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Titolo: Building Archaeology of the Secular Architecture of the 10th – 11th Century Kyivan Rus’ Town
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Building Archaeology of the Secular Architecture of the
10th – 11th Century Kyivan Rus’ Town
The nature of the secular architecture of the medieval towns of Kyivan Rus’ has always attracted
researchers’ attention. The first conclusions concerning the types of buildings erected in early
medieval Kyiv were made by Vikentiy Khvoika at the beginning of the twentieth century.
According to a short publication, the excavations of 1907 – 1908 revealed remains of almost 20
structures – interpreted by the author as dwelling houses - in the central part of Kyiv’s Starokyivska
Hora (Hill). As the author notes, the buildings were made of thick wooden logs, were mainly sunk
into the ground, and projected only slightly above the ground surface (Khvoika 1913, p.73).
After many years, we can assume that the objects which Khvoika had excavated were not the
remains of architectural constructions of early Kyiv, but pre-Christian burial complexes with
barrow chamber graves. Before a barrow mound was heaped, a foundation pit was excavated. The
area of such a foundation pit sometimes exceeded 10 m2. Its walls were supported by wooden pole
construction, or more rarely with log construction. The structure also had some form of covering.
Nevertheless, Khvoika’s opinion became firmly rooted in researchers’ minds. Even such a
thoughtful researcher of Kyiv as Galina Korzukhina, while interpreting Khvoika’s excavations,
concluded that pole-frame construction was the technology utilized in early Kyiv buildings
(Korzukhina 1956, pp. 322 – 329). Mikhail Karger was also firmly convinced of the predominance
of pole-frame construction in Kyiv as well as in the whole Middle Dnipro region. On this basis he
formulated a scientific concept, the main object of which was the image of “semi-dugout” Kyiv
(Karger 1958, pp. 348-149).
A result of recent excavations of Starokyivska Hill was the collection of new data and formulation
of new conclusions which finally refute these early interpretations of Kyiv’s early medieval
architecture. First, they remind researchers of the fact that starting with the ninth century and
throughout the entire tenth century barrow mounds reaching a height up to 5-8 meters and diameter
up to 25 meters had been the prevailing man-made constructions on this territory. The groups of
barrows were scattered on the picturesque plateau still covered with remains of the ancient oak
forests, which according to written sources served as holy groves for the pagans.
In 1988 – 1989, excavations under the direction of Yaroslav Borovsky in the southeast part of
“Vladimir’s Town” near the edge of the defensive ditch which encircled the town in the early
eleventh century uncovered three square pits which were the remains of burial chambers containing
cremations, and also three more oval-shaped or apse-shaped trenches similar in depth and size to the
burial chambers to suggest that they too had served those functions. The fill of the graves contained
finds typical of burial complexes of the ninth – tenth centuries, which were called “retinue
antiquities” in the scientific literature (Borovsky 1993, pp. 3 – 33). Based on these findings, the
long-standing confrontation between the adherents of the “semi-dugout” model and the proponents
of the log house character of Kyiv’s early architecture came closer to its conclusion.
The commencement of excavations in 1971 on the territory of the Lower Town – the Podil District and their continuation through annual investigations of additional sites in Podil have provided the
critical information for finally solving this problem. As a result of deep and extensive excavations
and remarkable preservation of wooden architectural elements in intact archaeological contexts
dating back to the ninth century, archaeologists have managed to accumulate data on the largest
collection of wooden building types assembled of secular medieval town architecture of Kyivan
Rus’. In addition, the surviving deep stratigraphic sequences beneath the surface of Podil (extending
to a depth of approximately 10 m to 12 m) document fourteen episodes of the destruction and
reconstruction of all or large portions of the settled urban area of Podil between the ninth and
twelfth centuries. These calamities were largely the result of heightened seismic activity, frequent
flooding of the Dnipro River, and episodic erosion of the hills to the west of Podil during this
period. A new understanding has been established in scientific circles of the nature of dwellinghousehold complexes of the Podil district as mostly represented by one- and two-chamber log
houses (Hupalo 1981, p. 85). While timber-framed construction was known to early medieval
Kyivan builders, it was used only as a subsidiary technology and had never been the dominant basis
of secular construction. This became clear after Viktor Kharlamov had analyzed all the excavated
buildings from an architectural point of view. Thus, log construction was clearly the accepted
method of building in early Kyiv and the technology upon which the mass urban secular
development of Kyiv was founded. The rate of development of the Podil district, a formerly virgin
place between the hills to the west and the bank of the river to the east, is striking. From the late
880s until the end of the 930s more than 100 hectares of the riverside territory were developed
(Sagaydak 1991, pp. 48 – 65).
