Two Roman cavalry swords found in Cotswolds

Two Roman spatha swords have been discovered by a metal detectorist in the north Cotswolds. They are of a type that was in use in Britain from around 160 A.D. through the 3rd century. The swords were buried with their fitments inside their wooden scabbards. Only a few fragments of the wood have survived.

Their considerable length suggests that they are cavalry weapons– or, more accurately, weapons intended for use on horseback. It was not illegal for civilians to own such weapons and to carry them for travelling because Roman provinces were plagued with banditry.

[Professor Simon James from Leicester University] explained: “In terms of parallels, I can’t think of finds of more than one sword being deposited in any similar circumstance from Roman Britain. The closest that springs to mind was a pair of similar swords found in Canterbury—with their owners, face down in a pit within the city walls, clearly a clandestine burial, almost certainly a double murder.”

Detectorist Glenn Manning found the pair of swords and a copper alloy bowl during a metal detecting rally this March. He and the landowner agreed to donate the swords to the Corinium Museum in Cirencester so they could be exhibited close to where they were discovered. The swords are currently undergoing conservation at the museum.

Historic England is assisting the museum by arranging for the swords to go for further analysis under x-ray. Archaeological appraisal at the dig site in the north of the Cotswolds may follow to help put the swords into context, as we don’t know why they ended up buried in the Cotswolds.