The Department of Archaeological Monuments is one of the oldest in the Museum. It houses nearly 1.5 million pieces. The sources these objects originate from are archaeological monuments such as encampments, settlements, burials, sanctuaries, ancient cities and fortresses that reflect the period from the Stone Age to the later Middle Ages. The geography of these monuments is fairly broad, from the Far East and Caucasus to Poland and the shores of Artic Ocean. In Russia, the SHM’s archeological collections are publicly viewed as unmatched and unique in terms of completeness, diversity and quality.
The founders of the collection included P.S. Uvarova, A.S. Uvarov, V.A. Gorodtsov, N.I. Veselovsky, V.I. Sizov, B.V. Farmakovsky, K.K. Kosciuszko-Valyuzhinich, P.I. Shchukin and many others.
A lengthy period spent working with the Division had such eminent scientists as V.A. Gorodtsov, E.I. Krupnov, A.P. Smirnov, A. Y. Bryusov and others.
The Department’s collections are stored in three sections:Primitive Archaeology, Archaeology of Early Iron Age – Early Middle Ages and Archaeology of High Middle Ages.
The oldest stone artifacts come from the encampments discovered in Georgia, Crimea and the Desna estuary (200-40 thousand years ago). The next period is the Late Stone Age (Palaeolith), showcased through the collections of a wide range of monuments scattered across the South-Russian steppe and Russia’s forest belt. The collection of mammoth ivory artworks (woman figurines and representations of birds) from the Malta encampment in Siberia (20 thousand years ago) is of the universal importance. The 9th-6th millennium BC Mesolithic material culture is represented by rarely-preserved tools and weapons made of bone and wood from the peat bog encampments.
In the core of the Neolithic material culture (the New Stone Age) are a range of collections of the Postglacial Period (the 5th-3rd millennium BC) Middle and North-Russian encampments, reflecting the culture of ancient hunters and fishermen. Among them there are famous troves of flint tools performed in the high finishing techniques (Volosov, Volodary), fine plastic bone artworks from the Ryazan Meshchera and remarkable polished items from the Baikal Area.
The collections of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages originate from a vast area including the lands of Maykop, Tripoli, catacomb and other cultures. They exhibit the development of ironworking and productive cattle farming, segregation of the military-patrimonial aristocracy layer, etc. While the original religious beliefs of forest people are revealed by the famous Galich trove, the greatest achievements of the Bronze Age are reflected in the fine artworks encountered in the Borodinsky trove dating to the middle of the 2nd millennium BC.
The collections covering the successive period in the ironworking and productive farming development, strengthening inequality in the society development and emergence of the first ever states, are also versatile. They contain items in the Scythian-Siberian animal style, mainly produced by nomadic peoples of the Aral Sea Area, the Kuban Region, the Volga Region and the Urals Region. One of the imposing collections contains Coban culture monuments that were found in Caucasus and display wonderful samples of bronze-making. Special attention should be paid to a great variety of collections stemming from archaeological sites of the ancient cities of Panticapaeum, Olvia, Chersoneses, etc. and showing off monuments of the highly developed Ancient Greek civilisation. They feature the Aphrodite of Taman statue, created in an impeccable manner, dating to the 2nd -1st centuries BC.
The Early Middle Ages were the times when many contemporary nations commenced to emerge and develop. This epoch is represented by collections of monuments found in Crimea, Caucasus, Urals Region, steppe and Russia’s forest belt, reflecting intermixed kind of material and spiritual culture of the country. In these collections there are various diadems, closings and bracelets from the Moshchin trove of the Kaluga Region, a unique collection of Tashtyk death masks from the Southern Siberia, golden and silver vessels of the 7 th-8th centuries from the area inhabited by the Enisey Kyrgyzs, etc.
The Medieval part houses collections of the 8th-17th centuries from the Eastern Europe and Siberia. The collection of monuments dating to the 8th-10th centuries that reflects the evolution of the Old Russian State is the most impressive. It includes items of the world-renowned Gnezdov complex set near Smolensk and the Black Grave kurgan at Chernigov. The pre-Mongolian period rural culture is represented by collections from kurgans of the Vyatich, Krivich, Radimich and other tribes, while the urban culture is typified by the famous bronze arches from Vshchizh and architectural details of the temples of Vladimir, Chernigov, etc.
Featuring the peoples neighbouring with the Rus, the collections of Finno-Ugric burial grounds, monuments of the Saltovo-Mayatsk culture, Volga Bulgaria and the Golden Horde are the highlights of the Department. The Simferopol trove of the 16th century is the centerpiece that flaunts artworks skillfully performed by local craftsmen of the Golden Horde, France, Italy and India.
Multiple household items and vehicles made of wood from the collection of the commercial city of Mangazea in Siberia are a gain to our knowledge of the 16th-17th centuries Russian urban culture.
As the section is undergoing the process of translocation and systematization of its collections, any work of visitors should be agreed on by the heads of the sectors.