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Kytaya was a small, well-fortified city in the Bosporan Kingdom on the Black Sea coast, located on 4.5 hectares on a hilly coastal plain 38 km southwest of Panticapaeum near the modern village of Zavitne Leninsky district of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. A city called Keith, Kideaka, and others is mentioned in the works of ancient authors (Pseudo-Skylak, Gaius Pliny the Second, Claudius Ptolemy, Stephen of Byzantium). The settlement arose in the process of Bosporus recolonization of the 5th century BC and existed until the end of the 4th century AD. In the 4th century BC its territory was surrounded by a defensive wall. Kytaya reached its peak in the 1st-2nd centuries due to the trade of bread. Other occupations of the population were metalworking, pottery, fishing.
The structure of the archeological site includes defensive walls, the northern city gate with gate towers, public buildings (a temple and a sanctuary), residential and commercial buildings, an ash-mound and a necropolis.
Fortress walls built in the 4th century BC have a width of 2.20 – 2.50 m. They are composed of limestone slabs and reinforced by towers and a moat up to 6 m wide. The walls on the eastern coastal side of the settlement (up to 3.2 m) and the northern wall (2.9 m) are the most powerful. Preserved western wall (1.7 m wide) was built in the 2nd century BC. Information about the construction of the temple devoted to the “God who thunders” is supplemented by the discovery of a marble temple sacrificial table dated back to 234 AD with stands in the form of busts of caryatids and an inscription mentioning the fact that the city community built a temple to this deity and the founding of Kytaya as a city. In the second half of the 4th century BC another cult complex was erected in the coastal part, which has hardly survived (altars and altar pits).
The earliest residential buildings include the remains of dugouts. The earliest residential building dates back to the first half of the 4th century BC. One-room houses with courtyards and pavements and catchment tanks also belong to that period. It has also been found that in the 3rd – 2nd centuries BC there was a destruction and a significant reconstruction of the city, including the construction of the western curtain wall (the span of the wall between the two towers). Traces of severe destruction and fires, including arrowheads stuck in the walls, belong to the 2nd half of the 1st century BC. In the 3rd century – 1st half of the 4th century AD the final reconstructions of the city and fortifications were carried out. Many houses are built on old foundations. The last period of the city’s existence was Byzantine times. In the central part of the city, there is an ash-pit, which is a high hill, the thickness of the garbage layers being 12 m.
The earliest burials of the city’s necropolis date back to the 4th century BC. The majority of the explored burials belong to the first centuries BC.
Among the ancient inhabitants of Kytaya, the most famous are the prominent Bosporus official Savag and his wife Faisparta. Inscriptions with their names were found both in the vicinity of Kytaya and in their large burial crypt of the late 5th century on Mount Mithridates in modern Kerch.
In recent years, two late antique round sanctuaries, numerous terracotta statuettes of female fertility deities, etc. have been discovered.
In 1970, the Kerch Historical and Archaeological Museum resumed excavations of the Kytaya settlement, which became systematic. Since 1974, the Kytaya expedition has been led by E. Molev, now a professor at the Department of Ancient World History and Classical Languages of Nizhny Novgorod State University named after M. Lobachevsky. In 1996-2003 there was a break in the work of the expedition. Since 2004 the work has been resumed. After the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in 2014, the work of the expedition continued with violations of Ukrainian legislation and international law.
In 2016, the “Kytaya Archaeological Expedition” of the State Hermitage under the direction of the junior researcher of the Department of Classical Antiquities of the State Hermitage A. Katsova began unlawful excavations at the site in parallel with the “Kytaya expedition” of the Institute of International Relations and World History of Lobachevsky University (Nizhny Novgorod, Russia).
Archaeological artifacts were unlawfully seized from the site during these works. Students of the Museology Faculty of the Institute of History of St. Petersburg State University are involved in unlawful excavations, for whom the university identified these unlawful excavations as a basis for field practice.
In the spring of 2019, both mentioned “expeditions” agreed to unite. However, for the first time in the history of Bosporus archeology, a parallel (alternative) “open letter” (a lisence for archaeological excavations) was issued for the work on this site for the 2019 season on the initiative of O. Maslennikov, the head of the field research department of the IA RAS. This “open letter” allowed work under the de facto leadership of N. Kuzina, the head of the archaeological team “Meotida” of the Institute of International Relations and World History of Lobachevsky University. The participants of the unlawful excavations in Kytaya regarded this fact as “a brutal attempt to raid part of the site” and “a precedent that could potentially occur at any archeological monument.”
