The Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences is one of major scientific institutions of Russia that study the distant past of Eurasia. The contemporary scientific picture of prehistory and medieval times reconstructed by archaeology is not static, it is continuously expanded and extendеd to include new facts making us rethink many phenomena, gain more accurate and deeper understanding of historical processes and features of ancient cultures. Excavations and analytical studies conducted by the Institute greatly add to our knowledge of the past. Around 40 expeditions conduct excavations and surveys of ancient sites in various areas of Eurasia every year.
Byzantine Jericho, Hellenistic fortresses of Bactria, kurgans in Tuva, petroglyphs of the Far East are on the map of faraway expedition explorations providing a good coverage of the ancient world and creating an exciting image of archaeology as a science that takes a researcher away from familiar surroundings into unknown lands. Nonetheless, the main ‘area of responsibility’ of the Institute expeditions is European Russia, archaeological sites located within relative proximity to modern centers of civilization. This proximity often turns out to be destructive for archaeological heritage. For this reason rescue excavations are carried out on land plots where archaeological sites are localized before development of such lands begins. Such excavations account for a large part of the fieldwork conducted by the Institute. Recent finds in historical towns and monasteries of Central Russia demonstrate that archaeological discoveries are not always associated with journeys to faraway places.
It has now become a tradition to give a regular account of field projects carried out by the Institute. These periodic accounts of recent archaeological developments are important for our understanding of the past as they bring to light its unknown features for the general reader. Such publications as Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2007) and Institute of Archaeology: New Field Excavations (2009) included outlines of the most spectacular expedition achievements made in the first decade of the new millennium. This volume is another publication of the series, it follows the objective declared in the previous publications, which is to achieve a broad chronological coverage of archaeological artifacts, and aims to demonstrate a diversity of cultures and types of archaeological sites within the scientific interests of the Institute. Forty outlines included in the new volume describe only a small part of the projects implemented by the Institute in recent years. Nonetheless they reflect the main areas of field archaeology that have developed in new modern time and the main groups of sites.
Contemporary archaeology means not only excavations but also re-evaluation of the materials retrieved and collected in the past with the use of new analytical tools and methods that can reveal and detect features, not visible for researchers before. That is why, the volume also contains outlines on landmark archaeological sites and finds discovered in the second half of the 20th century (Sunghir graves, paintings in Kapova Cave, Zaraysk bison).
In the rapidly changing world the task of comprehensive documentation of archaeological sites and historical landscapes is becoming increasingly relevant for archaeology. Quality and reliable visual images of the past are as important for gaining knowledge of the past as narrative texts with stories about ancient cultures. The aim of this publication is not only to give an account of events and processes that unfolded in distant ages but also provide more extensive information on ancient sites themselves as their original aesthetics and artistic features form the basis of a strong case in support of preservation and studies of our archaeological heritage.