A survey of the building technology of early Kyiv must begin with the analysis of foundations.
Builders have always paid great attention to the construction of foundations. The simplest method
of its construction consisted in preparing a special ground platform, which was built-up with soil,
flattened, and tamped in order to make the surface even (figs.1/1, 2, 3). The next step was equipping
the flat horizontal platform with an additional wooden construction which would prevent the whole
foundation from sinking. This construction was often made of planks placed edgewise along the
perimeter of the platform and fixed with vertically-driven stakes. The earth platform arranged in
such a way was elevated above the surface of the homestead to the boards’ height (figs.1/1a, 3a, 5a,
6a, 8a). Sometimes the planks supporting the platform had through-holes, obviously serving for
water drainage, which prevented the lowermost course of wall logs from rapidly decaying
(figs.1/2a, 5a, 7a). In some cases, the platform was enclosed with planks along the perimeter both
outside and inside. Deeper study of the so-called batter board of the foundation platform allowed
researchers to refute the opinion that in early Kyivan construction of the tenth – eleventh centuries
the planks of the batter board were not joined to each other at the corners and were not joined to the
logs of the timberwork with the help of notches. It turned out that the builders used such methods
starting with the first stages of building in Podil. A notch interlocking the batter board with the
timberwork corner was discovered in one of the earliest Podil log houses (fig.4) built in 913 (dated
To support the ground platforms, the builders used round logs similar to those used in the walls of
log buildings (figs.2/1a, 3a, 5a). Another method of preparing the platform for constructing a log
building lay in weaving a wicker fence to a height of 20 – 30 cm above the ground surface and then
filling this enclosure with earth and tamping it down (figs.2/1, 3). As a rule, the most
comprehensive preparation of the ground platform was made under the main log building which
served as a dwelling. Subsidiary buildings used for storing goods were often built directly on the
The next stage of building was the arrangement of the foundation over which log walls were raised.
Foundations were made of round, barked logs of varying length (50 cm – 80 cm in diameter; 1.5 m
– 2.5 m in length), differentiated according to their position beneath a wall. The dominant method
of foundation support was to place the support logs on the ground horizontally (one end was usually
sawn and the other chopped with an axe so that the log obtained a cone-shaped form). They also
varied in their location: under walls and corners or under the log joists of the floor. The number of
foot blocks laid under logs depended on their length. Sometimes a sort of horizontal foot block
made of board off-cuts was used. These were usually laid transversely to a wall along at intervals of
about 30 cm to 50 cm and in some cases in combination with foot blocks of other types (figs.2/2a,
4a); (figs.3/1, 2, 1a, 2a).
A type of vertical foundation supports was used in buildings serving as storehouses. The so-called
“chairs” (a kind of foot block) made of sawn blocks underpinned both the interlocking corners and
the walls. A special depression or shallow pit was made in the ground for such foot blocks. In
some cases, the northern corner of a log house rested upon a support placed vertically and the
opposite corner rested upon a stone (figs.3/1b, 2b). Sometimes a bigger foot block was added with
a smaller one set atop; the smaller one also had a notch forming a joint with the log above.
Another method of creating foundations was widely used in the early medieval building
technologies of the Podil district. It can be recognized to be the most rational method, as it did not
require any additional expenses. A new building was placed exactly on the place of the previous
building, on the uppermost surviving log courses of the previous building that were level with the
new earth fill within the older structure. The log walls of the destroyed earlier structure served as
supports for the lower log courses of a new log building. If the new log building turned out to be
smaller than the previous structure, then one or more of the corners had to be placed directly on the
ground, or the flooring or the log joists of the previous building were used for this purpose (figs.5/1,
3). When builders used the walls of the older (inwashed with soil) buildings as foundations, the
remains of such buildings projecting above the new ground surface were demolished and reused in
the building of the new structure. As a rule, new buildings were cut into the infra-laying ones by
the means of special notches (fig.4/7, 8). Sometimes the builders used another technique - before
erecting a new building special foot blocks were placed atop the corners of the old buildings
covered with soil.
