Medieval Tallinn street pavement unearthed in Kalamaja neighborhood

Vana-Kalamaja arheoloogilised väljakaevamised.
Vana-Kalamaja arheoloogilised väljakaevamised. Source: ERR

Archaeologists working on an excavation site along Vana-Kalamaja tänav in Tallinn recently unearthed pavement from the medieval Nunne tänav as well as several other items dating back to the same period. As little is known about the Kalamaja of that era, this find has an important place in the area's history.

Archaeological excavations along Vana-Kalamaja tänav were expected to be a routine part of reconstruction work on the current street — break ground, dig up the surface layer by layer, then done. To the archaeologists' surprise, however, they were met with the sight of the pavement of a medieval street — Nunne tänav.

"No one knew its exact location," said Silver Jäger, field work supervisor for Muinasprojekt. "It existed in theory, and it can be seen on old maps too, but where exactly it was located and which way it ran — that we didn't know. This is totally new information."

Based on ceramic shards found at the site, it's estimated that Nunne tänav was built during the 14th century and in use through the 16th century. Finds run the gamut, with one grander than the next.

"This is dated 1645 — a quarter öre," the supervisor described, holding up find after find. "Three örtugs. Belongs to Sweden, and 'CRS' for Queen Christina of Sweden. An öre minted in Tallinn, in Reval, around 1640. Likewise Christina. That copper coin was a quarter öre, but this silver coin is one öre. A beautiful piece of a Westerwald stoneware jug. Import ceramics brought here from German lands."

Excavation work at the site also unearthed plow tracks as well.

"These plow tracks near Balti jaam tell us that there were gardens and crop fields here, where people also brought their trash and the contents of cesspits," Jäger explained. This also shows what city living conditions were like."

The Vana-Kalamaja tänav finds will first be cleaned, then taken to Kalamaja Museum, where they will be on display for one week.

"To date, we've only had such chance finds from Kalamaja in the collections of Tallinn City Museum," said Kalamaja Museum director Kristi Paatsi. "When a hot water line was dug exactly on Soo tänav, footwear belonging to medieval residents of Kalamaja turned up."

While information on medieval Kalamaja is still relatively limited, what little is known points to a very colorful past.

"In 1527, for example, there were a known 78 households and 17 taverns," Paatsi highlighted. "That is a lot. Kalamaja was also basically the site of a port, and there were always taverns located around ports, where people slept, ate and used women."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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