The Kagan’s Rider

The Kazar Bazar is always happy to participate in projects where the final result could be part of a musem exhibition. Just like in the case of the Senmurv kaftan project for the Museum of Nizhny Arkhyz in Russia.

In 2016, archeologists of the Déri Múzeum (Debrecen, Hungary) found a really unique grave in Derecske, Hungary. They managed to excavate a warrior buried with his weapons, horse and with a full lamellar armor. The grave could be dated to the first half of the 7th century.

The uniqueness of the grave is definately the lamellar armor, what is extremely rare found in such conditions: a full armor, with all the lamellas in the original position. And even with organic material fragments. From these the leather lining of the lamellar rows could be reconstructed precisely and there were trace of a leather strip behind the lamella rows as well. From the prints researchers even could say that it wasn’t fastened with leather, but with some strings (maybe silk or linen strings?).

The overall look of the armor reminds us to the Isola Rizza Dish what is dated to the late 6th-early 7th century and depicts a battle scene with a Langobard heavy cavalryman. The Langobards left their homeland in the Carpathian basin and occupied their new country in the Norther part of the Appeninen Pennisula because of the Avar conquest.

One of the most fascinating detail in the lamellar is the 6 chainmail row under the third row of the armor. This provided flexibilty for the rider’s upper body, what is essencial to armed combat on horseback. Makes easier the use of bow, lance and sword with gilded silver fittings – these items were also found in the riders grave. The chain wasn’t in the best condition, but after the x-ray investigations the examinors said, there were no traces of riveting on it. (Maybe the chain could be welded or butted?)

On the lammellas, there were no trace for suspensions of the chain. Most likely it fastened together the two rows of lamelles with the use of some organic material.

On the grave there were traces of some more organic materials around the feets. It was merely a different color of the earth on a boot like shape – traces of the warrior’s former boots.

In a different level of the grave, the rider’s horse with nice trappings mounts from gilded silver, and bone reamins of the quiver with iron arrows tips were found.

Excavation works were really difficult, bacause of the high level of ground-water. They needed to continously pump out the water from the grave. A major part of the grave was taken out from the ground in one piece, and demolished further inside the museum’s building. Restoraitonal works lasted one year. And reconstruction works took another year.

The lamellar reconstruction first made from paper

During the reconstuctional period the Kazar Bazar supported the project with information and sources for a period accurate kaftan what would fit a 7th century Avar elite warrior. And of course the material of the robe is provided by the Kazar Bazar. The Red Senmurv Silk with Red Diamond Silk edges. The kaftan was handsewed by Tóth Ilona Csilla, textile restaurator of the Déri Múzeum. Lászlóné Varga Ildikó also worked on the making of the attire.

Silk with Senmurv motifs from the VI-VII. century
From the reliquary of St Leu in Paris
Source: W. Fritz Volbach: Early Decorative Textiles. 1969

The senmurv – like a fish of the hippocampus type – was one of the most important Sassanian royal devices and it remained in constatnt use not only in the post-Sassanian period, but also in Byzantine fabrics

The Avars joined forces with the Sassanids and sieged Constantinople in 626.

A scinetifically accuarte face reconstruction was also made for the mannequin. The rider was 172 cm tall, and died around his early 30-s. On the skull, there were a severe wound, probably caused by a sharp weapon -maybe an arrow. But the wound wasn’t leathal. He recovered from it – probably a helmet protected his head and won’t let the weapon’s tip go deeper.

The exhibition opened in the Déri Múzeum in Debrecen on 2nd of October, 2019. Together with the in situ grave founds the reconstruction of the the rider also exhibited. The title of the exhibition is A kagán lovasa (The Kagan’s Rider).

Reenactors with the Rider of the Kagan

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