The only medieval sword found in Siberia may have belonged to legendary Russian ruler Ivan the Terrible.
Russian archaeologist Vyacheslav Molodin has called on European experts to help him validate his claim and solve a mystery that has had him stumped for nearly 40 years.
In 1975, Molodin led an excavation in Siberia’s Vengerovo district to study Bronze Age settlements and cemeteries on the banks of the River Om.
On a whim, excavation team leader Alexander Lipatov disobeyed an order and began scratching around under a large old birch tree nearby.
He turned up what he first thought was some kind of farming equipment, but soon turned out to be a large and incredibly well-preserved sword just 3-5cm under the topsoil.
Molodin told the Siberian Times that Lipatov had a gut feeling the team wasn’t excavating a particular burial mound thoroughly enough.
“If it wasn’t for his ‘mistake’ we would have never found the sword,” Molodin said.
After an hour, the team had lifted the entire sword from the earth.
“It was as if it just descended from some knights’ fairytale,” Molodin told The Siberian Times.
“I slowly twisted it, noting sparkles of silver on the guard and blade. It was so well preserved that you could in fact use it in the battle almost straight away.”
Little did he know, 40 years later, the owner of the sword would still remain a mystery.
The sword was found far from home, and is a 12th or 13th century blade more typical of the type used by European knights.
An inscription reads “NMNStEtDSE” on one side of the blade and “CtIhCt” on the other.
Experts at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg say its a kind of acronym for: “In the name of the mother of our saviour eternal, eternal Lord and Saviour. Christ Jesus Christ.”
It was forged in the Rhine basin of Germany then taken to Sweden where it received the inscription.
Ivan the Terrible’s acquisition of European land between 1533 and 1584 makes him the most likely candidate to have somehow acquired the sword.
The most popular theory has been that it was carried and dropped by traders, but the steppe on which it was found, between sections of the lower and middle Ob, was likely to have been too difficult to navigate for traders.
What archaelogists do know is that Russian warrior Ivan Koltso was ambushed and killed just several kilometres away during Ivan the Terrible’s reign.
Molodin is proposing Koltso may have been given the sword as a gift from his ruler.
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