Celtic Bronze and Lapiz Lazuli inlaid Sword
Culture: European, Iberian
Period: 6th 3rd century B.C.
Material: Bronze, silver, lapis lazuli
Dimensions: L: 69.2 cm
Acquired on the English art market (London,) in 2005.
Complete sword in excellent condition. Blade partially retaining its sharpness, end still pointed. Slightly worn silver inlays. Beautiful green, non-uniform patina
The weapon is composed of two cast bronze elements: a) the blade, very elongated and regular in shape, is extremely thin; it is reinforced by a central tripartite rib; b) the hilt has an elaborate structure and is richly decorated, perhaps with a unique pattern; it comprises three parts, including a rectangular component (in which the blade fits), surmounted by an elliptical feature and a special type of pommel, embellished by two large discs, each with a central point in relief; the crossguard, positioned in a non-ergonomic position, practically in the center of the hilt, is a simple, small horizontal segment. The inlaid silver decoration is the most distinctive feature of this weapon.
The precious metal strips are inserted in slight furrows specifically made on the surface of the bronze; they represent a multitude of geometric patterns such as zigzags, circles and straight lines. Close to the blade, the decoration is enhanced by fragments of lapis lazuli (two on each side) that are encrusted in the silver strips; in their arrangement around the semi-precious stones, one might see a semblance of the snout or face of an animal, whose eyes would be represented by the stones. Although this sword recalls, by its shape, other types widespread throughout several regions during the Iron Age (Celtic world, Anatolia, Iran), the presence of silver patterns enables us to attribute its origin precisely to the Iberian world, where similar damascened decorations are attested, though rarely, not only on sword hilts but also on their scabbards.
Chronologically these weapons are dated to the mid-1st millennium B.C.; this beautiful specimen could be still dated to the 6th century B.C., because of the elongated and thin shape that was to be replaced a little later by shorter swords with curved blades called falcatas. The very reduced size and the impractical position of the crossguard, as well as the use of precious materials for the manufacture of this sword, could indicate that it was not intended for combat on the battlefi eld but that it was rather a prestigious object that might have belonged to a prince or a dignitary; it would have been a parade sword, used perhaps for special occasions, or even to make sacrifices or to be deposited in a tomb.
On Iberian weapons, see:
ALMAGRO M. and GARCIA Y BELLIDO A., Ars hispaniae: Historia universal del arte hispanico, Vol. I, Madrid, 1947, pp. 301-323. Les Ibères, Paris, 1997, pp. 125-131. SCHÜLE W., Die Meseta-Kulturen der iberischen Halbinsel: Mediterrane und eurasische Elemente in früheisenzeitlichen Kulturen Südwesteuropas, Berlin, 1969, pl. 121, 124, 131.