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Myrmekion is an ancient city located in eastern Crimea on the territory of modern Kerch, was founded in the second quarter – in the middle of the 6th century BC by the Ionian Greeks. Later it became part of the Bosporus Kingdom. It occupied an area of 6 hectares. At the beginning of the 5th century BC the city was surrounded by a defensive wall, within which the dugouts were replaced by ground construction. During the excavations, residential and farm buildings and ash hills formed from the remains of sacrifices were discovered. Under one of the ash hills of the 5th century BC an altar was found. The most characteristic feature of the construction of Mirmekion in the 3rd – 1st centuries BC was a significant number of wineries. In the 3rd century, a large fish-salting complex functioned here. The city ceased to exist during one of the barbarian invasions in the middle – the second half of the 3rd century. Outside the city, a necropolis with ancient burials was explored.
In the period 2014 – 2019, specialists of the State Hermitage (a group led by the head of the Northern Black Sea sector of the Department of ClassicalAntiquities of the State Hermitage A. Butyagina) under the guise of “archaeological research” unlawfully conducted excavations at the cultural heritage object of Ukraine in Crimea, i.e. the ancient settlement Myrmekion. Archaeological artifacts were unlawfully seized from the site during these works. Antique samples of ancient Greek (Hellenistic), ancient Roman and other cultures were damaged.
During the unlawful excavations, the remains of the premises of the 4th century BC and the lower layers were excavated. The pavement with gutter was completely uncovered. Among other artifacts, a large number of black and red-figured vessels, a tortoise shell with a hole, and many iron and bronze items were unlawfully seized from the monument. Layers of later epochs were excavated near the acropolis in order to access a large area of the ancient building remains on a plot of about 120 square meters to the depth of about 1 m. Stone tips of the period from the Late Bronze Age to the 20th century, numerous fragments of glazed medieval utensils and a fragment of the stand used in its firing were unlawfully seized from the monument. A separate archeological team conducted unlawful excavations at the necropolis of the Kitei settlement in the south of the Kerch Peninsula.
On a plot of about 100 square meters in the central part of the settlement, a late archaic city quarter was excavated. One of the pavements of the yards was removed and the lower layers were excavated. Remains of a building of the 5th – 4th centuries BC were discovered in the north-western part of the site. In the eastern part of the site, a pit and several masonries were excavated. In the southwestern part of the acropolis on a plot of about 120 square meters layers of the 13th – 15th centuries and layers of the Roman era were excavated. Remains of walls and hearths of the Middle Ages were found in the extreme eastern square. Among other artifacts a gold plaque (probably from Roman times), carved bone plates (one of them – in the form of a female figure), a bronze earring with a gilded lion’s head, bone plates on the scabbard of a Greek sword, a column drum, a block used in the masonry of Roman times, on which 8 lines are preserved, which are a list of names (at that time the largest lapidary find in the entire period of the exploration of Mirmekion) were unlawfully seized from the monument.
The opening of the largest building of the 14th – 15th centuries near the acropolis, opened in 2015, continued. According to a report by the State Hermitage, the medieval cultural layer in the area of the pit was destroyed during World War II. Several stone covers, small fragments of architectural details, a rough altar, a capital from a pilaster, a pythos, two bronze keys in the form of herms were unlawfully seized from the monument.
In the central part of the settlement, a group of pits and a part of a half-dugout of the second half of the 6th century BC were unlawfully excavated, as well as a quadrangular pit of the 4th century BC, lined with a thick layer of raw bricks. In the western part of the settlement, the buildings of manors of the 1st – 3rd centuries BC and numerous pits were excavated. In particular, a special artifact was unlawfully from the monument, a fragment of a glass bowl in the multi-colored millefiori technique. In the eastern part of the site from the layer of the 4th century BC, bone-cutting workshops were unlawfully seized, including the sheet on a lead plate being first in the history of excavations of the settlement, dedicated to the peculiarities of local trade, as well as a gold plaque and two crumpled fragments of gold foil. Near the wall that bounded the ancient city in the east, within the excavations of the 1960s, a very damaged winery and a group of different-time pits were excavated again, as well as a new section of the necropolis dating to the second half of the 6th century BC.
