The full arsenal of a military commander who served Ivan the Terrible has been uncovered in Russia, the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences has announced.
Found during a survey for a highway expansion outside Zvenigorod, an ancient town 18 miles west of Moscow, the cache consists of helmets stored in leather boxes, sections of sabers, arrows and and a type of armor known as kolchugs.
The location of the finding was the 16th century village of Ignatievskoe, once the homeland of the Dobrynins, a family belonging to the Russian boyar nobility.
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One member of this family once figured among Ivan the Terrible's "hand-picked thousand," an elite force the Tsar established in 1550.
The first Tsar of Russia, Ivan IV "The Terrible" (1533-1584) is acknowledged to have established the current Russian territory during his long reign, which was one of the bloodiest in the country's history.
He conquered the khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberia, creating a huge, multi-ethnic and centrally controlled state. Ivan the Terrible is also known for the atrocious things he did during his rule, and for brutally executing thousands of people, including his own son.
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During the dig, archaeologists unearthed the remains of about 60 buildings of what was once the village of Ignatievskoe. The arsenal was found in the underground timber-lined storehouse of one of the buildings, which burned down in a fire.
The weapons were stored in special boxes and included various tools of warfare, such as belts and camp tents.
According to the archaeologists, the inventory was prepared for a military expedition. It suggests the existence of a standing army which was fed and housed by members of the nobility as part of their responsibility as courtiers.
"This gives us a much better idea how a Russian noble would have prepared for setting out on a military campaign – each nobleman would have had his own arsenal in readiness," archaeologist Alexei Alexeyev, who in charge of the excavation, said in a statement.
The highlight of the 500-year-old arsenal was a pair of spiked helmets almost undamaged by rust.
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"They are the typical military headgear of Russian knights - spherical helmets adorned with gold and silver," Alexeyev said.
Similar helmets are on display in the Kremlin Armory Museum and the State History Museum in Moscow.
He noted that the finds are unique, since they were found along with their leather storage boxes, textile linings, and richly-decorated ear pieces.
"This excavation enables us to ‘see' for the first time the preparations made by the noblemen who made up the officer corps elite of the Russian army at the time of the flowering of Muscovy as a Russian state," Alexeyev said.
Image: The spiked helmets and other warfare tools unearthed in Russia. Credit: Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences