ESTONIAN ACADEMY
PUBLISHERS
eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
PUBLISHED
SINCE 1997
 
Archaeology cover
Estonian Journal of Archaeology
ISSN 1736-7484 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2933 (Print)

BRICKS FOR THE COUNTRY OF WOOD: BRICKMAKING PRACTICES IN MEDIAEVAL NOVGOROD (11TH–13TH CENTURIES); pp. 70–85

Full article in PDF format | https://doi.org/10.3176/arch.2020.1.03

Author
Denis Jolshin

Abstract

In the wooden mediaeval cities of the Kievan Rus’, from the late 10th to mid-13th century, brick construction was an exclusive and expensive activity which limited the number of edifices to ca 200 in all. Nevertheless, those created a demand for continuous brick production from the mid-11th century. For archaeologists and architectural historians, the clear chronology of the churches provided by the chronicle record gives a superb chance to trace the development of the brick (thin tile plinthoi, adopted from Byzantium) industry in fine detail. The research aimed to investigate the development of brick production in various Early Russian cities, its continuity and discontinuity, basing on the first-hand analysis of the technological features of bricks, and to trace the movements of the brickmakers groups between the centres of construction activity in Kievan Rus’. It is claimed that in the early 12th century, Kiev, Chernigov, Pereyaslavl’, Polotsk, Smolensk and Novgorod each had their own brickmaking workshops, whose production differs in the types of frame (fixed and separable, with and without bottom) used for hand-moulding, smoothing the surfaces, post-moulding treatment (cutting off the leakages), and the marking of the batches for firing in kilns. The case of Novgorod was chosen as the illustrative example for this paper. As has been reconstructed from the features of the bricks, 12th century Novgorodian brickmaking technology originated in Kiev, where it was established earlier. In Novgorod, it quickly began to develop independently, reflecting the existence of a separate brickmaking workshop. However, Novgorodian bricks followed the tendency to diminish in size that was characteristic for most cities of Kievan Rus’ throughout the 12th century, which is shown in the table of the brick sizes of the selected monuments. The same features of bricks from several 12th century churches in Pskov and Ladoga witness for the spreading of Novgorodian technology there along with the complete consequent transfer of the building crew. Of the particular shapes of bricks, narrow five-cornered bricks for the eave cornices were usual, moulded in the special frames. The cases of a variety of special moulded brick shapes being produced for two 13th-century churches with elaborate articulation of the façades of Smolensk style, stand out as particularly noteworthy, testifying to interaction between the local brickmakers and master builders from elsewhere responsible for the unusual architectural decoration.


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