The population of the medieval Plyos (based on archaeological excavations of the Varvara necropolis in Plyos, modern Ivanovo Region)  

Vasilyev S.V., Borutskaya S.B. (Moscow, Russian Federation), Averin V.A. (Ivanovo, Russian Federation), Frizen S.Yu. (Moscow, Russian Federation)


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Traditionally, the emergence of the Russian medieval town of Plyos is attributed to the second half of the 12th c., when a fortress was built on the Sobornaya Mountain (upper part), and a settlement emerged in the lower area on the left bank of the River Shokhonka, right-bank tributary of the Volga River. Craftsmen and fishermen quarters, which presumably had appeared long before the fortress, located on the other side of Shokhonka. Plyos was first mentioned in written sources in 1141. During the archaeological excavations in the Varvarinskaya street (Varvara necropolis) on the territory of modern Plyos town (Ivanovo Region), managed by the Ivanovo Archaeological Expedition company, human skeletal remains dated to the 10th13th c. were found. This palaeoanthropological material characterizes the population which inhabited the Upper Volga region (Verkhnee Povolzhye) in the Middle Ages. The aim of this study was to analyse the formation of the anthropological features of the medieval town population and assess its physical appearance. Material and methods: 17 skulls (11 male and 6 female) were examined according to standard craniological protocol, 19 uncomplete postcranial skeletons were measured following the standard osteometric protocol with some authors modifications: we present detailed data on the postcranial skeletons and the analysis of limb proportions and robustness of the long bones. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used for intergroup comparison with craniological series from ten different Russian and Belorussian towns (11th16th c.). Major results and conclusions. Presented paleoanthropological study has revealed a number of characteristics for the male skulls, associated with elongated cranium, average-high face and sharp horizontal facial profile. The female skulls exhibit mesocrania and smoother naso-molar area profile. Morphological analysis of the postcranial skeletons has demonstrated relatively elongated forearms and shortened shins in individuals from this burial ground. Reconstructed living stature of the males appears to be above average, and for women, on the contrary, below average. The problem of the common and specific patterns in the formation of the anthropological traits of the medieval town population cannot be addressed with the available anthropological material. However, PCA of the studied craniological sample indicates that the males are morphologically related to the medieval individuals from Yaroslavl (Russia) and partly to those from Novogrudok (Belarus). Thus, medieval men buried on the territory of Plyos were undoubtedly related to (presumable) retainers buried in the sanitary graves in Yaroslavl.

Key words: Upper Volga region, Plyos, Middle Ages, craniology, osteology, comparative analysis, limb proportions, bone massiveness.


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Accepted: 07.09.2020

Article is published: 27.11.2020


Vasilyev S.V.

Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS, Leninsky Prospekt, 32a, Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation

E-mail: (Vasilyev S.V.)


Borutskaya S.B.

Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie Gory, 1, Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation

E-mail: (Borutskaya S.B.)


Averin V.A.

Ivanovo Archaeological Expedition, Sovetskaya St., 10, building 18, Ivanovo, 153000, Russian Federation

E-mail: (Averin V.A.)


Frizen S.Yu.

Miklouho-Maclay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS, Leninsky Prospekt, 32a, Moscow, 119991, Russian Federation

E-mail: (Frizen S.Yu.)