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Laboratory for Architectural Archaeology and the Inter-disciplinary Study of Architectural Monuments

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Name of the project: Pre-Mongol frescoes in Novgorod: archaeological context and scientific research: The frescoes of St. George s cathedral, Yuriev monastery from the 2013/2020 excavations

Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development Priority Level: Ж

Goals and objectives

The project’s main aim is a comprehensive study of the frescoes of St. George’s Cathedral, Yuriev monastery. Novgorod, making use of a wide range of analogies. We also aim to collect a wide array of scientific data on the structure of plaster and pigments used in painting the frescoes. The project also aims to present the data obtained by scientific methods in the historical context, including that of the histories of culture, architecture and material culture. The historical and archaeological context to put the frescoes in will be provided by on-site studies in anthropology, archaeology and architecture. An important objective of the project is to bring archaeology in close contact to all of these disciplines. The project team will focus on publishing the fresco images and making them available to researchers as one of the team’s priorities.

The practical value of the study
Use of scientific methods in architectural archeology will give an opportunity to look at the technique and technology of fresco and construction production in Old Rus’ from a new perspective. The study of frescoes in St. George Cathedral will make it possible to work out a framework to study similar archaeological artifacts as historical sources. The scientific model of studying Novgorod frescoes and placing them in the archaeological context of the monument can later be applied to the study of any objects of art or historical architecture. Working out a list of essential and recommended analyses in the course of this study will make it possible to create an initial database to use in the future.

Research outcomes:

  • Collecting a variety of scientific data on the plaster and technique of multi-level fresco painting in St. George’s Cathedral, Yuriev monastery, and comparing it to similar data for other churches of Novgorod and contemporary Byzantine churches with wall paintings in Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Italy. After analyzing the collected data, we aim to describe a basic model of fresco production with a description of the technological process used in pre-Mongol Novgorod.
  • Obtaining information on the archaeological context of St. George’s Cathedral on the basis of scientific study of archaeological finds made of glass, metal, ceramics, textile, as well as analysis of building materials.
  • Studying the frescoes in terms of the history of art, providing an argument-supported explanation of its origin and the composition of the team who worked on the painting, and an evidence-based dating of the cathedral’s original painting.
  • Creating a research model of studying a monument of architecture and art in its archaeological context by means of scientific methodologies.

Practical outcomes:

  • Hosting and publishing (open access) a series of lectures by invited leading scholar, Alessandra Giumlia-Mair- Publishing 7 articles in WOS-indexed journals.
  • Organizing a conference to discuss the project outcomes.- Postgraduate students will go on research trips to European laboratories.
  • Project team members will present their papers dealing with some aspects of the project at conference.
  • The collection of “archaeological” frescoes preserved at two laboratories of the Novgorod State Museum and the Yuriev monastery will be systematized, a catalog will be made of all items in the collection, and digital versions of the images made.
  • A collection of articles comprising contextual studies related to the frescoes will be published.
  • An academic study/album will be published on the frescoes of St. George’s Cathedral. It will include a color catalog of the frescoes and the latest outcomes of the study.
  • A graphic reconstruction and a 3D model of St. George’s Cathedral will be made, which will include images of its original architecture.
  • A section of an academic course in architectural archaeology and archaeometry will be developed, to be taught to Masters’ students.
  • A dedicated resource will be set up on the website of the Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences, to follow the developments of the project.
  • Releases in two languages and other information will be provided to the mass media.
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