Archaeologists uncover Ivan the Terrible’s weapon cache in Russia

Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences have uncovered a private arsenal near Zvenigorod near Moscow that they believe belonged to a military commander from the era of Ivan the Terrible, according to a release from the institute. The dig was a rescue dig conducted in search of artifacts prior to the construction of the new Central Circular Highway on the site.

Once a 16th-century village named Ignatievskoe, the location of the discovery was the home of the Dobrynins, a famous Boyar family. One member of this family was selected as one of Ivan the Terrible’s “hand-picked thousand”, which was an elite force in the Tsar’s army, according to the release.

The archaeologists dug up the remains of about 60 of this village’s buildings, finding a large private arsenal housed in the underground storehouse of one of the buildings. The find included helmets, sabres, arrows, and various other tools of warfare of the era like belts and camp tents.

“We’ve never encountered such finds in Moscow region before, neither in cities and especially not in small villages. 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,” says Dr. Asya Engovatov, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology.

The team believes that this arsenal indicates the existence of a standing army funded by Russian nobility.

“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,” says Alexei Alexeyev, who was in charge of the excavations. “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.”


Image credit: Thinkstock