Unlawful archeological works were carried out at three sites. More than 450 square meters of the cultural layer were excavated to a depth of 2.1 m. Many fragments of pottery of the 3rd century BC – 3rd century AD, as well as a small bone figurine of Mercury, were unlawfully seized from the central part of the settlement of the monument. In the south-eastern part of the monument, unlawful works were carried out on an area of about 120 square meters. There were excavated remains of medieval buildings with a stove, earlier masonry and paving probably of the Hellenistic period, a selection of stones of the defensive wall, as well as two burials of the 6th century BC, among the inventory of which there were gray clay jars.
A rare artifact was unlawfully seized from the pits dug on the site at different times. This is an architectural fragment and a part of a marble tombstone with the image of the head of a young man or a girl, probably from the 5th century BC. Near the cliff of the Acropolis in an area of about 250 square meters layers of the 13th – 15th centuries were removed and several pits of this time were excavated. Remains of a stone basement of the port quarantine station dating back to the 19th century were also excavated.
A small marble torso of a statue of a seated deity (probably Jupiter) was unlawfully seized from the rubble of the late Middle Ages. A marble half-naked male torso about 1.1 m high, probably from the statue of Asclepius, was unlawfully seized from the rubble above one of the rooms. The latter artifact is the rarest for the Bosporus and completely unique for Mirmekion. During unlawful excavations in the area of the pit, where in 2017 the lead sheet rarest for Mirmekion was found, the pavement of the premises of the 1st – 2nd centuries was removed.
During the unlawful excavation of the pit, a large number of fragments of amphorae with brands were unlawfully seized from the monument and the bone-cutting workshop with finished items, blanks and production waste was continued to be dumped. Outside this area, a pit with the material of the 6th century BC was excavated, including a vessel in the style of “Wild Goat”.
Unlawful excavations in the depth of the cultural layer on an area of about 355 square meters. Among the artifacts unlawfully seized from the central part of the monument, there are numerous fragments of terracotta puppets and part of a large glass bowl. Several pits were excavated near the eastern border of the settlement, one of which contained a Chios amphora sunk in the ground. There were also excavated 4 burials of the necropolis of the 2nd half of the 6th century BC, of which 3 burials (2 of children and 1 of an adult) were ground ones. Ionian vessels were unlawfully seized from two burials.
A small (probably children’s) stone sarcophagus carved from a single block was excavated. Near the rock of the acropolis, the opening of the estate of the 1st – 3rd centuries BC was continued. In the central part of the site, a furnace with a part of the vault and internal structures was excavated. In the western part of the excavation, a long covered gutter was found, as well as a clay vessel sunk into the ground. A total of 7 premises were excavated.
An entire ceramic flask and a fragment of a bronze ring with a carnelian seal with the figure of a deity, as well as an arrow coin rare for the Bosporus and a number of fragments of Attic and Oriental Greek pottery, were also unlawfully seized from the monument. Pre-Greek burial of the 11th-9th centuries BC with the handmade bowl was excavated Under one of the masonry of the estate in the eastern part of the excavation. To the north-east of the central part of the site, the remains of a settlement of the 4th century BC with pits were excavated.
The federal budgetary institution of culture “The State Hermitage” (St. Petersburg, Russian Federation) is involved in unlawful activities in the ancient settlement of Myrmekion located in the territory of the town of Kerch (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)”.
Involvement of one of the leading scientific cultural institutions of the Russian Federation (the State Hermitage) in unlawful activities on the archeological site increases the threat of impunity for the destruction of the site due to the business, scientific and cultural ties of this institution and its employees with scientific, cultural, political circles of foreign countries.
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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