Remember the day we caught the train…

View from the train

This was actually a no work day as several team members took the train from Moscow to St Petersburg. It was a great opportunity to see the changing landscape and get a flavour of modern Russia. For those of us used to British trains, it was a real treat to travel on a Russian train. They are very fast and comfortable and even have earphones if you want to watch the film showing. Through the windows we saw the huge blocks of flats and cosmopolitan metropolis give way to a vast flat  landscape with thin trees. As we travelled north snow began to appear until we were passing through a frosty snow covered landscape, not something that those of us from Oxford often get to see.

Every now and then we passed through large towns which were once again filled with large modern blocks of flats, and then villages which were clusters of wooden built chalets with smoke pouring from the chimneys. At first they lay snugly nestled amongst the vast green forests but later in the journey formed part of beautiful snowy landscapes.


Believe it or not this is the train station at St Petersburg

We arrived in St Petersburg in the early afternoon and between us did a mix of sightseeing, working on abstracts and meetings.

Remember the day we caught the train…

A Day at the Museum

sdc10172Today we spent the day at the State Historical Museum of Russia. We were fortunate to be hosted by curator and FLAME project partner, Natalia Shishlina, who guided us though the impressive artefacts. We were especially lucky to see behind the scenes where artefacts are restored and cared for.

We held our project AGM at the Museum and look forward to the coming year in which we hope to make progress that is more easily shared.








A Day at the Museum

FLAME team at the Kurchatov Institute

The FLAME team and project partners were delighted to be guests of the world class research laboratories at Russia’s National Research Centre – Kurchatov Institute.
Moscow may be cold but we were given such a warm welcome by everyone from the president, Mikhail Kovalchuk, to the coach driver, that it was impossible not to fall in love with the people of Moscow.

Situated on the outskirts of Russia’s large cosmopolitan capital, Moscow, the Kurchatov Institute is dedicated to interdisciplinary scientific research through technological application. The bringing together of several leading edge technologies on one campus is a truly astonishing achievement offering the twenty first century scientist a range of analytical tools which is probably unparalleled.

We began our tour with a visit to the laboratory for nuclear medicine. Here we saw how state of the art scanning equipment is being used by archaeologists for high precision analyses without compromising artefacts.
We saw how a CT scanner had been used to offer multi-layered 3-dimentional modelling of Mummies from the Pushkin Museum. This allowed details hidden deep within the Mummy to be seen and analysed without any destruction at all. Biological information could be ascertained along with details of the fabrics used to wrap the Mummy and the artefacts included in the burial.
Scientist at the Kurchatov regularly use this equipment for medical and biological research to secure a better a future for Russia but are now looking beyond this to use it for Archaeoscience to better understand Russia’s past.

We then went on to the synchrotron. At 124metres it is a relatively small synchrotron but it is extremely powerful. Although from the early generation of synchrotrons, it has been kept up to date and well maintained so that scientists can remain at the forefront of a selection of research areas that use this technology. The synchrotron at The Kurchatov Institute is used by archaeologists for detailed penetration of the top layer of a sample to give fine detailed spatial mapping.

We were lucky enough to be taken to see the Kurchatov Institutes super computer. And jolly super it was. The stuff of science fiction, Kurchatov’s super computer fills two very large rooms with carefully controlled environments. This awesome cathedral of silicon houses and processes data from across the National Research Centres as well as other universities and even data from CERN.
Yet when we got up close were able to recognise the complex arrangement consisted of computer parts familiar to most PC owners. The true genius is in how this has all been put together to provide mammoth storage, lightning fast processing and multi-site and multimedia back up to provide something that gave a glimpse of the mind of the divine.

We then went on to the chemistry lab. Here we looked at how thin artificial fibres are being made that will bring medical benefits, then went on to see the labs that offer a variety of chemical analyses which are the basis of understanding what an artefact is.

After joining researchers from the Kurchatov for a fine Russian lunch we joined the international conference “Development of ancient metallurgy in Eurasia” which you can read more about here:

FLAME’s Peter Bray, Mark Pollard, Ray Liu and Yiu-Kang Hsu all gave talks



FLAME team at the Kurchatov Institute