the Northern Black sea area and Syndic (that’s how Greeks called the territory of the future Taman’ peninsula) into the metropolises. It’s suggested that on the shores of GAP there are a lot of undiscovered cities.

 

 

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