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Thousands of medieval artifacts unearthed at Kalamaja construction site

The excavation site at Väike-Patarei 1/Jahu 6 in Tallinn's Kalamaja neighbourhood. 15 June, 2018.
The excavation site at Väike-Patarei 1/Jahu 6 in Tallinn's Kalamaja neighbourhood. 15 June, 2018. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

Construction work for the planned Mündriku Residence flats in the Põhja-Tallinn neighbourhood of Kalamaja has unearthed thousands of artifacts from the Middle Ages, ranging from chess pieces to leather shoes.

"Of the entire property, only the first section has been explored, and the amount is unbelievable," Sirle Matteus, design manager at YIT Eesti, told ERR's Novaator, adding that this was the largest collection of medieval finds yet discovered in one place.

A preliminary archaeological study had been conducted at the time the building permit for the property located at Väike-Patarei 1/Jahu 6 was sought, but nothing extraordinary had been found there at the time.

Thus it was surprising when valuable items began turning up as construction work began at the site in April. "Archaeologists discovered the layer of interest in April," the design manager recalled. "It was previously thought that this had been completely destroyed in the course of previous construction work. As it turned out, this layer was in fact intact. And that was just the beginning."

Since then, more than 10,000 items have been catalogued, despite the fact that by mid-June, only half of the 6,850-square-metre property has been dug through.

Of particular interest have been the discovery of wooden items. "Wood typically decomposes in the environment, but for some reason the conditions were favourable at this property and wooden items have been well preserved as well," Matteus explained.

A couple dozen archaeologists are continuing to work on the site, and cooperating with them are a number of specialists from across Estonia helping to identify and date the items. Specialists are also helping store and conserve the artifacts as well.

Items found at the site so far include: chess pieces, dice, arrowheads, cannonballs, religious-themed items, dishes, spoons, writing instruments, various tools, including knives, hats, a comb, and leather shoes for men, women and children that were primarily made of leather, without a heel and with pointed toes.

Excavation work at the site is expected to wrap up by the end of summer.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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