The weaponry of a military commander serving Ivan the Terrible has been discovered, complete with sword, arrows, helmet and chest plate. The arsenal dates back as far as 1547, and is the first collection of its kind to be found.
The 16th Century equipment was found stashed in the basement of a home in the one-time village of Ignatievskoe. The village, near Zvenigorod – a region just outside of Moscow, Russia – is thought to have been home to one of Ivan the Terrible's 'hand-picked thousand'; an elite officer group. This officer was a member of the Boyar family of the Dobrynins.
The arsenal includes helmets stored in leather boxes, military sabres (swords), belts, arrows, and a type of armour known as kolchugs. However, the archaeologist's prize discovery are spiked helmets, which have managed to avoid large amounts of rusting.
"They are the typical military headgear of Russian knights — spherical helmets adorned with gold and silver," said Alexei Alexeyev, scientist in charge of the artifacts excavation. "Similar helmets are on display in the Kremlin Armoury Museum, the Hermitage Museum, and the State History Museum. 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."
The discovery was made during an archaeological expedition involving a new road being built in the region, the Central Circular Highway. The rescue dig uncovered 60 village buildings, and the arsenal was found in an underground timber-lined storehouse on the western side of the village.
"We've never encountered such finds in Moscow region before, neither in cities and especially not in small villages," said Asya Engovatova, from the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "If this rescue archaeology dig hadn't been undertaken, all this material would have been completely destroyed during the building of the Central Circular Highway."
The discovery of the stash leads researchers to believe that an army of troops were ready for war. However, seeing as they were stored in the basement of a house, they were never used in battle and were likely left behind after the house burned down in a fire.
Ivan the Terrible was the Grand Prince of Moscow between 1533 and 1547. He was elevated to Tsar of All the Russias thereafter, until his death in 1584, aged 53.
Ivan IV Vasilyevich earned his name due to his paranoia, and mental instability. The 'Massacre of Novogorod' summarises the unpredictability of the Tsar, as nearly 30,000 people were killed in brutal fashion in the city.