In Memory of the Teacher
Boris Aleksandrovich Kolchin (1914-1984)
We live by our memory. We are alive till we remember. We do not disappear in the stream of time until there is someone to remember.
It is a rare success for a scientist to introduce a new method in practice. Maybe even more rarely a scholar is able to establish a new scientific school, and leave behind not a formal chain of the researches who defended their doctoral theses under the maitre's patronage, but the cohort of the followers who continue and develop the work started by the Teacher.
It would not be an exaggeration to state that Boris Aleksandrovich Kolchin had introduced an entire new branch into the Soviet archaeology. He was the first to apply the methods of natural sciences, or archaeometry, as it is customary termed now, for investigation of the archaeological objects.
In 1949 Boris Aleksandrovich Kolchin published his first paper headed "An attempt of metallographic investigation of Ancient Russian iron objects". It marked the beginning of his subsequent long-term activity devoted to the studies in the history of early blacksmith's craft. As a result a complicated picture of development of metallurgy and metalworking in medieval Russia had been presented. On the base of hundreds of metallographic analyses B.A. Kolchin had revealed high professional level, progressive pattern of development, and complicated structure of the production. He repeatedly adverted to this theme. His investigations were always characterised by the aspirations to study the metallurgical production as a consecutive process, from prospecting ores and their extraction and to selling finished goods and tracing commercial connections. B.A. Kolchin was one of the first representatives of the world-scale investigators who had been aware of the importance of experimental works and introduced them actively into the archaeological practice.
B.A.Kolchin was a scholar of strikingly broad scope of interests. Having established the school of specialists in archaeometallography, he turned his attention to another vitally important branch of the medieval craft - woodworking. He had published two fundamental monographs dealing with wooden artefacts from ancient Novgorod and opened quite a new world - the everyday life of medieval man surrounded by the entire universe of functionally different objects that displayed at the same time the highest aesthetic standards of the epoch.
The problems of chronology are of key importance for archaeologists. Boris Aleksandrovich Kolchin has made his highly valuable contribution to this field as well. Nowadays it is hardly possible to imagine the procedure of dating medieval cultural deposits with preserved timber without application of the dendrochronological method. Its introduction into the archaeological practical work has sharply changed the entire situation, as far as the investigations of cultural deposits and the antiquities buried in them are concerned. Moreover, development of the dendrochronological studies made it possible to raise the problem of climatic shifts in the remote past, to pin-point on the chronological scale the correlation between the environmental cataclysms registered in written sources.
In the field of traditional archaeology Boris Aleksandrovich has worked out the chronological scale of mass objects of everyday use. One can find references to this work in each publication concerning ancient Russian archaeology.
Some of his works had not been published as comprehensive monographs. Thus, in the 70-s - early 80-s he was greatly interested in application of mathematical method in archaeology, and the theoretical aspects of development of the early production. To great regret, these problems were published as separate minor papers.
The greatest achievement of Boris Aleksandrovich Kolchin as a manager of science was establishing in 1967 the Laboratory of natural sciences in the Institute of Archaeology, Academy of Sciences, USSR. He organised the all-Soviet meeting on application of these methods in archaeology (Moscow, 1963), and was the editor of three books devoted to the studies of archaeological material with application of the methods of natural sciences. In the second part of the 70-s he organised the section of archaeology at the Moscow Society of nature investigators, and in fact remained its head. During this period nearly every year the section's meetings were held, then followed by publication of their proceedings, mostly, the theses of the lectures.
To me Boris Aleksandrovich was above all the person who had pointed to me the way to the scientific work. It is only now after a long time had passed after his death, that I understand the benefits of my contacts with this outstanding scholar.
The complete list of publications by Boris Aleksandrovich Kolchin see in the collection of articles "Estestvennonauchnye metody v arkheologii" (Methods of natural sciences in archaeology), Moscow, Nauka Publishers, 1989.