At a recent excavation in the Donau-Ries region of Germany, a bronze sword has been unearthed that’s reported to be more than 3,000 years old, and is so well preserved that the archeologists who discovered it said that it almost shines.
It’s by no means the oldest Bronze Age sword uncovered by archeologists – as far as we’re aware, that honor belongs to the cache of alloy weapons discovered at a site in Arslantepe in Turkey during the 1980s that date back to 3,300 BCE – but the prize from the recent Nördlingen dig is said to be “so exceptionally well preserved that it almost still shines.”
The sword was discovered in a grave containing the remains of a man, woman and teenager who were all buried within a short time of each other – though it’s not known at this point whether they were related. It’s been provisionally dated to the 14th century BCE, roughly the middle of the Bronze Age, and is considered a rare find for this period.
It features an octagonal hilt in bronze, with decorative inlays, that was cast over a bronze blade, and sports a pair of actual rivets along with two false ones. The team reckons that the sword’s forward balance indicates that if used in combat, it would likely have been wielded in a slicing or slashing action. Though there seems to be little doubt that it’s a genuine Bronze Age weapon and not merely decorative, there is some question over whether it ever saw action in the field, given its overall condition and lack of battle scars.
Where these days we can generally determine where a product was made by simply looking for a “Made in Wherever” stamp somewhere around the back, it’s not so easy when looking so far into the past.
The archeologists note that octagonal swords have two main distribution points in the region – one in the south and the other in the north, taking in what’s now Denmark too, though it’s thought that northern weapons were (at least in part) merely copies of southern-made examples. The possibility that such swords were the work of passing craftsmen or genuine foreign imports cannot be discounted either.
It’s still early days for the discovery, with further study lined up for the sword and grave site hopefully opening a window to the past and uncovering more detail on both.
Source: The Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection (PDF, in German)