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From messages written on birch-bark scrolls between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries in Old Novgorodian, a precursor of Russian. A cache of scrolls, preserved for centuries in mud, was found by archaeologists last year in Veliky Novgorod and translated into Russian by the Birchbark Literacy from Medieval Rus project. Translated from the Russian by Maya Dukmasova.

From Zhirovit to Stoyan: It’s been over eight years since you swore on the cross that you’d send me the money. If you don’t send me four and a half grivnas I will confiscate goods in your name from a very noble Novgorodian. I’m asking you nicely.

From Goven’s widow to Nezhenets: Pay the sixty kuns for the boat. That’s what Goven said before he died, and the priest wrote it down. Give the money to Luka. If you don’t, I’m going to get a boy from the knyaz, and we will come over there together. That will cost you big time.

Greetings from Grigsha to Isif: Onaniya has sent a message. I responded: “Isif told me I can’t brew beer for anyone.” Then he wrote to Fedosia: “You should be brewing beer. How are you sitting on inherited land and not cooking barley?”

From Iliyez to Ilya: Shuiga is changing the markings on the oak trees and taking honey from the beehives. I know my oaks by my own special mark. He can file away all he wants, but I still know when it’s my oak. Your hives were robbed first. You should go over there yourself and reestablish ownership of your bee trees.

From Kurik and Gerasim to Onfim: About the squirrel hides: If you have not yet sold them all, send them here as soon as possible, because here we’ve got a demand for squirrel hides.

A bow from Kirei to Rostila: Find me a good whole horse carcass, you know, a nice big one. If you don’t find a nice one like that, a half will do.

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