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VELIKY NOVGOROD, June 18 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Letyagin) -Archeologists are to hold a conference in Veliky Novgorod (a city in northeastern Russia) to discuss progress in the search for the remnants of the Great Bridge built across the Volkhov river at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries.

The press center of the Novgorod Region administration told RIA Novosti on Saturday that the conference would bring together scholars from Armenia, Italy, Russia and France. They will discuss the first results of the underwater search on the Volkhov riverbed.

The underwater search for the remnants of the medieval bridge started last year. Scuba divers from the Novgorod Diving Club surveyed the riverbed near the Yaroslav Yard and the Novgorod Kremlin. They found objects on the bottom that look very much like remnants of old bridge pillars.

"We cannot say for certain that what we have found are bridge pillars because a huge mass of sunken logs and other debris has accumulated in this part of the riverbed over the past centuries," experts said.

Divers plan to resume work on the Volkhov riverbed in June or July this year. In case the results of last year's underwater scanning operation find further proof of relevance, the archeologists are going to make saw cuts of the wooden bridge pillars to establish the exact age of the structure.

According to the so-called Ioakim Chronicle, the Great Bridge was built in Veliky Novgorod at the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries and remained in operation, albeit periodically repaired, until the 17th century.

In ancient times, the bridge linked the Yaroslav Court and the Novgorod Kremlin located on the opposite banks of the Volkhov river. It used to be near the site which is currently hosting a modern pedestrian bridge. In the 17th century the Great Bridge was pulled down, with the city building a new stone-pillared bridge in its place at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.

"Unfortunately, the original text of the Ioakim Chronicle has not survived to our days and we have to deal with renditions of some of its fragments compiled in later times," historians said.

According to experts, they can state with absolute certainty that the Great Bridge linked the banks of the Volkhov river in the middle of the 12th century.

In any case, the medieval Novgorod bridge was one of the oldest engineering facilities built by ancient Slavs on water.

This summer's diving operations may not only allow archeologists to confirm or dispute the information contained in the renditions of the Ioakim Chronicle but also find other notable relics.

In total, archeologists plan to carry on with their riverbed search operation for another two years.

In addition to scuba divers, archeologists also plan to bring members of Novgorod's Amateur Historians Club into the project.

According to the Culture, Sport, Cinema and Tourism Committee of the Novgorod Region Administration, the `Great Bridge` search project is financed by the Brussels-based INTAS research fund.

The project's budget is about 100,000 euros.

In addition to Veliky Novgorod, the INTAS project provides for underwater archeological research of presumed locations of medieval bridges in Venice, Paris and Armenia.

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