In the Smolensk region found the burial of the Vikings
The archaeological site of Gnezdovo is located 12 kilometers from modern Smolensk on the banks of the Dnieper. Gnezdovo consists of several settlements, hillforts and at least eight barrow groups, covering an area of about 438 hectares, which makes it one of the largest early medieval settlements in Eastern Europe. Today the Gnezdovo complex is identified with the ancient Smolensk, and its unique feature is the colossal necropolis dating from the 9th-11th centuries. According to archaeologists, a thousand years ago, the total number of mounds reached 5, 000 embankments, which makes Gnezdovo the largest burial ground of the "Viking Age" in all of Europe.
Obviously, the Vikings made a significant contribution to the transformation of ancient Smolensk into a key center of transcontinental trade, which controlled the famous path from the Varangians to the Greeks. Archaeological excavations indicate that a significant part of the population of Gnezdov came from Central Sweden, the islands of Gotland and the Aland Islands. At the end of 2018, on the territory of the complex, a joint expedition of the Energotransproekt company, the Gnezdovo museum reserve, the Aerogeomatika company, and with the support of the Tavolga Foundation, implemented a project for laser scanning of the complex using lidar.
Its peculiarity lies in the fact that the final product of the survey becomes a three-dimensional virtual terrain model detailed to a few millimeters, tied to satellite systems. As a result of the shooting of the archaeological complex, scientists received a 3D-model of the terrain, an ultra-precise topographic plan and orthophotos, all of whose data are linked to local and international coordinate systems. Processing the data will take several months, but now we can say about some preliminary results.
First of all, scanning the area allowed us to find all the mounds preserved today, which formed the largest mound burial ground in Europe in the 9th-11th centuries. Until now, this has been impossible - most of the mounds are covered with forest or high vegetation, many were plundered, plowed or excavated in the late XIX - early XXI centuries. To notice them with the naked eye was an almost impossible task, but they are perfectly visible on the obtained maps. Part of the barrows was known to archaeologists earlier, the other is in remote places and was not put on the plans of the monument by researchers of past years.
Some mounds were even found on the plots of modern inhabitants of the villages of Gnezdovo and Glushchenko. In addition, lidar made it possible to identify smaller clusters of mounds within large mound groups — they probably formed clan or family necropolises. When viewed from the ground, such clusters were not noticeable, but on a three-dimensional model they are perfectly fixed. Unexpected was the discovery of ancient paths of the IX-XI centuries, which ran between clusters of mounds. Obviously, the ancient inhabitants of Gnezdov used them when building and visiting the necropolis.
In the fortified areas of the monument, scanning made it possible to record traces of fortifications - defensive ditches and earthen ramparts, and an important result of the project was the final fixation of the ancient Dnieper river bed. Studies of recent decades have indicated that the coastline of the 9th-11th centuries was located about 100 meters north of the modern Dnieper coast. Individual fragments of the coastline were also examined through archaeological excavations, but now it was possible to establish the exact line of the ancient coast along its entire length, which allows a better understanding of the topography of the 9th-11th centuries.
Finally, the shooting demonstrates the areas of active destruction of the monument in the course of modern economic and construction activities carried out in the territory of the village of Gnezdovo. An analysis of the data should help to develop an integrated approach to prevent the further destruction of a unique object of historical and cultural heritage. Working with a topographic plan will help to better understand what constituted a large trade and craft center of the period of formation and formation of the Old Russian state, which in European history is called the "Viking Age".