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Monday, February 28, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Digging a Medieval Fortress in Russia

About 70 kilometers east of the city of Rostov-on-Don in a beautiful, picturesque region of southern Russia lies what remains of a medieval fortress. Traces of its walls are still visible, but much is left shrouded by layers of earth. The site is identified as the Zolotiye Gorki, or "Golden Hills" fortress, dated to the 8th - 10th centuries A.D. (the "Khazar" period). The significance of this site is that it may become the first Khazar fortress of the region where sustained scientific research is possible. Any results of excavation and research will contribute to reconstructing an important part of the archaeological history of an area which remains somewhat sketchy to this day. In light of that, systematic excavations of the site were initiated in 2002 and, to date, more than 500 square meters have been excavated. The foundations of stone buildings, two kilns, and several burials were investigated, but there is much more to be done.

In the summer of 2005, Director V.V. Klyutchnikov, under the organizational auspices of Rostov University, the Donskaya Arkheologia Journal and the Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads, will be conducting continuing excavations to uncover more of the fortress secrets. Volunteers are invited to participate. No experience is necessary, but volunteers and students will be working under the guidance of experienced Russian archaeologists. Participants will be assisted by Russian interpreters. They will be working at the site during the first half of the day, followed by lectures in the afternoon and the opportunity to take excursions into the countryside and bathe in the nearby river. Two organized, full-day excursions will expose the participants to important historic and cultural sites of the area. This experience will afford students and volunteers the opportunity to operate as a close-knit, international team in a camping environment, where the expedition cooks will prepare all of the meals and a bus will provide transportation to the nearby village for those who wish to do some shopping.

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