Foundation platforms in the early buildings of Kyiv consisted of the following types:
Earth platform with tamped surface.
Earth platform supported by a wooden construction consisting of:
planks set edgewise and fixed by stakes from the outside;
planks jointed in the corners by the means of a special notch;
planks placed edgewise and fixed by means of stakes driven into the ground and
also jointed to the part of a corner of the timberwork with a special notch with
the log ends extending beyond the joint.
The ground encased with blocks and logs.
The batter board of the platform made of wicker fence (wattle).
Log wall and floor joist supports consisted of the following types:
Horizontal foot blocks made of:
off-cuts of thick logs of different length (0.30 – 0.60 cm; 0.60 – 2.20 m);
processed logs or blocks put in one or more tiers;
processed logs put in a trellised way;
Vertical foot blocks made of:
round logs placed under the corner blocks;
logs placed under the corner blocks in combination with a stone
placed under the corner block;
Remains (elements) of previous buildings filled with soil used as foundations of a
Combined foot blocks, which included combination of the types, mentioned above
(figs.3/3, 3a, 2b).
The primary element of log house architecture is the wall. For construction of vertical walls,
straight round logs of the same size and approximately the same diameter were selected. It is
natural, that even under the conditions of an abundance of forest resources, such tasks were not
entirely simple. The raw material for the future building should have been not only thoroughly
selected, but also brought up to the mark. The earliest buildings of the Podil district of Kyiv show
that the early builders acquired a high level of knowledge of the technology of this architectural
construction. The logs were thoroughly hewn from every side; their diameter (especially in the
dwelling buildings) was perfectly adjusted. In those cases where there was a lack of logs of the
same thickness, compensation was made due to the size of the “cup” - the notch by means of which
the corners of the building were joined. In addition to the selection of nearly identical logs, it was
necessary to alternate the tops and the butts of the logs in successive courses in order to keep the
walls level. The log dwellings of the Podil district were built in the technique of “v oblo” jointing a “cup” notch was cut into the top of the underlying log (fig.4/1). The main requirements of a wellbuilt wall were the tightness of the logs and steadiness, to a great extent dependent upon the
accuracy of notching a “cup”. Notches cut too deep were corrected by insertion of two wooden
shims set across the notch perpendicular to each other and joined with a wooden peg (fig.4/3, 4).
Steadiness of the wall was improved by a simple technique: the projecting ends of the lowermost
courses of logs were left longer than the logs above (fig. 4/2).
The surfaces of the foundation blocks’ could also be processed and adjusted. The “bed” block was
occasionally trimmed further, sometimes to a “cup-shaped” hollow along the whole length of the
block. Besides the processing of the outer surfaces of the logs, consolidation of the construction was
made by means of special fillers of moss or sometimes of birch bark applied to the gaps between the
The selection of logs for outbuildings was less accurate. The lower courses, ground sills, and
sleepers were made of the thickest logs, and in the process of laying the upper courses, thinner logs
were used. The assemblage of such construction could have taken place right in the yard of a
homestead. Frequently the preparation of the logs was done in advance, possibly off-site, which is
confirmed by symbols cut into the logs, marking the numbers of the logs. Logs of large diameter
and length used for the construction of residential log houses (or possibly repair) were occasionally
processed at the site, evidenced by large quantities of wood chips found around and inside the
In the process of construction, the builders often had to join two logs to achieve the necessary
length. If it was a lowermost log or ground sill the logs were joined together with the help of a bidental notch fixed with stakes driven into the ground. When lengthening the logs of a wall the
joinery was accomplished by cutting a simple right-angled notch and fixing the two parts with a
The height of the walls to a great extend depended upon the thickness of the logs. In residential log
buildings the diameter of the logs was usually from 18 cm to 30 cm; in household service buildings
the diameter was 10 cm to 15 cm. In general, only round, pine, logs with their bark removed were
used. A single case in residential log construction of the Podil district has been documented where
along the entire perimeter of the structure one course was made of oak logs shaped in octahedral
form. Logs of the fir tree were mainly used for the upper parts of buildings.