In 2015-2020, the Kytaya archaeological team of the Department of General History of the Faculty of History and Philology of the Belgorod State National Research University also took part in unlawful excavations.
Due to unlawful works, antique samples of ancient Greek (Hellenistic) culture and cultures of other peoples who used to live in Crimea were damaged.
Since mid-July, excavations at Kytaya have been carried out by members of the Eastern Bosporus Expedition of the IA RAS, which included the Kytaya archaeological team of the Department of General History of the Faculty of History and Philology of the Belgorod State National Research University. Excavation sites 1, 2 and 3 were cleared, new squares were laid out, unlawful works were carried out on the easternmost section of the excavation site 2 (ashtray).
Members of the archeological team: E. Molev (Nizhny Novgorod), N. Bolgov, Evgeny Danilov (Yaroslavl), Pavel Titenko (St. Petersburg), Alexander Tsygulev, Mikhail Dorokhov, Zoya Guseva, Marina Sinitsa, Ekaterina Kozyakova, Angelina Aleinikova, Anastasia Kushnir, Nikita Bogomazka, Ekaterina Rodina, Vladimir Kirillov, Vladislav Kushnirov, Diana Rambausik, Ekaterina Lukashevich, Arina Zinova, Anastasia Viguro, German Porublyov, Vsevolod Dmitriev, Sergey Surovtsev.
The “Kytaya expedition” of the State Hermitage conducted unlawful “archaeological exploration” with the use of local earthworks on an area of about 20 square meters. Two reconnaissance pits with an area of 9 square meters were laid outside the western and eastern lines of the fortress walls. The thickness of the excavated cultural layers is 1.80–2.95 m. The entire cultural layer at the excavation sites was removed. To the west of the western defensive wall, a cultural layer 0.6–0.8 m thick, as well as a masonry 3.6 m long and 0.66 m wide, were excavated. A fragment of a bone crest, a small fragment of a lining with a drilled hole and a notch, an astragalus with a drilled hole and bronze oxides, fragments of narrow-necked light clay amphorae, fragments of red-clay amphora containers with beak-shaped and grooved crowns, fragments of red and brown lacquer tableware, tiles, thick-walled ceramics, tableware, kitchenware and molded tableware were unlawfully seized from the site.
Since July 6, for 3 weeks, at the excavation site I members of the archeological team “Kytaya” of the Faculty of History and Philology of the Belgorod State National Research University added a square to the south-western tower and excavated the walls of the premises in the lowlands at the western foot of the ashtray. For the first time since 1991, a large square on the south side was excavated at the excavation site IV (Byzantine complex of the 6th century), in which an unbroken early Byzantine plate with a cross and doves carved at the bottom was found (later reports mention that it may have belonged to a bishop), as well as a clay stamp of a pilgrim with the inscription “Workshop of Ephesus” and images of saints. On the last day of works, the contours of the walls of new premises were recorded. Among other findings, there were coins, a bronze key, a zoomorphic pen, a brand mark, etc. The press release mentioned “St. Petersburg colleagues who started digging the top of the ashtray” and “St. Petersburg neighbors from the necropolis.”
Members of the archeological team: E. Molev (Nizhny Novgorod), N. Bolgov, N. Moleva (Nizhny Novgorod), V. Parfenov (Saratov), K. Markov (Nizhny Novgorod), T. Markova (Nizhny Novgorod), Mikhail Dorokhov, Maria Rudneva, Ekaterina Kozyakova, Marina Sinitsa, Ekaterina Bogomaz, Angelina Aleinikova, Ekaterina Rodina, Yuri Buzanakov, Oksana Alimova, Svetlana Babayan, Nikita Bogomaz, Vladimir Kirillov, Diana Rambausik, Anna Akhtyrtseva, Nina Zhukova, Marina Mishenina, Karina Radchenko, Diana Yurchenko, Denis Kushakov, Natalia Ponomareva, Irina Krasikova, Alexander Vasiliev.
