In the summer of 1720, Tsar Peter I dispatched the German explorer Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmidt to carry out a “physical description” of Siberia, to “discover all manner of rarities and pharmaceutical
substances: grasses, flowers, roots and seeds.” He was also tasked with investigating the fauna. His charge was not restricted by length or region, and so he ended up traveling Siberia for seven years, from Tobolsk to Lake Baikal. His findings were collected in a 10-volume encyclopedia, “Survey of Siberia.” Included in this monumental work is a description of what many consider to be Russia’s first scientific archaeological survey.
The focus of Messerschmidt’s archaeology was Khakassia, in south-central Siberia. Through this, Messerschmidt brought Khakassia world fame as an “archaeological Mecca.”
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