Exhibition on medieval Chersonesos history

This permanent exhibition presents thousand years of the life of Chersonesos and its environs. It is located in the former house church of Chersonesan monastery and in abbot's rooms. The first exposition of the Mediaeval Department was opened in this house in 1925; later on, new exhibitions were created in 1935, 1955, and 1981.

The modern exposition of the Mediaeval History Department was prepared by L. G. Kolesnikova and opened in 1981. Its design is developed by G. M. Manto and T. B. Manto. The finds exhibited have been restored in restoration workshops of the Chersonesos preserve by F. B. Braslavskaya, L. A. Divavina, R. S. Degtyaryova, O. A. Dem'yanova, Yu. S. Ryzhova, and Yu. Ye. Khrapov.

Being one of the most archaeologically investigated Byzantine cities, mediaeval Cherson is of great interest for both Byzantologists and all history lovers.

The display of the Byzantine period informs about the materials of the excavations and supplies knowledge of historical development and culture of mediaeval Cherson. It consists of 15 sections including about 3,000 exhibits, and is permanently enriched with most interesting finds from new excavations of the ancient city. Its sections are rearranged in course of appearance of new materials describing various aspects of urban life.

The exposition opens with the section discussing political situation in the Crimea in the Great Migration period. The materials presented in the section characterize Cherson as the main outpost of the Byzantine empire in the north Black Sea area and supply evidence of the great attention to its protection paid by the central government. The most impressive exhibit is monumental inscription honouring the emperor Zeno and telling of the repair of defensive walls of the city. There also are seals of local self-government officials and Byzantine magistracies.

Very interesting is the section explaining the history of Christianity in Cherson. Among its exhibits, there is a collection of Christian sculpture, underwear and reliquary crosses, stamps for bread. The most attention is attracted by the collection of steatite and bronze icons from the tenth to twelfth centuries. Further, there are reconstructions of Cherson churches of various types, and details of their architecture (capitals, columns, details of chancel screens, etc.). The section finishes with a collection of decorative slabs with images of flowering crosses and monsters, that decorated facades of Cherson churches in the twelfth and thirteenth century. Here we can see brilliant masterpiece of Byzantine drawing: a fragment of fresco depicting Mother of God's face.

Large-scale excavations of top layers of the site of ancient Chersonesos allowed the researchers to imagine the appearance of the twelfth and thirteenth century residential quarters: ground plans and graphic reconstructions of some of them are represented in the exposition together with builders' tools, samples of mediaeval roof tiles, window panes, etc.

The excavations of the city uncovered materials supplying evidences that Cherson had workshops producing colour and black metals, jewellery, bone carving, wood and glass  wares, as well as pottery workshops including those making glazed ware. The collection of the latter is the most striking and catchy part of the exposition. It includes pottery made with techniques of engraving, polychrome painting, and engobe painting. Ornamental motifs and images of birds and monsters on glazed plates and jugs reflect complicated synthesis of art tastes and traditions of many peoples populating the Byzantine empire.

Among the most numerous and different goods in the collection of Chersonesan preserve are he collection of bone artefacts including tools, parts of weapons, ornaments, objects of daily life. No doubts, the most impressive part of this collection is represented by decorative plates with extremely expressive engraves and carved images of birds and animals in a complicated turn.

The Chersonite's daily life and his appearance could be imagined from the next sections of the display including daily life objects, writing implements, games, medical tools, as well as buckles, brooches, buttons, beads, bracelets, etc.

Advantageous geographical location of the city supplied it with the role of large centre of transit trade in the north Black Sea area. "Trade" section shows some commodities imported from other regions of Byzantium and exchanged here for the products of neighbouring barbarian tribes.

Trade connected the city with Rus' from there they imported honey, wax and furs. Besides that, Cherson was among the north Black Sea cities received Russians escaping Mongol raids. This explains the large number of the so-called Russian artefacts (underwear and reliquary crosses, spindle whorls of Ovruch slate, cloth details, etc.) discovered by the excavations in the ancient city of Cherson and represented in the display of the mediaeval Department.

The army of Vladimir who besieged the city left no material traces of its stay here. The only exception is the so-called "burial of a Russian warrior" discovered in the necropolis of Chersonesos and allegedly related to the siege of 988.

The collapse of the Byzantine empire resulted in the destruction of network of trade routes existed through many centuries, which related Cherson with other regions of Byzantine world. It was reflected in the structure of Cherson import: main trade partners of the city became the Eastern Crimea, Armenia, Middle East, which goods are represented in one of the last sections of the exposition.

Weakened, missing the main source of its existence Cherson was finally destroyed by the raids of Mongols. There was a great fire enveloping the city in result of khan Edigu's raid of 1399; it is described by the materials of the last section of the museum display - charred beams, fired glazed ware, caked nails, etc.

The main exposition is supplemented by illustrated exhibition "Mediaeval Cherson from the fifth to the fifteenth century" in vestibules of the Department. Materials from the excavations of Cherson are represented in drawings, graphic reconstructions, drafts, photos and amplified with copies of Byzantine book miniatures to resurrect the pictures of life of this Byzantine city.