Renovation of the UT History Museum lobby revealed a medieval tomb of a dignified person
An historic medieval tomb of a high archaeological value was found during the renovation of the lobby of the University of Tartu History Museum. The isolated tomb uncovered in the Dome Church indicates the burial site of a dignified person.
“A medieval tomb this intact has not been found from the Dome Church before,” says Heiki Valk, a senior research fellow in archaeology at the University of Tartu. The deeper part of the brick tomb measuring 0.8 x 2 metres in size has preserved in one piece. According to Valk, the quality of the bricks poses a separate question. “Some of the bricks are top-quality, whereas others are poorly burnt. Defective products have probably been used in the construction of the vault,” says Valk, suggesting that the medieval buyer has been cheated with the materials used.
According to the archaeologist, the excavations are currently limited to an area covering approximately 5 m². “The tomb is isolated and does not form a part of a bigger vault system, as it was in St. John’s Church, for example,” says Valk. A web of vaults like that of St. John’s Church did not manage to form in the medieval Dome Church before the ruin of the church. “The Dome Church most likely contained only a few tombs, particularly those of important people,” Valk adds.
As a next step, the walls of the hole will be fortified and the tomb will be cleared within the next couple of weeks. “The contents of the tomb have been disturbed by the Russian troops during the Livonian War. It is quite likely that we will not recover a complete skeleton, but there is always a chance that some of the content or the bottom of the tomb was left intact,” says Martin Malve, an Archaeological Cabinet technician at the University of Tartu, explaining the subsequent course of action.
“The historic buildings of the university are full of surprises that are revealed one way or another, enriching the history of Tartu. The archaeologists of the University of Tartu will finish examining this rare finding, after which a fitting way of displaying it to the citizens and visitors of Tartu who are interested in history will no doubt be figured out, increasing the attraction of the Dome Church as a tourist destination,” says the UT Vice Rector for Research Marco Kirm. “We are discussing with experts in various fields the different options of openly displaying the four or five hundred-year-old tomb or preserving it underground,” clarifies the Director of the UT History Museum Mariann Raisma.