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The archeological site of Tanais

Date of Submission: 24/02/2009
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
UNESCO Chair in Urban and Architectural Conservation
State, Province or Region:
Rostov on Don region
Ref.: 5422

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The city of Tanais was founded in the first quarter of the 3rd century by Greek colonists who came from Bosporon to the mouth of the Tanais river (now Don) which was the area of habitation and migration of various tribes: Sarmatians, Macotians, Alans, Goth etc.

Tanais quickly developed into an emporium (trading settlement) at the farthest northeastern extension of the Hellenic cultural sphere, a natural post first for the trade of the steppes reaching away eastwards in an unbroken grass sea to the Altai, the Scythian Holy Land, second for the trade of the Black Sea, ringed with Greek-dominated ports and entrepots, and for trade from impenetrable north, furs and slaves brought down the Don.

The ancient historian Strabo mentions Tanais in his Geography (XI/2/3, final edition in 23AD):"it was the common marth both of the Asiatic and the European nomads and of those who navigate the lake from the Bosporus, some of whom bring slaves and hides, or any nomadic commodity; others exchange wine for clothes and other articles peculiar to a civilized mode of life''.

A small emporium slowly became a large center of commerce and handcraft production, its location for a long time determined the role of the city in the realization of contacts between two civilization, the Ancient Greece and barbarian worlds. The influence of the surrounding steppe peoples on all sides of the city-life was much stronger than in other ancient centers on the Black Sea coast and finally a new original culture was born.

Tanais was a colony of the Bosporian Kingdom but it tried to keep some independence and in 8 year BC has been partly destroyed by the forces of the King Polemon. After that from I-middle III centuries AD started the second period of Tanais development. The active new constructions proceeded in II - beginning of III centuries AD. During the II century AD the territory of the main quadrangle transformed into a fortified fortress where resides a governor general of the King of Bosporus. The role of Tanais was raising in the policy of Bosporus taken into account that the governor general has been as mediator in the relations with the Sarmatians tribe the opinions of which the Bosporan Kingdom obliged to take into consideration. In II-III centuries AD Tanais became one of the important center at the steppe region, around of Tanais eared the agricultural settlements.

In the middle of the III century AD Tanais was bunt and ruined probably by the Goths but in the second half of the IV century AD Tanais was rehabilitated but the site had not the previous significance in spite of Tanais remained the big center of culture and transit point at the ways of nomads. After the first half of the V AD century Tanais became an uninhabited city town, but in the VIII-IX AD centuries near this site appeared the settlement of the Khazar Khanate, but the territory of the ruins of Tanais has not been covered with later buildings and until now is preserved at the initial construction of the ancient city of Tanais.

Prof. I.A. Stempkovsky in 1823 afker the investigations deterrninated the location of the Tanais city and the first archaeological works begun in 1853 by prof. P.M. Leontyev from the Moscow University. Prof, P.M. Leontyev published in 1854 the results "Archaeological investigations on the territory of the ancient Tanais and its surroundings" where he undertook an attempt to locate some living quarters at the territory of the Tanais settlement. The archaeological excavations have been continued in 1867 by N.I. Tizengauzen, in 1870 by P.I. Hitsunov, in 1908-1909 by N.I. Velelovskiy that confirmed the conclusions of P.M. Leontyev.

Tanais as archaeological site is under the State protection from 14.10.1948 and in 1960 was created "the Archaeological museum-reserve Tanais". The regular archaeological investigations, including the excavations, started in 1955 and are continuing until the present time with the participations during the last ten years of  specialists from the German Institute of Archaeology and the Warsaw University of Archaeology.

Up to the present results of archaeological investigations and excavations the following archaeological objects of ancient Tanais was deteminated and included into the List of the Federal monument significance:

-Main quadrangle of the site of ancient settlement what is a museum-reserve exposition under the open sky. The quadrangle of the site is the main part of the city existed from the III century BS to the middle of V century AD, dimension 240 250 meters, arounded by the deep moats and the fortified walls with the towers of the II century BC destroyed by the King Polemon and rehabilitated only in the II century AD. At the excavated areas could see the streets, side-streets determinating the quarters with the dwelling houses and service buildings.

-Western region (150 x 125 meters) of the III-I centuries BC is presenting the separate small quarters with the narrow twisting side-streets and passages and the houses constructed up to the local tribe traditions.

-Western subject city (area - 1,5 hectares), excavations started in 1998 year, settlement of the end of III century BC, there are three farmsteads constructed in sandstone into the Greek architectural traditions.

-The lower city (II century BC - V century BC) is a fortified site of the Tanais city with the walls and the deep moats.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The all parts of the ancient Tanais discovered during the archaeological excavations and investigations without any doubts represent an Outstanding Universal Value because they are archaeological sites formed the Hellenistic city of Tanais what were confirmed by the Russian and foreign scientists participated at the archaeological excavations and investigations. The composition of city, types of constructions, materials represent the history, cultural development and giving the information on the civilization from III century BC to V century AD.

Criteria (ii): Tanais city was constructed up to the Greek traditions on the territory of the nomads along the north cost of the Black Sea as emporium at the farthest northeastern extension of the Hellenic cultural sphere.

Criteria (iii): Tanais was a biggest trade center between Greeks and the nomads of the steppes. Ancient Greece and Nomads - a new original culture was born. It had a great impact on the nations of Eastern Europe.

Criteria (v): Tanais is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, steppe-use and see-use as human interaction of the Greece and nomads civilizations. The influence of the surrounding steppe-peoples on all sides of the city-life was much stronger than in other ancient centers on the Black Sea costs. The city streets were laid out, the city square appeared and the protective walls with the protruding tower were built in the end of the III - beginning of the II centuries BC.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Tanais city was founded in the XII century BC by Greek colonists who came fiom the Bosporan Kingdom. Tanajs mentioned by the ancient historian Strabo in his Geography (VII.4.5 and XI 2.3) and prof. I.A. Stempkovsky in 1823 made a connection between the visible archaeological remains and the "Tanais" mentioned in the ancient sources.

In 1853 year prof. P.M. Leontyev began the archaeological works and published the results on the location of the territory of the Tanais settlement what was confirmed by archaeological investigations in 1867, 1870 and in 1908-1909 years. In 1960 year was created 'We Archaeological museum-reserve Tanais" on the deterrninated territory of 20 hectares including open excavations: main quadrangle, western region, western subject city, the lower city and necropolis.

The Russian and foreign specialists have no doubts about the authenticity of the Tanais city what was confirmed in historical description and from visual point of view.

What concerning the integrity of the site it is necessary to note that a considerable part of the ruins has not been covered with later buildings, neither in the Middle Ages nor in modern times, but the open area of city consist of several parts and fonn the integral surface of the main exposition of museum-reserve.

Comparison with other similar properties

The archaeological site of Tanais could be compare with the Ancient Harbor and capital of Dilmun (Bahrain, No 1192bis), the archaeological site of Aigai (No 780, Greece, modern name Vergina).