Prague archaeologists shed light on medieval city

Statuette of a Madonna, photo: CTK

The City of Prague Museum has published the results of two unique archaeological digs carried out in the centre of the city. Among the discoveries are everyday objects from Wenceslas Square dating to back to Medieval Times which shed light on everyday life. They also include a rare statuette of a Madonna.

St. Valentines Gate,  photo: Petr Starec,  Jiří Vidman,  Martin Frouz / City of Prague Museum
Examinations also focused on the St. Valentines Gate in Prague’s Old Town. During research of what used to be the ramparts, archaeologists discovered an even older gate that used to stand in its place. Analysis of the old wooden doorstep determined it was made of an oak that could have been felled around the year 1239. That enabled them to specify the age of the Prague’s fortifications there to the mid-13th century.

The City of Prague Museum has also continued its archaeological research on Wenceslas Square. Petr Starec was the head archaeologist:

“Most of the objects discovered here are linked to the life in the market of a medieval city from the mid-14th to the end of 16th century.

“Wenceslas Square used to be called the Horse Market and it was one of the three main markets of the New City of Prague, intended for trading horses and the sale of agricultural products and crafts.

“As a result there were piles of waste both from the market and from households.”

Once in a while, the waste was covered with pebbles from the Vltava River. Today, all sorts of fragments from medieval households can be discovered in the layers of waste, including animal bones from kitchens, fragments of ceramic tableware, and horseshoes. All that helps architects to shed more light on life in medieval Prague. Petr Starec once again:

“Thanks to the collections of animal bones from different layers of the market, we get an idea what the townspeople had on their plates. We know that at least one third of the meat they ate was from cattle, sheep and goats.

“The ceramic fragments can give us an impression of what life in the kitchen was like.”

The most recent excavations on Wenceslas Square have also yielded a more unusual discovery, a statuette of a Madonna engraved from an animal horn:

Statuette of a Madonna,  photo: CTK
“The statue is about three centimetres tall and depicts the Virgin Mary holding little Jesus in her arms. We haven’t determined yet which animal it was made from.

“There is a little metal device on her back, so it was probably attached to some object, perhaps a home altar. It could have been possessed by a wealthy townsman and it was most probably lost, because people would not throw away something like this.”

The newly discovered objects, including the statuette of a Madonna, will now be processed and classified before going on display.

Some of the earlier excavations from Wenceslas Square have already been showcased at the City Museum of Prague’s permanent exhibition at the House at the Golden Ring.