5,000-year-old sword found in Venice monastery

A sword previously believed to be medieval has been identified as 5,000 years old Anatolian weapon. The short bronze sword was on display at the museum of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a monastery on Saint Lazarus island in the Venetian Lagoon, when it was spotted by Vittoria Dall’Armellina, an expert in Ancient Near East weaponry. She knew it wasn’t medieval, and that it looked very similar to swords found in the 4th millennium B.C. palatial complex of Arslantepe in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey, that are believed to be the oldest swords in the world.

All that can be traced of its history goes back to the second half of the 19th century. In the museum archives is a note in Armenian stating that a bronze sword was sent as a gift to Father Ghevond Alishan from art dealer Yervant Khorasandjian. Alishan was an Armenian Catholic priest, poet and historian who had been a member of the Mkhitarist Congregation, founder of the San Lazzaro monastery, since 1838. The note says the sword was found in the town of Kavak, near Trebizond on the Black Sea. Father Alishan died in Venice in 1901, so the sword is believed to have been sent to Venice in the last couple of decades of the 19th century.

Dall’Armellina had the sword analyzed and the metal is arsenical bronze, a copper-arsenic alloy often found in copper ores that was used to make bronze before the stronger copper-tin alloy became the standard.

This piece of data and the strong resemblance to the twin swords of Arslantepe, retrieved in a well documented context, have allowed the experts to determine that the sword dates back to around the end of 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century b.C., as well as confirming its affinity to a very rare category.

According to the latest studies, this type of sword was common in a relatively small region in Eastern Anatolia, between the high course of the Euphrat and the Southern shore of the Black Sea. The analysis of trace elements could further pinpoint the exact source of the metal.

The sword is not decorated, inscribed or engraved. If it was used, the physical evidence of it has been lost due to centuries of poor conservation. It could have been a practical weapon, a ceremonial or funerary piece. It’s impossible to know as its original context is long lost. Around the date of its manufacture richly laden burials begin to appear on the Anatolian archaeological record, pointing to the development of a new military elite, and between tomb raiding, agricultural churn and accidental finds, it’s certainly possible this sword was once a grave good.

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Comment by Miro Collas
2020-03-01 23:24:15

There’s a serious issue with the dates here.
“…it looked very similar to swords found in the 4th millennium B.C….”
“…to determine that the sword dates back to around the end of 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century b.C.,…”
The error appears in the site you referenced as well.

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Comment by Thomas Hazlewood
2020-03-02 15:38:40

No provenance…

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Comment by George M.
2020-03-02 16:14:52

From the length I would call it a large dagger rather than a sword. There are no dimensions given but from the photo I would guesitmate the blade length at about 14 inches (about 35 cm.). That is is pretty short for a sword although I am not aware of a specific length above which is a sword and below which is a knife or dagger.

Also, the guard, grip. and pommel appear to be cast as one with the blade. This strikes me as something that might b done with a symbolic grave offering rather than something that would be used in this life. As is, it would be much heavier than it would need to, take much more metal than necessary, and would be very hilt heavy.

Just my impressions. Very cool, though. Even if the 2 datings are off by an order of magnitude.

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Comment by Catherine
2020-03-02 19:45:25

I noticed the same thing and checked the website also. Completely contradictory.

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Comment by Trevor
2020-03-03 05:10:00

From a development perspective I would not be put off from either it’s short length or cast-in features. All the things we take for granted about swords today had to be developed from something. One-piece swords may have seemed the hottest next thing at one time, like Videodiscs.

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Comment by Jannes Glauss
2020-03-20 16:50:47

who is she

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