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Researchers Dig Down for Cesspits of Medieval Tallinn

Under the mound of rubble, a medieval suburb awaits the diggers.
Under the mound of rubble, a medieval suburb awaits the diggers. Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The most significant archaeological excavations to take place in Tallinn this year will be conducted in the very heart of the city, at the grounds of the demolished Academy of Arts building.

Preparations for the work, to be undertaken on the academy's Tartu maantee grounds, started on June 13. Full-fledged excavations will begin in July, under the supervision of archaeologists Gurly Vedru and Guido Toos. In addition to the team of experts, undergraduates from three universities will be employed as volunteers.

Preliminary excavations conducted in 2010 gave evidence of a rich cultural layer that may provide researchers with a lot of valuable information about medieval urban life. It is a known fact that under the foundations of the old 1970s-era academy, cellars, wells and cesspits of the past millenium lay waiting for the first diggers.

"Here [...] was a medieval suburb of the city, next to which the old Tartu road crossed the [now underground] Härjapea River. The site was bustling with action in medieval times. The cultural layer contains the remains of buildings from different eras, plus deposits of daily life and much more - we hope to be finding exciting things every day," said Toos.

The work will take place on the 3,700-square-meter area where the academy's new highrise, Art Plaza, will spring up in 2012. The excavations have to be completed this fall before the building contractors take over the site.


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