Questions concerning the height of log buildings of the medieval towns of Kyivan Rus’ are the most
difficult to answer reliably. However, in recent years, researchers applying methods and principles
of building archaeology have extensively studied cliff-side dwelling-defensive complexes of the
ninth to fourteenth centuries of the Carpathian region of Ukraine which were built using log
construction technology. Their findings are extremely trustworthy, since the height of the buildings
is indicated by the presence of a system of channels cut directly into the rock faces of the cliffs and
stone outcrops. In Tustan’ the height of construction in the earliest phase did not exceed 2.16 m; in
the next tier it had reached a height of 3.5 – 3.74 m (Rozhko 1999, p. 418). With regard to the log
buildings of Kyiv, it should be noted that household outbuildings generally did not exceed 2 meters
in height, while residential log houses, which had two functional tiers (podklet - a cellar or ground
floor and a residential level) could reach 3 meters in height and even higher. Another question,
which still has not been adequately answered, concerns the presence of clay daub on the log walls.
Initial conclusions by researchers that the log houses of Podil lacked clay daubing can be refuted by
the finds of clay blocks containing the impressions of wooden walls (Hupalo 1981, p. 139).
Nevertheless, such finds are very rare, but they do allow stating that some Podil buildings were
The main rooms of dwelling houses generally had floors made of wide, riven boards. Their width
ranged from 20 cm to 40 cm, and their thickness from 4cm to 5 cm. In some cases, the floors were
laid directly on the earthen platform (fig.4/5, 6). The floor boards were tightly fitted to each other,
and fixed to the ground by means of wooden stakes. More often, the floor boards rested on log
joists. Frequently the joists were laid directly on the ground and sometimes they were not
connected with the walls (fig.2/1); sometimes they were cut into the log courses of the building
(fig.5/1c, 2c). In the buildings of the Podil district, the tight joint was more often used than the
through joint. Sometimes the log joists divided the internal space of a building into larger and
smaller parts; appropriately, long and short boards were used. In buildings that were square in plan,
a log joist was put in such a way that it divided the building space into two equal parts.
Occasionally the log joist was cut with a longitudinal notch with the depth of the notch
corresponding to the thickness of the edge of the inlaying board. Sometimes the notch was made
only from one side of the log joist (fig.5/1b, 2b, 3b). The distinguishing feature of log joists laid on
the ground without joining to the walls was a canting which allowed a better contact with the
ground and tighter joining of the planking. In the constructions of Podil district two forms of
flooring have been recorded: the more archaic one is without mechanical connection between the
floor and the wall (the flooring was laid directly over the earth), and the developed one. where the
floor was connected with the wall through the floor planks, which were butted against the inside of
the wall. During the reconstructions of the buildings, people tried to raise up the floor level; for this
purpose, a new log joist was laid. Usually the log joists were cut into the notches made in the lower
log courses. In such a way, the floor planks were placed between the first and the second log
courses. The most perfect technological system of flooring was applied by builders in log house 8
on the plot of Red Square (fig.5/1a, 2a). The flooring was laid parallel to the long wall and was
fastened through the punched holes extending outward beneath the lowermost course of logs and
exterior walls. Floor planks laid on the log joists were also laid between the first and the second
courses of logs. In this way, a firm connection was created between the floor and the walls, which
produced a positive stabilizing effect on the entire building.
The interior arrangement of the log houses of the Podil district is always conditioned by the
positional relationship between an entrance and an oven. Single-room (one-chamber) buildings
make up approximately half of the whole number of the discovered log houses. Their areas vary
from 16.8 sq.m to 30.8 sq.m. Unfortunately, in this type of building entrances were rarely found in
situ, a consequence of the specific ecological conditions of the Podil district that led residents to
raise them above the ground level as high as it was possible. In order to define the position of
entrances researchers tried to use a wide range of data, including the secondary ones: the floor
planks’ and log joists’ direction, the character of homestead planning, and the presence of a street or
an alley nearby, and so on. Observations allowed singling out some patterns of the relationship
between the entrance and the oven. Ovens were usually placed in one of the corners nearest to the
This relationship is observed both in one-room log houses and in the so-called “five-wall” log
houses (Hupalo 1981, p. 142). This type of building had an interior logwork wall which divided the
inner space into a larger room (usually square in shape) and a smaller room. An oven was usually
situated in the right corner near the entrance of the larger room. The oven was a round- or ovalshaped construction made of clay. The measurements of the inner diameter of ovens varied from
0.6 m to 1.2 m; the width of the mouth was up 40 cm. The oven was usually placed on a sand
platform (“pillow”) 10 – 15 cm in height. The base could have been laid with gravel, fragments of
brick-plinths, or broken pottery, after which it was covered with a layer of pure clay 3 – 5 cm thick.
