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Archaeological Expeditions

Archaeological research is one of the museum’s main activities.

The State Hermitage Museum is one of the foremost archaeological centres not only in St. Petersburg, but throughout the whole of Russia

Archaeology has a long history at the Hermitage. In the first half of the 19th century, Russian emperors supported excavations of Scythian burials in the south of Russia. The government’s interest in excavations led to the founding of the Imperial Archaeological Commission in 1859. The commission was subordinated to the Ministry of the Imperial Court.

The geographical spread of the museum’s archaeological excavations is broad: more than 20 Hermitage expeditions are active in the South, North-West and central parts of Russia, in Siberia and the Altai, in Crimea, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Italy. Excavations are carried out on Neolithic, ancient and mediaeval sites.

Many items that are now the pride of the Hermitage’s collections were found during archaeological excavations. Today, most expeditions do not bring objects back to the Hermitage: usually, they remain in local museums. However, members of the Hermitage staff are actively involved in their study and restoration.


Current Expeditions in Eastern Europe:

  • North-Western Archaeological Expedition
  • Upper Dvina Archaeological Expedition
  • Slavic-Sarmat Expedition
  • Southern Belarus Expedition
  • Early Russian Expedition
  • Architectural Archaeology Expedition

North-Western Expedition

  • Current worksite: Pskov region

  • Head of the expedition: Andrei Mazurkevich

  • One of the oldest Hermitage’s expeditions, engaged in the long-term study of Neolithic monuments from 7000–2000 B.C. in the Dnepr-Dvina watershed.

  • Among the exceptional items that have been found in Russia’s North-West are ancient pile dwellings, household artefacts, weaponry, jewellery and tombs, all of which were buried beneath water and peatbogs in Pskov and Smolensk regions.

  • In Russia, the first pile dwellings from the middle and late Neolithic era were found by Alexander Mikhailovich Miklyayev in the 1960s. The Hermitage’s North-Western Archaeological Expedition has been investigating these sites for more than 50 years.

  • Research is carried out both on land and under water.

  • Currently, the researchers make active use of underwater archaeology methods.

  • The expedition and its head (Andrei Mazurkevich) have been given a national award “Underwater World” for the best work in underwater archaeology in Russia.

  • On the basis of its many years’ work, the group has produced manuals on organizing underwater archaeological work in Russia’s internal waters and at shallow depths. The importance of continuing such research has been noted by the international scholarly community.

Upper Dvina Expedition

  • Current worksite: Pskov region
  • Head of the expedition: Boris Korotkevich
  • The expedition was formed in 2008 based on the Zhizhitskoye team of the Hermitage’s North-Western Expedition
  • The expedition’s main object of research is the early Iron Age hillfort of Anashkino in Kunya district of Pskov region, situated on the shores of Lake Zhizhitskoye. Systematic investigation of the archaeological site began in 1991.
  • Deposits from several chronological periods – from first half to the end of the 1st millennium BC – have been preserved in a 3-meter-deep cultural layer. The earliest of them were practically unknown before the current Anashkino excavations.
  • The expedition has examined the remains of the fortification, dwelling and manufacturing structures from different eras. A large amount of household items including ornate clay dishes, multiple objects made of bone and horn, bronze jewellery and tools, tools for bronze casting – has been excavated.
  • The exceptionally good preservation of the cultural layer and the objects in it makes this site of great importance for the study not just of this region, but of the North-West and European Russia generally.

Current Expeditions in the Northern Caucasus

  • Trans-Kuban Archaeological Expedition
  • Southern Kuban Archaeological Expedition

Trans-Kuban Expedition

  • Current worksite: Maikop district, Adygea
  • Head of the expedition: Sergei Ostashinsky
  • An interest in antiquities of the Copper and early Bronze Ages arose back in the late 19th century during large-scale excavations conducted in the Kuban river basin by Nikolai Veselovsky, a member of the Imperial Archaeological Commission. At that time dozens of Bronze Age artefacts were unearthed.
  • The next important step was the formation of the State Hermitage’s North-Caucasus Expedition. The most interesting and informative of the artefacts that it recovered came from the Meshoko settlement (Adygeya Republic).
  • The expedition has unearthed an extensive collection of archaeological materials that surpasses all previous Aeneolithic and early Bronze Age artefacts in the Northern Caucasus in number and diversity of the finds.
  • For a fuller understanding of the cultural and historical processes of the period, it is necessary to continue the research, expand the database of sources, and involve more experts – archaeologists, thracologists, palaeozoologists, soil scientists, chemists and physicists.

