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Archaeologists still searching for answers to treasure mystery hidden in chess figure

Archaeologists in downtown Moscow have dug up a trove dating back to the days of Ivan the Terrible

MOSCOW, May 10. /TASS/. Coins dating back to the times of Ivan the Terrible could have been hidden in an ivory chess bishop from thieves or robbers, head of Moscow’s Cultural Heritage Department, Alexey Yemelyanov, stated on Thursday commenting on a trove archeologists had discovered in central Moscow.

"Chess was a game played for money at that time. Maybe the person who owned the chess set did not want to carry money in a purse out of fear of being robbed, but wanted to be able to pay in case he lost," Yemelyanov said.

Archaeologists in downtown Moscow have dug up a trove dating back to the days of Ivan the Terrible. It contains ten silver coins hidden in an ivory chess bishop, City Hall said on its website on Wednesday.

"In another version, Prechistenka [district in downtown Moscow] of that time had a lot of inns where chess was played, and this was the way inn owners stored the money," Yemelyanov added. He said money is found on rare occasions, and now Moscow museum workers will study the ancient chess pieces in their collections to look for more potential treasures stowed inside them.

The deputy director general of a company providing archeological survey during construction work, Vladimir Berkovich, said the volunteer who had found the treasure trove was not rewarded for his discovery. "This is not customary among Moscow volunteers," he said. He also declined to reveal the treasure’s value, saying coin collectors must be consulted.

The trove

The ivory chess piece was found during construction work in downtown Moscow, which is undergoing a major gentrification project.

"Ten hand-minted silver coins were stashed in a bishop made of ivory. The total sum is five kopecks," Yemelyanov said on Wednesday.

The coins date from the mid-16th century and among them, one was minted in Tver (a city about 174 kilometers northwest of Moscow) and the other nine - in Moscow.

"If each chess piece had the same stowage, the total sum of the stashed coins could amount to 160 kopecks," Yemelyanov noted, adding that no other chess pieces had been found yet.