Archeology dig throws new light on history of Prague

Excavaciones arqueológicas en la Plaza de la República, en Praga (Foto: Petr Turyna)

A former army barracks on Prague's Namesti Republiky square is going to be the site of another shopping and office complex in the centre of the city. But the project has been delayed by the discovery there of major archeological treasures - in fact it is the biggest archeological dig in the country's history.

Namesti Republiky is a square of average size situated in the historical center of the city. Apart form a number of interesting buildings there is nothing particularly striking about the square. But if you walk through the gates of the 19 century military barracks you are stunned by the enormous dimensions of the one and half hectare large site.

As the head of the archeological research Petr Jurina confirms their effort has been marked by some very valuable finds.

"I would like to mention above all the find of potter's kilns from the fifteen and sixteen centuries. We have discovered about ten of them which is the most that has been found ever. Apart from that we also found a golden ring with a gemstone from the 12th century with a Hebrew epigraph 'Moses the son of Solomon'."

Apart from those precious objects, for the archeologists what is even more important is that their discoveries cast a whole new light on the history of the capital.

"What is most important is that it changes our notion of the original inhabitation of Prague, especially the 12th century. It turned out that the Roman palaces were not only on the territory of the so called Old Town, but this housing continued northwards up to what is now Florenc. So we found Roman stone houses and palaces but apart form that we found out that there were also valuable wooden architecture."

But the archeological research on this site is coming to an end, ahead of the construction of the new commercial centre, which will be opened in 2007. Veronika Kozova from the developing company describes the project as unique, and says it respects the original architecture.

"I think the project is unique not only in Prague but in the entire Czech Republic because of its size and the complexity. As for the architecture this is a blend of existing buildings which you see today. They are historically preserved. This is the historical barracks building and the riding stable which are basically incorporated into the entire project and the rest will be formed by new builds."

Whether the new architecture will be friendly to the old housing remains to be seen. However the excavated archeological structures will all be removed to make room for the underground part of the new center. The archeological findings will be transported to special laboratories, where researchers will no doubt make other interesting discoveries.