Fabric Treasure
by E. Zubkova, O. Orfinskaya, D.S. Likhacheva.

found on Pskov Archeological Center Website

Translation by Lady Sofya la Rus, Mka Lisa Kies

Updated 29 July 2007

The original Russian article. - Link broken as of 3/2013.

Peter Beatson's excellent summary.

[Translator's Note: As usual, items in brackets are my comments and parentheses are from the original document .]

Soil monolith

In the summer of 2006 in Pskov in the excavation in the area of the Old Church of the Ascension (Sovetskaya Street) was discovered a series of three chamber graves of the 10th century. The excavation is lead by E.A. Yakovleva, director of the Pskov Archeology Center.
All three graves give unusual information and rich discoveries. The proposed subject is connected only to one of the gifts, presented to us by the third grave...


In the investigation of the third chamber grave was found remains of textile, that is fabric. Textile is a fragile thing, and if one considers finds 1000 years old, then naturally, archeologists are at a loss: what suvived to our day? It remains to solve a difficult task: how to preserve the find, which time obviously has not spared.

A fragment of earth from the grave was cut out, like they cut out turf to move a living plant. The soil monolith 0.26 x 0.3 meters in size with little pieces of fabric protruding was delivered to the house laboratory. Here, equipped with instruments, which they use in microsurgical light, magnifying glass and microscope, over which the restorers work their magic. By millimeter layers, they clear the sand compressed by centuries.

The cleaned bundle

And here, finally, the first step of their painstaking work is complete. The results excelled all expectations. From the formless pile of sand was extracted an impressively sized piece of silk fabric, in which turned out to be wrapped two shell-like fibuli, serving in antiquity in the capacity of fasteners. Back of fibula To receive a large fragment of ancient fabric - for archeologists in any situation is a gift! After all fabric in the earth is practically not preserved, especially in our relatively dry Pskov layers. But the special significance of the find was appreciated by scientists only after detailed investigation of each preserved little piece.

Unfolding the bundle

In the hands of the archeologists turned out to be not simply some scrap of material, but a whole detail of it with various seams, which allowed to establish its original appearance. Partially unfolded sarafan The largest fragment is this piece of ornament of the upper part of a sarafan. It's wide part was sewn on in front - on the chest, while the narrow lateral strips decorated the sarafan along the upper edge of the armhole and back. The name "sarafan" should be considered provisional, used for convenience of description. But that this uncovered garment actually most of all resembles a sarafan, witnesses the remains of a strap on one of the sides of the front and back part of the piece.

Unfolded sarafan Rubakha collar

On the opposite side was preserved at an identical distance from the edge traces of the punctures of needle and thread, with the help of which the strap was fastened. The whole piece was sewn of three strips of silk fabric: the two edges were cut out of blue silk, while the middle one - of red-purple. Along the upper edge the whole piece was treated with a decorative border of silk fabric of blue color. Rubakha cuff The sarafan was worn over a fine long linen rubakha. In front at the throat was a small slit, the upper edge of the collar was placed fine gathers and trimmed with a rolled hem of the same fabric. The long ends of the rolled hem tighted the edge of the slit. The sleeves of the rubakha were long and decorated with a superimposed cuffs of red silk. Narrow strips of such red silk decorated also the hem of the rubakha. Both the sarafan and the rubakha were sewn of linen fabric, dyed a blue color. Linen fabric almost completely decays in the ground. Have managed to carry away and preserve only small fragments of various details: collar, strap, and loop. Rubakha hem Linen loop But modern methods of investigation allow to define both the type of fabric and its color. Instead of buttons the straps of the sarafan were fastened with fibuli, and so that their rather massive pins did not damage the fine fabric, to the ends of the straps were sewn loops of linen fabric, through which passed the needles of the fibuli.

In such a way, relying on already known reconstructions of ancient women's clothing and starting from the rich factual material, which for the first time found itself in the hands of Pskov archeologists, managed to establish the outward appearance of the apparel. One must note also that both the srafan and rubakha were neatly rolled and placed in a birchbark basket/box (evidently, covered with a leather lid. Its remains were discovered in clearing the soil monolith) which the relatives of the deceased put away under the floor of the grave chamber in the expectation that this would be useful to her in the afterlife.


Authors of the article - E. Zubkova, senior scientific associate of the Pskov Museum-Preserve, archeologist, restorer, O. Orfinskaya, scientific associate of the Institute of culture and natural heritage im. [?] D.S. Likhacheva, k.i.n. [?] expert in fabrics.

From the editor: about the amazing silk-fabric pattern on fabric of the 10th century our authors with relate to you in their next article... [!]

Translation COPYRIGHT (c) 2007 by Lisa Kies. Photos used by permission of the Pskov Archeological Center. You may make copies for personal use and to distribute for educational purposes but only if the article remains complete and entire with original authorship clearly noted.
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