Birch bark document

Birch Bark Document

Birch bark document

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A birch bark document is a document written on pieces of birch bark. Such documents existed in several cultures. For instance, some Gandharan Buddhist texts have been found written on birch bark and preserved in clay jars.

On July 26, 1951, during excavations in Novgorod, a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky found the first Russian birch bark writing in a layer dated to ca. 1400. Since then, more than 1,000 similar documents were discovered in Staraya Russa, Smolensk, Torzhok, Pskov, Tver, Moscow, Ryazan, although Novgorod remains by far the most prolific source of them. In Ukraine, birch bark documents were found in Zvenigorod, Volynia. In Belarus, several documents were unearthed in Vitebsk and Mstislavl. <!--In 2003 it was announced that a birch bark with a part of a known work of Cyril of Turaw had been found in Torzhok.-->

The late discovery of birch documents, as well as their amazing state of preservation, is explained by a deep culture layer in Novgorod (up to eight meters, or 25 feet) and heavy waterlogged clay soil which prevents the access of oxygen. Serious excavations in Novgorod started only in 1932, although some attempts had been made in the 19th century.

Although their existence was mentioned in some old East Slavic manuscripts, the discovery of birch bark documents (, berestyanáya grámota) significantly changed the understanding of the cultural level and language spoken by the East Slavs between 11th and 15th centuries. About a hundred......
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