republication from HeritageDaily


Sometimes old friends give you a surprise. Russian archaeologists were conducting a routine examination of an old sabre unearthed seven years ago in Yaroslavl – when it turned out to be oldest crucible steel weapon in East Europe.

“It was highly unexpected and exciting find” said Dr. Asya Engovatova from the RAS Institute of Archaeology, who lead the research. “We were analysing a fragment of a sabre – which had already been in the Yaroslavl State Museum for seven years – and discovered it was a unique artifact.”


The sabre was unearthed by Engovatova and her colleagues in 2007, at an excavation site in the historic centre of the city of Yaroslavl, alongside the Dormition Cathedral. The site is a mass grave of the city defenders and civilians slaughtered by Batu Khan’s invaders – on a single day 1238.

“The site contains compehensive evidence of the atrocity committed that day. We found numerous skeletons of murdered women and children, many household objects like dishes, jewelery, many weapons items – and this sabre,” Engovatova said.

The metallographic methods used in the analysis revealed that the sword has been made from crucible steel. The technology used to produce steel of this kind was first perfected in India, in the First Century AD. Artifacts crafted from such steel later begin to turn up in Central Asia. European sword-makers appear to have known nothing of this technology. The techniques for making crucible steel were later lost, and European steelmakers reinvented it only at the end of the XVIII century.

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