The “Kytaya expedition” of the State Hermitage dug into the hill in the central part of the settlement. The total thickness of the cultural layer is about 2 m, the excavation area is 150 square meters. Fragments of amphorae, red and brown lacquer ware, fragments of Megar’s bowls, red clay, kitchen and sculpted ceramics, fragments of terracotta, ceramic weaving sinkers and spinners, bone overlays and astragalus, fragments of iron and bronze rods, a small altar, as well as three coins of the 3rd century were unlawfully seized from the monument. A pit filled with ashes and yellow loam was excavated, from which two incense burners with traces of soot and the throat of an amphora with obscure red paint dipinto were unlawfully seized.
On July 12-31, a group of students, undergraduates and graduate students of the Department of General History of the Faculty of History and Philology of the Belgorod State National Research University, members of the special interest group “Classical and Byzantine Tradition” and Russian public organization “Byzantine Club” formed an “archaeological expedition of the Belgorod State National Research University”. Work was carried out at the excavation site I (southwestern part of the city wall with a tower) and the excavation site IV, restored in 2016. It was decided to add several additional squares to them. The findings at the excavation site IV are the following: two elegant lamps, a large number of fragments of glassware, a few bronze coins, a bronze mirror, a large glass bead, a large number of different walls of the vessels. The findings at the excavation site I are the following: links of bronze chain mail of a late antique warrior, small clay and glass vessels for incense, a small incense burner. The press release mentioned two “expeditions” from St. Petersburg that worked nearby.
Members of the archeological team: E. Molev (Nizhny Novgorod), N. Bolgov, N. Moleva (Nizhny Novgorod), V. Parfenov (Saratov), Marina Sinitsa, Maria Rudneva, Natalia Tretyakova, Nikita Bogomaz, Angelina Grineva, Ekaterina Rodina, Vladimir Kirillov, Diana Rambausik, Nina Zhukova, Irina Krasikova, Alexander Vasiliev, Stepan Grozov (Nizhny Novgorod), Vera Gorbacheva (Nizhny Novgorod), Svetlana Malyutina (Nizhny Novgorod), Olga Nikolababeksik, Anastasia Rambausik, Yaroslava Rambausik, Sergey Surovtsev, Vladimir Tolstobrov (Donetsk).
The “Kytaya Expedition” of the State Hermitage carried out an unlawful excavation of the embankment in the central part of the settlement on a total area of 195 sq. meters. The thickness of the destroyed layers is 1.0–1.2 meters. Numerous fragments of ceramics, fragments of dishes with inscriptions, coins, fragments of terracotta, sculpted lamps, spinners and weaving pyramidal sinkers, bone, stone, metal and glass products, as well as the most interesting finds, a portrait medallion at the bottom of a red-lacquered open vessel and a bone overlay with a low relief image of half of a man’s face were unlawfully seized from the monument.
On July 10, a group of students, undergraduates and graduate students of the Department of General History of the Faculty of History and Philology of the Belgorod State National Research University, members of the special interest group “Classical and Byzantine Tradition” began unlawful work in the Kytaya settlement. The excavation site IV was cleared, the dilapidated sections of the walls of the gate tower were partially fortified, and the excavations from the times of the 1980s and 1990sexpeditions at the excavation site III, next to which the State Hermitage “expedition” camp was located, were cleared.
Members of the archeological team: Nikolai Bolgov, Maria Rudneva, Natalia Tretyakova, Marina Sinitsa, Ekaterina Vinnik (Kozyakova), Angelina Grineva, Ekaterina Rodina, Vladimir Kirillov, Nina Zhukova, Marina Mishenina, Alexander Vasiliev, Natalia Ponomareva, Tatyana Zhuravleva, , Vyacheslav Skirchenko, Evgeny Miroshnichenko (St. Petersburg), Elena Ermak (St. Petersburg), Kristina Makarova, Nikolay Moskovkin, Daria Ponomareva, Igor Nadezhkin, Sergey Surovtsev, Semyon Ermolin.
The “Kytaya Expedition” of the State Hermitage conducted unlawful excavations of the ash hill. The masonry is partially excavated in the northern part of the ashtray. Rare objects were unlawfully seized from the monument, including a fragment of a terracotta with a part of a female figure in a chiton (an ancient type of dress), with an animal in one hand and a fruit basket in the other, as well as a fragment of a cup made of mosaic glass. The materials allow us to state that the main time of formation of the layers destroyed by unlawful activity dates back to the middle of the 1st century BC – the middle of the 1st century AD.