Along the perimeter of a horseshoe-shaped base a wooden wattle frame was installed, serving as a
carcass for tamping the walls of the oven with clay. In some heating constructions, 4 – 5 layers of
clay daub have been found which indicate the regular repairs of the ovens. Very often, the daub
contained crushed pieces of pottery.
A very rare type of oven used in Podil buildings was square in plan (fig.4/5). The example
recovered measured more than 2 meters in length and 0.8 m in width. Among the collapsed debris
of burned clay wooden corner poles up to 10 cm thick were found. This construction suggests that
such ovens were placed on a wooden platform raised above floor level. Analogous heating
constructions were discovered during the excavations of old Novgorod (Zasurtsev, 1963, p. 29). It is
postulated that clay fire baskets were placed in the upper part of the ovens of medieval Rus’. Such
evidence has not been found in situ, but the recovery of abundant fragments of fire baskets suggests
that they were quite widespread. An intact example of a fire basket was found during the
excavations of a homestead on Shchekavitskaya Street in Kyiv; it was rectangular in shape,
measured 80 cm by 60 cm, and had sides 4 cm high.
The question of chimneys in the log houses of the Podil district remained unresolved, presented
only on the level of hypothetic reconstructions. According to the most widespread opinion the
majority of secular buildings did not have a chimney and smoke filled the room, exiting through
doors or windows to the street. This method of heating is called “black heating.” Nevertheless,
some researchers insist that the richest buildings were equipped with chimneys. In one case,
archaeologists have discovered remains of a clay pipe inside a log house, which could have served
as a chimney (Hupalo 1981, pp 143 - 144). Thus, the second opinion seems to be more preferable as
it is confirmed archaeologically.
The discovery of ovens with the mouth turned towards the entrance provides grounds for a
supposition that the end surface of a sleeping platform (staging) was adjacent to the stove, and its
flank was adjacent to a sidewall of the log house. This particular arrangement was found in several
Podil log houses. It is clearly seen on the plan of log house 1 from messuage B, which was
excavated in Kyiv on Zhytnetorgskaya Square (fig.2/1). From the flooring, it is seen which part of
the dwelling was vacant, and which one was used for heating and rest. It is interesting that the same
principles of space division were used not only in “five-wall” log houses, but also in one-room log
houses with ovens, which must indicate the continued tradition of the interior arrangement. Some
researchers suggest that the closest analogies of such division of the internal space have been met in
the chronologically synchronous buildings of the western regions of Kyivan Rus’ (Hupalo 1981, p.
In some log houses dating back to the eleventh century an oven was placed in the left corner in
relation to the entrance into the “five-wall” log house (log house 67 excavated on 16 Voloshskaya
Street), or an oven could have been placed in the central part of the big room of a log house. In
some cases the oven was enclosed with planks set edgewise and fixed with wedged stakes. Such
construction allowed raising the oven’s base above floor level and thus created space in front of the
mouth of the oven where a wattle and daub chimney flue could have been placed.
Archaeological excavations in Kyiv gave much information about the construction of entrances into
secular buildings. As a rule, a “five-wall” log dwelling house had two doorways. The first door was
situated in the wall of a small room-hallway (siny) leading into the yard. The door opened inwards,
which according to the opinion of some researchers was connected with the necessity of leaving the
house when snow was drifted up against it. It could have been also conditioned by the
circumstances which could emerge after sand and silt inwash during floods. In order to protect their
dwellings from such natural disasters Podil builders raised doorways at least to the level of the
second course of logs, but in most cases the doorways were arranged on the level of the fourth
course. The second door leading from the living room into the hallway (siny) opened outwards,
conditioned by the considerations of fire safety.
The width of doorways varied from 0.65 m to 0.78 m. In some cases, a longitudinal channel was
cut into one quarter of the log from the side where the door opened. Sometimes the channel or
rabbet was cut into the whole width of a log; when applying this method another additional
(narrow) rabbet was cut into the bigger rabbet. This was intended for setting a thin, trimmed board
serving as a prop for a door leaf. At a distance of 1 – 2 cm from the rabbet’s edge, a round hole was
cut in for installing a door bonding dowel (fig.6/1a, 2a, 3a). That technique of setting a door is
known as “on a heel.”
