It was just another pleasant day on Saint Lazarus Island near Venice in November 2017.
Archaeology graduate student Vittoria Dall’Armellina was touring the Mekhitarist Monastery when an artifact caught her eye. In a medieval cabinet in the museum, she spotted an ancient sword--one that didn't “belong” in this medieval display.
Dall’Armellina, who studied Bronze Age weapons, recognized it from the ancient empire of Anatolia (now Eastern Turkey). Why was this sword displayed so far away from its original region? Curious, she researched the sword further to validate her hypothesis.
What is Ancient Anatolia?
Anatolia was home to many ancient cultures, having even been nicknamed “the cradle of civilization” for its rich history.
Humans began their first civilizations here in the Stone Age, 500,000 BCE. Because so many different groups made this region their home, historians simply refer to residents as Anatolians.
Anatolians were pioneers of the Bronze Age (3000 BCE) and Iron Age (1400 BCE), a time when humans began creating tools out of metals. These technological changes made a huge impact on their everyday lives. The Anatolian kingdom was one of the first to develop effective tools like wheels, wagons, and weapons.
Warriors in the region forged swords as weapons and symbols of authority. These respected warriors also carried their authority to the grave. While normal citizens were buried in clay coffins, warrior tombs also included their precious property--including swords.
A Closer Look at the Weapon
It took two long years to study the composition of the sword and trace it to its origin.
During this time, researchers realized it was almost identical to swords found in archaeological sites in the Arslantepes and Sivas regions of Turkey. What intrigued archaeologists was that this sword was not made from a copper-tin alloy (mixture) typically used during the peak of the Bronze Age.
Instead, the sword was constructed from a copper-arsenic mixture used during and before the early Bronze Age. From this, researchers confidently determined that the antique weapon was approximately 5,000 years old.
So how did such a rarely found, antique sword make its way to the remote island of Saint Lazarus? Checking the archives of the museum-monastery, researchers determined that in the mid-1800s, an art merchant, Yervant Khorasandijan, gifted the unique sword.
Both history fanatics and archaeologists are excited by this unexpected find--and while it once lay forgotten, it now proudly boasts its own display case.
Sources: LiveScience, CNN, Britannica, archaeology.mrdonn.org, ancient.eu, ancient-origins.net