Current Expeditions in the Black Sea Region and the Mediterranean Basin

  • Southern Crimean Archaeological Expedition
  • Stabian Expedition
  • Myrmekion Expedition
  • South-East Crimean Expedition
  • Golden Horde Expedition
  • Nymphaion Archaeological Expedition
  • Multipurpose Ancient World Archaeological Expedition
  • Berezan (Nizhnegub) Archaeological Expedition

Myrmekion Expedition

  • Current worksite: Kerch
  • Head of the expedition: Alexander Butiagin
  • The Hermitage has been doing research in this area for only 16 years, but the first excavations at the site took place 180 years ago and systematic study of the site started 80 years ago.
  • The most valuable discoveries of recent years are a buried hoard of 723 bronze coins from Pantikapaion (2002), a unique hoard of 99 electrum coins from the city of Cyzicus (2003) and a large cameo from the 2nd century AD. Excavations led to the discovery of more than 350,000 ceramic fragments, fragments of bone and metallic objects, terracotta, animal bones and other objects.
  • The results of the first years of work were demonstrated in the exhibitions “Myrmekion” and “Myrmekion Treasure” at the Hermitage in the spring of 2006.

Current Expeditions in Siberia and Central Asia

  • Penjikent Archaeological Expedition
  • Bukhara Archaeological Expedition
  • Tian-Shan Archaeological Expedition
  • South Siberian Archaeological Expedition
  • Central Asian Expedition

Central Asian Expedition

  • Current worksite: Republics of Khakassia and Buryatia
  • Head of the expedition: N.N. Nikolayev
  • One of the main goals of the expedition in Buryatia is the study of Hunnish society – its rise, development and decline. The most promising objects for research are Huns’ burials with “princely kurgans.” This work is very labour-intensive and is intended to be a long-term project.
  • The State Hermitage’s Central Asian Expedition, together with the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for the History of Material Culture, began studying the burial site Orgoiton on the right side of the River Selenga in Buryatia in 2009. The burial site consists of regular burials, as well as “princely kurgans” of the Huns.
  • It is worth mentioning that so far only two “princely kurgans” have been discovered on the territory of Russia.

Expedition Development Plan

  • Improvement of equipment supplies (tents, special clothing, surveying instruments, photo- and video- equipment, diving equipment, etc.)
  • Expanding the capacity to hire qualified workers for the excavation of the sites studied, cameral treatment of the materials, photographing, drawing sketches and pictures of the finds, and for other very important technical work.
  • Conducting multi-disciplinary studies, including scientific ones, both during the excavations themselves and during the processing of the materials (palynological, geophysical, carpological, pedological, geochemical, geomorphological, petrographic, palaeozoological, etc.)
  • Organizing field schools and seminars on the basis of the expedition – an important element of the museum’s educational activities that help to spread an understanding of the importance of preserving cultural heritage among the public
  • Popularization of newly-acquired knowledge about the life of our ancestors by creating exhibitions, holding conferences, seminars, lectures, and developing scientific or popular-science multimedia or print publications intended for different age and social groups.

Today the State Hermitage can support more than 20 scientific fields by funding its archaeological expeditions.

To effectively conduct extensive and innovative modern scientific research using up-to-date equipment, additional funding is necessary.

Multi-source funding – from the government, scientific foundations, sponsors and patrons – makes it possible to broaden the scope of archaeological research, to make learning available to the public, and to involve people who come to the museum in the world of archaeology, scientific research, and discoveries. Moreover, it allows the general public to take part in developing fundamental research fields by choosing and investing in the different developing projects.


Fedorov Evgeny
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