Besides the widely used “heel” method, Kyivan builders constructed doors fastened by means
called “bearing.” Some of the excavated door surfaces contained not a round dowel in their end, but
a rectangular one (fig. 6/1d, 2d, 3d, 4d). This form of dowel suggests that a door leaf was fastened
to the wall opening by means of a wooden bearing pole, which could revolve on its axis.
Another type of door was also discovered in the Podil district. As in the previous variants, a door
leaf was made of wide trimmed boards, which were joined with transverse laths by means of pegs.
The edges of these laths extended beyond the door leaf from one side and were pegged down to a
round log, which was set parallel to the door boards. The lower edge of the log was cone-shaped
and in such a way served as the door’s support and simultaneously as its axis. Door butts which
fastened the door to the door framing or to the logwork wall could have been attached on the edges
of the transverse laths (fig.6/1, 2).
Doors were remarkable for their variety. During the excavations on Red Square in Kyiv, a type of
door was discovered which allows reconstructing it as a door consisting of two thick side beams,
connected into a frame by means of longitudinal notches. Such a door could have been joined to
the wall with the help of the construction described above (fig. 6/1c, 2c, 3c).
In front of the entrance into the building a wooden stair and a shed resting upon additional poles
were constructed. The roofing of this shed as well as of the whole roof of the log house were made
of planks. The construction of the covering consisting of planking rested against the board surface,
which in due time was supported by the planks-“kokoshniki” (Hupalo 1981, p. 133).
In those cases when a living space of a log house was lifted up on the level of the fourth log course
or even higher, the construction of the threshold was more complicated. It could have consisted of
flooring laid before the door throughout the whole width of the hallway (siny). The poles dug into
the ground, which at the same time played the role of supports both for the threshold and for the
shed over it, supported the flooring. One end of the wooden staircase was adjacent to the threshold,
while the other rested against the ground (fig.6/1f, 2f, 3f). Judging from the incline of the staircase
ramp, log house 13 excavated on Zhytnetorgskaya Square could have had its door at the height of
1.3 – 1.5 meters above ground surface. A gallery adjoining to the log house from the north was
constructed by means of a system of posts set into the ground at the eastern facade of the building.
A sill for a staircase consisted of a thick horizontally-laid log fixed by two wooden stakes driven
into the ground. The attachment of the staircase to the sill log was carried out through two mortises
where the ends of the beams were set in. The beams formed a ramp which was inclined from the
flooring on the doorway level towards the ground.
The majority of Podil dwellings of the tenth – eleventh centuries consisted of three main parts:
“podklet” (ground storey), living storey, and a loft. During the excavations in 2003 on 39
Khorevaya Street, a sizable log house was discovered. Unfortunately it was not excavated along the
whole of its perimeter as it was situated directly under the foundations of an existing early twentieth
century house. However, its south-eastern facade was excavated and revealed a staircase leading to
the “podklet”. (fig.6/1g). The ramp of the staircase was set in a specially dug pit (1.3 m in depth).
The walls of the pit were formed with trimmed logs laid lengthwise. The lowermost pair of squareshaped boards was joined to the ground by the means of wooden stakes driven through holes cut
into the boards in their central part. The mentioned square notches (“cups”) could have served for
laying log joists used as support for the flooring, which has not survived. The upper part of the
staircase was made of round logs, which were laid directly on the ground surface. The outer ends of
the logs were bound with a log placed across the blocks and joined with them by means of a “cup.”
With its other end, the upper pair of logs was cut into the wall of the log house. Between the lower
and the upper pairs of logs, wide planks were set edgewise. They were pressed to the ground walls
and prevented them from falling. Part of these planks could have been a door leaf formerly which is
evidenced by the holes for fastening the transverse laths.
The steps of the staircase were made of slabs 1.1 m in length, which were partially resting upon the
ground and partially upon the beam supports driven into the ground. The steps were fastened to the
ground with square-shaped stakes passing through mortises of the same shape. In front of the
entrance to the staircase, flooring made of wide planks was laid. Close to the wall of the log house,
roof remains were found. The roof was made of planks laid parallel to the steps.
This massive construction indicates the important function of the entrance leading into the
“podklet” (ground floor premises) of the building. The ground floor of the building evidently played
a role of storage, which is indicated by the fact that the exit led to the artisan part of the homestead
(workshop) where tanning production took place, evidenced by the presence of special tanning vats.