From July 10 to 24, unlawful work on the Kytaya settlement was carried out by an archeological team of the Department of General History of the Faculty of History and Philology of the Belgorod State National Research University, which joined forces with the “Kytaya Expedition” of the State Hermitage under the leadership of O.V. Katsova. The works took place on the northern slope of the ash hill. To the north-west of the already excavated planes, 4 new squares were laid.
Members of the archeological team: Nikolai Bolgov, Maria Rudneva, Natalia Zolotukhina (Tretyakova), Marina Sinitsa, Ekaterina Rodina, Vladimir Kirillov, Diana Rambausik, Alisa Chaplygina, Anna Petrikova, Vyacheslav Likhosherstov, Oksana Rambausik, Daria Gromova, Anastasiya Rambausik, Yaroslava Rambausik, Anastasia Tretyakova, Semyon Ermolin, Anna Bolgova.
During the unlawful excavations of the ash hill by the “Kytaya Expedition” of the State Hermitage, bone needles and a miniature red clay bowl with remnants of pink paint, as well as fragments of pottery of the 2nd-4th centuries were seized. In the area adjacent to the settlement, 10 pits were laid, which were dug to a depth of 0.8 to 2.7 m.
On July 25 – August 9, the archeological team of the Belgorod State National Research University, which included more than 25 people (teachers, students, graduate students of the Department of General History, as well as persons from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Voronezh, Krasnodar and occupied Kerch) carried out the planned work on clearing and conservation of 4 excavation sites of previous years and the main recent excavation on the northern side of the ash hill.
Members of the archeological team: Evgeny Molev (Nizhny Novgorod), Nikolai Bolgov, Anna Bolgova, Maria Rudneva, Marina Sinitsa, Vladimir Kirillov, Ekaterina Rodina, Nina Zhukova, Vyacheslav Likhosherstov, Pavel Titenko (St. Petersburg), Evgeny Miroshnichenko (St. Petersburg), Kirill Bolgov (Moscow), Olga Bolshakova (Moscow), Bogdan Arislanov, Elena Ermak (St. Petersburg), Sergei Surovtsev, Andrei Korolev, Anton Prisada, Valeria Kryzhka (Voronezh), Semyon Ermolin (Kerch), Mark Kuznetsov, Oksana Kalabanova, Maxim Kozhin (Krasnodar), Leontiy Korolev, Matfej Korolev, Tikhon Korolev.
Due to a pandemic of COVID-19, specialists of the State Hermitage refused to participate in the expedition.
In early July, the “field season” in occupied Crimea was opened by the Meotida archaeological team, which operates on the basis of the Institute of International Relations and World History at Lobachevsky University (Nizhny Novgorod, the Russian Federation) as part of the East Crimean Archaeological Expedition of the IA RAS. This time it includes students of history, undergoing field archaeological practice. The plan of the expedition included unlawful works on several archeological monuments of eastern Crimea, in particular at the settlement of Polyanka on the coast of the Sea of Azov. On the page of the archeological team “Meotida” in the Russian social network “Vkontakte the work at the Kytaya settlement was announced for July 13 – August 10, 2021.
The federal budgetary institution of culture “The State Hermitage” (St. Petersburg, Russian Federation), as well as the Institute of International Relations and World History of the federal state autonomous educational institution of higher education “The National Research University of Nizhny Novgorod named after N.I. Lobachevsky” (Nizhny Novgorod, Russian Federation), federal state autonomous educational institution of higher education “Belgorod State National Research University (Belgorod, Russian Federation), are involved in unlawful activities in the ancient settlement of Kytaya, located near the village Zavitne of Leninsky district (AR of Crimea, Ukraine). The State Hermitage is included in the list of entities to which sanctions are applied according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine of May 14, 2020, №184 “On the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of May 14, 2020 “On the application, abolition and amendment of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)”.
The actions of the occupation authorities, which resulted in unlawful appropriation, unlawful archeological excavations, during which archeological artifacts were seized, are a violation of international humanitarian law.
These actions of the Russian Federation, together with other actions of the Occupying Power in their entirety may constitute a war crime in the form of extensive destruction and appropriation of cultural property, not justified by military necessity, and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.
The group of monitoring experts of the Regional Center for Human Rights,
the working group of the expert network “Crimean Platform – Humanitarian Policy”
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