Translation:Looking for an ancient treasure

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Looking for an ancient treasure
by Viktor Pinchuk, translated from Russian by Wikisource

A casual acquaintance from among the regular visitors to my photo exhibitions, recalling the exposition “Tribes of Kenya”, held at the Central Museum of Tavrida, said, either jokingly or seriously: “You probably have a breakdown between trips,” meaning the withdrawal state. For a couple of seconds I thought, looking at the sky, where the plane was flying through the clouds, then... shook my head in the affirmative. Domestics life, the gray routine is norm for many people, but not for me.

Grave robber?[edit]

One way or another, you can not relax: with a passive lifestyle, can get used to sedentary pastime, and then in the next expedition, whether it is a visit to Africa or the islands of Oceania, will not be easy, because often need to walk up to twenty kilometers a day.

Mausoleum of Dzhanike-Khanym

…About ten years ago it became fashionable to carry out “excavations” with the help of metal detectors of different manufacturers and price ranges. Perhaps, in those years, I would also have joined the enthusiasts who were passionate about this craft, but a good device was expensive, and there were no extra funds.

Now, having decided to make up for lost time, I quickly packed up like a soldier, packed an excavation tool in the top of kirza boot, and — on the road. Making my first overseas trips, not having yet mastered art of light walking, I carried in my backpack, among other things, an aluminum spoon, later replacing it with a plastic one. Now the cutlery has lost its significance, and I have found a new use for it. The direction of the route I chose was not difficult: the ancient settlement of Chufut-Kale, stretching behind Bakhchysarai. Thanks to electric trains, the route is accessible even for an ordinary homeless person, one of those who sleep in basements at night and inspect plastic garbage containers during the daytime.

I'll put my findings here

Forty minutes later, the train delivered the newfound treasure hunter to the site of the proposed excavations. Of course, I am a novice archaeologist, but am I black? "(In Russian, grave robbers are called "black archaeologists" — Author)" Of course, I got a little suntanned, spending every winter in the tropics, but, oh, how far from the color of the African night! More like brown or hazel.

Let's return to the object of the venture. Chufut-Kale is a medieval fortified city located on the territory of the Bakhchisarai region, three kilometers from the former capital of the Crimean Khanate. Nature created an impregnable construction site, and man built a city on it, strengthening the natural protection with fortifications. The name is translated from the Crimean Tatar language as "Judaic fortress".

History of these places[edit]

Rising above the gorge, the plateau is surrounded by rocky slopes on three sides, and on the fourth, eastern side, it is connected by a saddle to Mount Beshik-Tau, where a hiking trail has been laid. The first buildings erected in the 5th-6th centuries belonged to Byzantium, however, this is only an assumption. Initially, the city was inhabited by nomadic tribes of Scythian-Sarmatian origin — the Alans; later it passed to the Cumans, being called Qırq Yer at that time. In 1299 the fortress was taken by storm and plundered by Nogai Khan, emir of the Golden Horde. In the 14th century, representatives of the Turkic ethno-speaking group settled here, and by the time the Crimean Khanate was formed, they probably made up the majority of the population. In 1783, after the Crimea became part of the Russian Empire, the Karaites began to settle throughout the territory of the Tauride region. By the end of the 19th century, Qırq Yer, renamed Chufut-Kale, was completely abandoned by the inhabitants. At present, the settlement is a ruin. In the western part, utility rooms cut in the caves, the remains of a mosque and the mausoleum of Dzhanyke-Khanym, the daughter of Tokhtamysh Khan, have been preserved. In addition, two Karaite temples and a residential estate have been preserved. In the eastern part of the city there were residential buildings and a now completely destroyed mint, where Crimean coins were minted.

Middle defensive wall, the gate of Orta Capu

What does the cultural layer conceal?[edit]

Perhaps the latter prompted the traveler to temporarily retrain as an archaeologist. May the keepers of the historical and archaeological complex forgive me, but... I did not buy a ticket. My numerous overseas forays into third-world countries with half-empty pockets have developed the habit of "going in" over the fence. Or maybe I wanted, remembering my childhood, to play the Golden Horde invader.

One way or another, but at the risk of injuring himself, the newly-minted treasure hunter began to climb the sheer wall of the ancient settlement. Somewhere far above, from the depths, Karaite speech was heard. Guards? The voices grew louder—apparently the patrolmen were inspecting the descents and the precipice to see if anyone was approaching. Two silhouettes dressed in medieval clothes appeared from above. With a deft movement, I took out a composite bow mounted on my back and, inserting an arrow, pulled the bowstring — at the moment when a hail of stones rained down on me. One of the cobblestones hit my forehead, and... I woke up. No, this is not a stone thrown at me by a guard, but a cone fell from a pine tree, under which the “self-taught treasure hunter” lay down, tired of the midday heat, and imperceptibly fell asleep...

Caves of Chufut-Kale

Once, in the years of my childhood, the territory was left to itself. From now on, Chufut-Kale has become a tourist attraction, taken under state protection and is considered part of the Bakhchisaray Museum-Reserve. There were enough visitors that day. After wandering among the dilapidated buildings, I read the inscriptions on the tablets, examined the caves. After that, having chosen a clearing in the area of the alleged minting of coins by the ancient inhabitants, I removed the tool from boot and set to work. But, as expected, found nothing. What did you think? A tablespoon is not an excavator!

However, I did not return home empty-handed. A whole cartload of photographs of the ancient city added to my collection.

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