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Archaeological curiosities discovered at one of the few manors near Rīga

A Rīga Free City schilling, a key from a 16th-century chest, and two 17th-century stoves to be used at an inn. These are some of the finds in the excavations at Mazjumprava manor near Rīga, reports Latvian Radio. 

Ongoing research on site has now extended to the outbuildings. Previously, a windmill was restored on top of the ruins at the site. After the ruins of the inn will have been researched, it is hoped that it too could be restored to house an exhibition about Rīga's former manors.

"We're at the level of the 17th century, about a meter below the last known period of habitation. This is deep enough for us to understand the building's former structure."

Archaeologist Rūdolfs Brūzis is referring to the 17th-century cultural layer at the foundation of a building, which was part of the Mazjumprava manor complex in Rumbula, near Rīga. He is one of the archaeologists busy excavating the edifice which first appeared on plans in 1695 and is later referred to as an inn. 

"We've been working for three weeks now. We've uncovered parts of a former building from the Jesuit period. And we've understood the structure of the 17th-century inn. The 18x8 square-meter building may have held ten to fifteen people. They were able to stay the night inside warm premises as two stoves have been discovered. The building had big windows [..] it was definitely rented to an entrepreneur who had the right to provide inhabitants with the services of an inn.

"It didn't always mean food and drink. Often it meant that voyagers and peasants going to Rīga could lay down to rest before starting trade in the morning. Of course it meant that money changed hands here. The oldest coin we've found is a Rīga Free City schilling, dating to the late 16th or early 17th century. Afterwards, schillings of the Swedish king in the 17th century are also tied to the time this place was an inn," said Brūzis.

Sources say that the inn had been built above a former Jesuit building. The territory near Mazjumprava is inhabited since the 13th century, when Bishop Albert granted swaths of land to the nuns of the Cistercian Order. The plot of land stretched to Lake Ķīšezers, and the nuns were part of an abbey that was at the same time part of the city fortifications. 

"The Mazjumprava manor house, in ruins now, may have been part of a fortress, the avant-garde of the Rīga defenses. The rules of the Jesuit Order stipulated that it should be autonomous, providing for itself with livestock, fields, pastures, making food and beer and processing cereals. They built a windmill and I suppose the building which we're now excavating," said Brūzis. 

He said the excavations could contribute to research about the administrative system in Latvia. 

Meanwhile municipal architect Jānis Lejnieks said that the inn could later be restored.

"This object is an oddball, only discovered after the Soviet Army left Latvia. But the beginnings of this manor date to the 13th and 14th century. At first there was a windmill and then an abbey. Then new buildings were built and made part of military territory. The standing buildings were used by the Soviet Army and abandoned in a sorry shape after they left," said Lejnieks.

"Earlier, a rich Rīga nobleman didn't have a comforting life within the confines of the city walls. Therefore, in the 17th and 18th century they built smaller manors for themselves near Rīga. Some of them have been preserved, and this manor is one of the very few that could be developed," he said.

The Mazjumprava manor territory on the bank of River Daugava has recently been developed. A manor pond has been dug, and a windmill has been reconstructed from scratch. It now holds a permanent exhibition on Rīga windmills.

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