Although it may not look very exciting now this old piece of metal is all that remains of an Iron Age sword, a weapon of value and status, which came for display in the museum in 2005.
The sword was found in 2002 near Hawkshead, Cumbria by a young boy who saw a piece of metal sticking out of an earthen bank. The sword was brought to Kendal Museum where the Archaeology Curator contacted experts at the National Museum of Scotland.
The Sword was made during the Iron Age, which covers the period of time from approximately 750BC to 43AD. Swords from the Iron Age are rare in this part of the world. The sword could have been made from local iron ore but its construction needed very specialist knowledge. The rock would have to be heated to 800ºC to extract the iron ore, repeatedly heated and hammered, and in this case, separate rods of iron were welded together around a harder core to make it strong without being brittle.
Only half remains but the design of the sword is typical of the Iron Age with the shoulders of the sword sloping from the tang on the right (the protrusion at the end of the blade to which the handle is attached) into the length of the blade. The large width of the blade and the shortness of the tang are quite unusual. Early Iron Age swords were shorter, good for stabbing, but by later times they were longer, their curved sides suited to slashing human flesh by someone on horseback.
All organic materials used for the hilt (handle) have long since decomposed, exposing the tang. The hilt may have been carved from wood, bone or ivory and decorated to reflect the importance of such a sword and the status of its owner. Below you can see an artist's reconstruction of how the Iron Age sword may have looked when it was new.
The sword was found on National Trust land and is currently on loan from them.
As it is very fragile it needed conservation treatment at the Institute of Archaeology. After conservation it was housed on a Plastazote tray within an oxygen free environment at a very low relative humidity.
The sword is on permanent display in the Archaeology Gallery.
Museum number: 09/2002T
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