The builders attached great significance to the arrangement of entrances. They are differentiated
according to their functionality. Some of them were used for exiting to the central part of the yard
and further into the street; others led to the ground floor storage premises or were used for exiting to
that part of the homestead where the artisan workshops were situated.
During the excavations in former Geroev Tripol’ya Street (present Spaska Street) the remains of
galleries were uncovered. Their direction can be reconstructed from the series of almost identical
thick poles (20 cm) in each of which identical vertical notches were made. In a lower part of each
notch, a beam was set (8 cm in diameter) with semicircular fluting along the full length of the upper
part. From the upper part of the beam, this construction was tight with split boards, the lower edges
of which were laid in a channel-like beam and the ends were passed into the mentioned notches of
the poles. In the upper part of the wall boards, holes were made. This construction is of special
interest, first of all because it is a vivid example of pole construction; secondly, it is striking in its
sizable measurements. The length of one of its walls made up more than 10 m and the width of the
building was more than 6 m. These data indicate an unusual functional character of the building.
This supposition is confirmed by the fact that the excavations held in 2003 by Kyiv Podil
Archaeological Expedition in the north-eastern part of the same quarter uncovered the remains of a
wooden, one-apse Christian church - the oldest in the history of excavations in Kyiv.
The big log building dating back to the mid-tenth century and enclosed with a gallery on the
minimum of two sides could not have been just a simple ordinary messuage building. It pointedly
has pretensions of being something else, perhaps even a cult building. We should note in this
connection that in North European towns a messuage lay-out usually included special ceremonial
halls, in which some traditional rites (ceremonies) took place. Such a wooden hall, as the
representative part of a messuage, together with a living part which included a kitchen, workshops
and stores zones, was the main constituent of town yards in such towns of Northern Europe as
Trondheim, Oslo, and Sigtuna. The presence of such buildings in the Podil messuage raises
questions about where one should look for analogous connections.
However, it is too early to speak about analogies, as the differences are conspicuous. First, this
Podil building employs log construction of the main walls, with only the bypass gallery built with
the help of pole construction - incidentally, very similar to those which were used in Scandinavia.
The second difference lies in the different layout of the buildings in the homestead. The hall is
tightly adjoined to the street directed towards the Dnipro River, whereby the free inner space of the
yard was created. The same can be said in relation to the church, which according to its plan and
situation in the structure of the homestead layout may be interpreted as a typical parish church.
Figure 2. Foundation platform supports – logs and wattle fences..
On the Zhytnetorgskaya Square of Podil, situated at the foot of Zamkovaya Hora, the remains of the
entire urban quarter were excavated. The quarter consisted of the messuages marked with letters A
and B (fig. 7). Messuage B is the most thoroughly studied. It was a typical Podil messuage, in
which the most characteristic features of civil building of the tenth to eleventh centuries are
reflected (fig.7/1). The messuage consisted of four buildings, which including a cellar were set
along the perimeter of the messuage. The log dwelling house was situated in the northern corner of
the homestead, tightly adjoining with its sides to the fence. The gateway was situated in the
southern corner of the messuage. Near the entrance to the messuage, flooring was laid resting on
two parallel board joists. The flooring led to the entrance of the big log house located in the
western corner of the messuage opposite the gates. The central part of the messuage was free from
buildings and represented an open yard. Possessing the documentary information obtained as a
result of the archaeological investigations researchers gained the opportunity of making
archaeological and architectural reconstructions of the excavated sites (fig.7/2).
From its very beginning, secular town development of the Podil district of Kyiv demonstrated a
firm tradition of constructing the buildings along the perimeter of the yard. It is difficult to say at
the present where this rather highly developed tradition of wooden construction came from to the
Middle Dnipro region at the end of the ninth century, since it has not been fixed among the
preceding East Slavonic archaeological cultures which had inhabited the area throughout the
seventh to eighth centuries. The ease with which the building methods were mastered in the town
demonstrates that during the tenth century a new culture, able to gain new experience, was created.
Figure 3. Underpinnings of log walls and floors – logs, foot blocks, piers.
Figure 4. Methods of notching the logs.
Figure 5. Superposition of new over older buildings; methods of laying flooring.
Figure 6. Architectural elements – doors, windows, stairs..
Figure 7. Architectural reconstruction of Messuages A and B, Zhytnetorgskaya Square, Podil, Kyiv.
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