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The Old Ryazan silver treasure hoard found recently in Ryazan, Russia, which was sacked by the Mongols in the early 12th century AD.        Source: Maxim Pankin / Russian Academy of Sciences

Old Ryazan Treasure Hoard: Memories Of Mongol Sackings in Russia

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Russian archaeologists have found yet another silver treasure hoard buried on the banks of a river in a remote forest near Old Ryazan. The so-called “Isad treasure” hoard was recently discovered in the forests near Old Ryazan (Staraya Ryazan) about 31 miles (50 km) from the modern city of Ryazan, Russia. Archaeologists from the Russian Academy of Sciences worked with a team from the Ryazan Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve (RIAMZ), and together they unearthed this rare silver treasure hoard that comes with a unique origin story.

On December 16, 1237 AD the Mongols besieged Old Ryazan with catapults and on December 21 Commander Batu Khan's troops plundered Ryazan. After the destruction of Ryazan, Batu Khan's horde pushed on into the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal and plundered further. This image shows the Mongols sacking Suzdal. ( Public domain )

Old Ryazan Was Plundered by the Mongols in 1237 AD!

In the autumn of 1237 AD just before the Mongol Golden Horde invaded the Kiev Rus' principality of Ryazan the people of Old Ryazan were likely hiding their treasures. The Prince of Ryazan, Yuriy Igorevich, appealed to Yuriy Vsevolodovich, the prince of Vladimir, for support, but none was given. On December 16, 1237 AD the Mongols besieged Old Ryazan with catapults and on December 21 commander Batu Khan's troops plundered Ryazan.

After the destruction of Ryazan, Batu Khan's horde pushed on into the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal. It was in the shadow of these events, that led to the death of every person in the city of Suzdal, that someone buried a hoard of silver artifacts in the forest near Ryazan, rather than seeing it falling into the hands of the Mongols.

The Barmy czar coronation necklace from the "Barmy Ryazan treasure" (12th-13th century AD) found in 1882 in the same area as the recent Old Ryazan silver treasure hoard. (М.М. Панова / Public domain )

The Recent Ryazan Treasure Hoard Was Not the First!

In 1822 the famous “Ryazan Barmy treasure” was discovered in this same region. This hoard included “a Kiev Rus’ prince’s ceremonial coronation necklace , which was used in coronations of the czar in later periods.

Ever hopeful of finding similar royal treasure hoards, the recent team of archaeologists focused their study on a forested area on the bend of the River Oka in central Russia. This represents the largest right tributary of the Volga River, the historic waterway that connected the regions of Oryol, Tula, Kaluga, Moscow with Ryazan.

There, on a remote dog leg on the river, the team unearthed “32 items made of silver.” According to a report in Heritage Daily , the find has been named the “Isad Treasure.” Silver neck torcs , bracelets and rings were discovered among Novgorod-type “grivnas.” The grivna was a unit of currency based on a fixed measure of weight that was used in Kievan Rus’ and other East Slavic countries to standardize trade. Dated to the late 11th to early 12th century AD it is believed the hoard was the gathered lifetime wealth of the individual that buried them.

In March 2021, illegal treasure hunters in Ryazan, Russia found “the largest treasure of Arab silver coins” ever discovered in Russia of which only a few coins remain at the site of the theft. This image shows an image of Arab silver coins from this era (9th-10th century AD). ( Denis Topal / Adobe Stock)

Russian Archaeologists And Police Vs Artifact Gangsters

Igor Strikalov of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences told the press that the appearance of the “Isad treasure” provides new information about the history of Old Ryazan, in which he said there are still many blank spots. He said the Isad treasure is “clearly older than the famous ‘Old Ryazan [Barmy] treasure,’ and that it includes other types of ornaments made in what he described as a more “archaic” manner.

It was only in March this year that Strikalov spoke to Emara about a team of illegal treasure hunters finding “the largest treasure of Arab silver coins ” ever discovered in Russia. Strikalov said police found scattered coins that had been left behind by the criminal gang a few years after the crime. This hoard was again found near the Istia River, in Ryazan province.

Fortunately, Russian police were eventually able to reacquire “228 silver dirhams ,” when they arrested the treasure hunters. Since then, scientists have announced that these coins prove the existence of the Great Volga Road, which connected Europe with the East at the end of the first millennium and the beginning of the second millennium.

The discovery of the Arab silver dirhams now serves as a link between the history of Eastern Europe and the Islamic world, through the region of the Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkic people that in the late 6th century AD established a major commercial empire covering the southeastern section of modern European Russia, southern Ukraine, Crimea and Kazakhstan.

One can only imagine what will be learned about Isad treasure in the weeks to come, and what new historical narratives might emerge from the discovery. The Isad treasure is currently being studied and will eventually be transferred to the Ryazan Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve.

Top image: The Old Ryazan silver treasure hoard found recently in Ryazan, Russia, which was sacked by the Mongols in the early 12th century AD.        Source: Maxim Pankin / Russian Academy of Sciences

By Ashley Cowie

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