Carved Stone Fragment of Sanidine Trachyte from the Viljandi Castle


  • Aivar Kriiska
  • Juho Kirs
  • Kaur Alttoa
  • Lennart Maala



Estonia, Viljandi castle, Middle Ages, carved stone fragment, sanidine trachyte


This article examines the medieval carved stone fragment found in the course of archaeological excavations from a stable boys’ house in the third bailey of the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Viljandi (Estonia), which was built during the Middle Ages. It is likely that the piece of carved stone ended up in the layer of ruins when the buildings in the third bailey were demolished. Based thereon, no conclusions can be drawn about the original location of the carved stone – it may have been brought from somewhere in the vicinity. However, based on the place it was buried it is clear that the stone was carved before the second half of the 16th century.

The carved stone fragment is a wedge-shaped piece of light grey limestone-like stone, which is few centimetres thick, 6–9 cm long and 5–8 cm wide, with carved profiling still visible on its sides. This mineralogicalpetrographical picture of carved stone fragment is characteristic of alkali volcanic rock trachyte, and considering the relationships of main minerals, it is more precisely characteristic of porphyritic sanidine trachyte from the Drachenfels Hill in Germany.

Carved stone fragment is extremely small and seriously damaged, but the fine profiling is clearly visible. It is more likely that it comes from a small form. Since, in the Estonian context, this is a rare material, it is more believable that was a precious, rather than a mundane, object. First off, one would assume that it was a sacrament niche, but naturally there are other possibilities.


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Author Biographies

Aivar Kriiska

Aivar Kriiska (b. 1965) is Professor of Laboratory Archaeology at the University of Tartu. His primary research interests are related to the Stone Age in Eastern and Northern Europe (early habitation and Neolithization of the forest zone in Eastern and Northern Europe, aDNA of Stone Age populations, etc.), but he has also worked on other fields of archaeology, including Medieval and Modern Age town archaeology and experimental archaeology. He has published more than three hundred scientific and popular scientific articles and books.

Juho Kirs

Juho Kirs (b. 1946) is a research fellow at the University of Tartu. His major fields of research are mineralogy and the geochemistry of impact craters, mineralogy-petrology of Estonian basement and East-European Craton crystalline and rapakivi formation rocks, but he has also studied lithic materials from different archaeological contexts.

Kaur Alttoa

Kaur Alttoa (b. 1947) has been a long-time scholar and teacher of art history at the University of Tartu and he is one of the foremost specialists of the history of medieval architecture in the Baltic region. His objects of interest have included both medieval fortresses and sacral buildings. Among his major contributions stands out the restoration and study of the St John´s Church in Tartu, which was also published as a monograph in 2011.

Lennart Maala

Lennart Maala (b. 1990) is a MA student at the University of Tartu. His area of research is petrology.




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