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Field School on Khazar Archaelogy in Tsimlyansk
(August, 1-13 2017)

A summer field school-expedition on the Khazar archeology was held in Tsimlyansk on the Right-Bank Tsimlyansk hillfort in August, 1-13. The school was organized by the "Sefer" Center together with the Center for Slavic and Judaic Studies of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences with the support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group and other sponsors. 
The Right-Bank Tsimlyansk hillfort is the archaeological monument of European significance, belonging to the late VIII – early IX centuries. It is a ruined white stone fortress of the Khazar Khaganate with the traces of the influence of Byzantine traditions.

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The first Sefer field school-expedition was held at the Tsimlyansk hillfort in 2009, then a large excavation was started but could not be completed. The work at the Tsimlyansk hillfort in 2017 was a direct continuation of the work of 2009.

There were two teams of the school-expedition: an archeological team and an ethnograpic one.

Archeological team was led by V. Flerov (PhD, Institute of Archeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow), V.Petrukhin (Doctor of History, Institute of Slavic Studies, RAS, Moscow), D. Moiseyev (Museum of Archeology and Cave Towns of the Bakhchsarai Historical, Cultural and Archaeological Museum-Reserve), B. Rashkovsky (PhD, Library for Foreign Literature, Moscow). 
The students got acquainted with the field archeology, gained practical experience and at the same time provided invaluable assistance in the study of one of the most significant archaeological sites of the Khazar Khaganate.


The main goal of the 2017 season was the continuation of the exploration of the coastal site of the ancient settlement that will be destroyed in the next few years by intensive wind erosion of the coastal precipice of the Tsimlyansk reservoir. Thus, the expedition became part of the work on the rescue archeology of the Tsimlyansk hillfort. More information about the rescue archeology can be found in the article by V. Petrukhin.


Several research questions formed the agenda of the expedition: to analyze the specification of the eastern fortress wall line and its correspondence with the fortress plans of the middle of the 18th century, as well as to compare them to the plans compiled in the 20th century and the beginning of the XXI century.

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Many rare findings became the success of the school-expedition: parts of vessels, of constructional materials, fragments of headstones etc. There were unique findings of the parts of former column base.


Ethnographic team was a part of the archaeological school-expedition, it worked there from August 2 to August 12 and was led by O. Belova with the participation of T. Vlaskina, N. Bezdenezhny. 24 interviews were recorded with 29 informants which makes about 50 hours of audio recording. Materials were collected in the city of Tsymlyansk and in Volgodonsk, in the villages and villages of Tsimlyansky District (Dubravny, Khoroshevskaya, Sarkel, Kamyshevskaya, Markinskaya) and Volgodonsk District (Romanovskaya).

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Ethnographers recorded interviews with of local residents about the archeological sites of the region that were mythologized and organically included in the stories the context of ancient graves, treasures, underground passages, etc. in the popular perception. Ancient archaeological narratives are also associated with the "ancient peoples" (Khazars, Turks, Tatars) and folk ideas about the early history of the Cossacks in the region.

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As the material shows, objects created by people (burial mounds, hillforts, cemeteries) serve not only as space markers, but also participate in the construction of a cultural text associated with the anthropocentric world model inherent in folk tradition. The documented material clearly showed that archaic and mythological representations play a significant role in the context of the "folklore" history.

The program of the school included not only archaeological excavations, but also lectures of specialists on the history and archeology of the Khazars, researchers of the Don national traditions. Several excursions around the place of the field work were organized as well.

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Program of the School-Expedition